[su_quote cite=”Pleas for the Manors in England of the Abbey of Bec for the Hokeday Term, 1246, Ruislip Middlesex. Tuesday after Ascension Day.”]Breakers of the assize [of ale and bread]: Alice Salvage’s widow (fined 12 d.), Agnotta the Shepherd’s mistress, Roger Canon (fined 6 d.), the wife of Richard Chayham, the widow of Peter Beyondgrove, the wife of Ralph Coke (fined 6 d.), Ailwin (fined 6 d.), John Shepherd (fined 6 d.), Geoffrey Carpenter, Roise the Miller’s wife (fined 6 d.), William White, John Carpenter, John Bradif.[/su_quote]

By Joe Romano,
Marketing Manager

Today, shoppers in England can purchase loaves of bread in a variety of sizes.

That’s right, for the 800 years prior to that, a loaf of bread weighed what the crown decreed, no more or no less. Lest you think bakers had no choice or control over their product and its size and shape, they did…they could work in multiples of 400 grams, like, say, 800g or 2400g which makes for a loaf weighing over five pounds, but such were the freedoms allotted the British baker.

This was all to comply with the oldest known food packaging law, the Assize of Bread of 1266, which basically stated that an Imperial loaf, one in compliance with the crown, must weigh or assize, at a pound, exactly 16 ounces.

Now those versed in metric weights may cry foul: “400g is not ‘a pound the world around!’”

The discrepancy is easy to explain. When Britain went to the metric system, bakers argued that 14oz — 397 grams — should be converted to 400g because this would involve relatively little disruption to their factories. Easy-peasy, right?

But why 14 ounces, you ask? That was because of more packaging and labeling regulation that came during the Second World War, when legislation required that bakers save precious flour by cutting their bread tins down from a pound to 14oz, a regulation that become law in 1963.

The Assize is the oldest such packaging law but there have been literally thousands of such laws and hundreds of them in America alone.

After all, food has had laws since Moses; since the establishment of Kosher law and even earlier, people have demanded standards they can trust when it comes to their food.

Nowadays, we continue to demand clear labeling standards. A recent New York Times poll found that 93 percent of Americans favor labeling of GMO food. So, why is there an argument? One reason may be corporate lobbying and the fact that a Pew Research Center study in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that 88 percent of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe. So why are Americans so anti-GMO? Why did Congress just reject the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) act, which would have outlawed mandatory labeling of GMOs in the United States?

Perhaps it is similar to why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are seeing such popularity at the polls. People don’t trust politicians who are part of the system, because they are beholden to big money donors. People believe that the politicians are not acting in response to voter’s needs and what is good and right and true. They believe that politicians are responding to the donors with the biggest checkbooks. And so they are finding their own solutions; they are looking for leaders who do not have to answer to the big money that is being pumped into politics.

It also seems that food shoppers are also not convinced by the science, perhaps for the very same reasons. Much of GMO science certainly gives the appearance, at least, of being bought and paid for too. Consumers want to make up their own minds and not rely on science funded by and actively marketed by big agribusiness.

Let us first recognize that just bringing up the concept of “science bought by agribusiness” deflates the GMO argument the same way that the use of the term “frankenfoods” undermines arguments against GMO science: it admittedly sounds like, well … conspiracy theory.

But if you know the money that is spent on science, it sounds more like reality. For example, GMO seed and agrichemical giant, Monsanto spent $250,000 to create an endowed chair for the “Agricultural Communications Program” it runs at University of Illinois’ College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in Champaign-Urbana.

So GMO agribusiness even gets to name stuff the way other businesses name sports arenas. Agricultural science grad students at the University of Missouri attend all their seminars in the Monsanto Auditorium. At University of Minnesota, scientists work in the Cargill Plant Genomics Building, while University of Missouri ag-science grad students attend seminars in the Monsanto Auditorium. Iowa State students have the Monsanto Student Services Wing; and food-science researchers at Purdue have two agbiz sugar daddies they can choose to work at the Kroger Sensory Evaluation Laboratory or the ConAgra Foods, Inc. Laboratory. They even get access to high school science students; kids who win the World Food Prize come home draped in GMO patent owner swag, having attended events paid for by Sygenta, Monsanto and DuPont.

Still think the food industry is not trying to influence science and food policy? Here’s how the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety forms its advisory board.

From their website: “You may want to become a member of the Center’s Board of Advisors. The role of the Board is to provide input on food safety research needs of the industry. In addition, the Board provides suggestions on unique (not routine) opportunities/services the Center can offer to industry. For example, Center faculty can offer specialized workshops on food safety and quality issues or training on advanced equipment and techniques. A $20,000 annual contribution to the Center entitles a company a seat on the Board.” (emphasis mine) So members of the board can develop workshops to teach scientists what they want to say about their technology. Here are ALL the members of the current board: Campbell Soup Co., Cargill, Inc, Chemstar Corporation, The Coca-Cola Co., ConAgra Foods, Danisco, Dr Pepper/Snapple Group, Ecolab, Inc., Earthbound Farm, General Mills, Hormel Foods, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods Global, LePrino Foods, Malt-O-Meal, Mars Snackfoods, McDonald’s, Mead Johnson Nutritionals, PepsiCo, Publix Super Markets, Starbucks Coffee Co., Unilever, Yum Brands. The patron members are the American Meat Institute, BCN Research Labs, bioMerieux, Burger King Corp., The Cheesecake Factory, Chick-filA, The Clorox Co., Fresh Express Farms, The Hershey Co., Jack in the Box, The Kroger Co., Land O’ Frost, Land O’ Lakes, Maxxam, Perdue Farms, Roka Bioscience, Sara Lee Foods, Schreiber Foods, Silliker Labs, and Wegman’s Food Markets.

The list of scientific researchers who are paid directly by agbiz companies to produce science is astounding. In the ten years from 2000 to 2010, agbiz companies like Syngenta and Monsanto pumped over 8 billion dollars into agricultural science. So why should people trust such science?

Not only is money an issue, access is too. According to Food and Water Watch, when an Ohio State University professor’s research questioned the safety of biotech sunflowers, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred blocked her access to their patented seeds, barring her from conducting additional research. Similarly, when other professors found a new GMO corn variety to be deadly to beneficial beetles, the company barred the scientists from publishing their findings, then subsequently hired new scientists who produced the necessary results to secure regulatory approval.

The good news is that the DARK act did not pass. Vermont’s GMO labeling law was not federally overruled, and companies like Cheerios are dropping GMOs completely. Other companies like Mars, General Mills and Campbell’s will label GMOs on their products everywhere in the U.S.

In the future, if politicians and scientists want the public to take them seriously maybe they should think about getting money out of both politics and science. Then we can take their claims seriously. Until then, Americans are saying, “Just Label It.” GreenStar is a proud member of the Non-GMO Project and always supports the shopper’s right to know the source of their food.