Center for Food Safety – for the protection of human health

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the
following our interview with Claire Jordan and Courtney Sexton of the Center for Food Safety. Center
for Food Safety (CFS) is a national non-profit public interest and
environmental advocacy organization working to protect human health and the
environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by
promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS also educates
consumers concerning the definition of organic food and products. CFS uses
legal actions, groundbreaking scientific and policy reports, books and other
educational materials, market pressure and grass roots campaigns through our
True Food Network. CFS’s successful legal cases collectively represent a
landmark body of case law on food and agricultural issues.

Which are the main objectives of the Center for Food Safety?
The main issues that
we work on at Center for Food Safety focus on promoting a sustainable, just and
secure food future for all. In particular, we work against the devastating
impacts of a pesticide-intensive industrial agriculture system. This system
promotes contamination of air, land and water from dangerous pesticides;
exposes our communities and our food to toxic chemicals; threatens global seed
diversity (which is essential to maintain in order to preserve our food system
in the face of a changing climate); and encourages unsanitary and unethical
food animal welfare standards that lead to the spread of antibiotic-resistant
infections, compromising public health.

Can you explain what are the short-term and long-term
effects of GMO usage?

The widespread
planting of GMO crops puts at risk the livelihoods of independent farmers;
threatens our diverse global seed supply; and provides increased incentives to
make agriculture more pesticide-intensive and pesticide-dependent. A food
system that relies on GMO crops in turn relies on the pesticides and chemicals
that are manufactured side-by-side with those crops by the same big
agrochemical companies to make them grow. This wreaks havoc on public health,
small and family farmers, and the environment, and threatens our ability to
adapt our food supply in a changing climate. 

Pollen from GMO crops
is easily carried by the wind, bees and wildlife, and has the potential to
contaminate neighboring farms, gardens, and pastures. Many farmers depend
on contracts they have to provide food manufacturers with organic and/or
non-GMO crops, such as corn for use in organic and products labeled by the
Non-GMO Project. If those products are tested and found to contain GMOs, those
farmers lose their contracts.

Because of GMO crops,
more than 100 million more pounds of Roundup are used on America’s croplands
each year. So for Monsanto and other chemical companies, genetically
engineering crops is just another way to significantly increase profits. They
sell the seeds and the poisons sprayed on those seeds. GE crops significantly
increase the use of toxic herbicides while not increasing yield, so they help
poison the world’s food supply but do not increase it. These toxic chemicals
pollute our water and air, and kill wildlife and native plants. In 2015 the
World Health Organization’s research arm found that the active ingredient in
Roundup is a “probable carcinogen.”

How do you advocate community empowerment?
We work at the local
and state levels to engage members and farmers, and advocate with them on their
behalf. We educate people about issues affecting them – like contamination,
pesticide drift, pollution from CAFOs, etc. – and help them to be a part of the
solution. We provide opportunities and tools to reach out to legislators,
sponsor and deliver citizen-signed petitions, and create platforms for members
to speak out about the social injustices of a corrupt food system.

We encourage our
members to be active participants in this fight for a just and healthy food system
by providing the information and tools needed to engage in their own
communities and contact their legislators. Some of these tools include blogs,
press releases, and reports that verify all of our claims and through the use
of research, back up our facts. Because we are a national organization, we
encourage our members not only to participate in our actions, but to form their
own amongst their community members.

How important are civil society capacity building and media
coverage in your activity?

Civil society
capacity building is the foundation of our food movement. A successful food
movement that brings about much needed change in our food system must be built
by the people for the people. We would not be an organization without the input
and support from our members, and it is imperative to us that we are
transparent with all of our work. We want this food movement to be a diverse
and inclusive movement that advocates for everyone impacted and puts the health
of people and the planet at the forefront. Without the engagement and
participation of civil society, our attempts would be thwarted.

Media coverage is, of
course, also a very important component for the success of any issue-based
organization. We cannot be advocates without being educators, and realizing those
educational goals depends on reaching broad and diverse public audiences with
our scientific findings, policy analyses, and reports, and the messages that
they carry. Whether we are trying to elevate the voices and concerns of our members,
share new information with the public, compel political leaders to take action,
or make progress in a campaign, media coverage is crucial – that includes
traditional outlets, and blogging, social and digital media outreach as well.

Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If
yes, how?

Yes, we frequently
cooperate with local authorities and institutions. We often work with
scientists at academic and research institutions when we are analyzing and
drafting policy recommendations and writing and producing reports. We also
collaborate and strategize with local organizations where our various campaigns
and offices are located to enhance our impact and ensure that local organizers
are at the forefront of these movements. We ensure that local groups are
consulted when relevant for our various forms of work.