Chuck Robinson, Media Watch
Chuck Robinson, Media Watch

Listening to the local community radio station and catching Jim Hightower’s charmingly folksy rants is one of my personal indulgences. I sometimes listen on my way to work.

In mid-July, though, he delivered a rant that made my eyes cross.

He frothed about “bio-engineered organisms” and “agri-business profiteers” as he derisively chided a booklet for children titled “Look Closer at Biotechnology.”

It was funded by “a PR and political front for the biotech industry, financed by such multibillion dollar giants as Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont and Dow.”

Hightower calls it a fairy tale that biotechnology can help the world. He also calls it “deceitful” that the Council for Biotechnology Information also lobbies against the California initiative to require labeling of products with genetically engineered ingredients.

Personally, I think their opposition is pretty straightforward.

Hightower encourages readers (and online readers) to go to a few websites.

One, Justlabelit.org, had a video showing a woman telling us about heart disease that she and her family members had. This had made her more conscious of what she ingested, she said.

Somehow this was her reasoning to say she had a right to know if a product had GM ingredients.

Nevermind any evidence that these products caused a problem.

If heart disease is her concern, maybe the woman should worry more about exercising and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables than the genetics of her food.

A longer version of Hightower’s rant circulated via an electronic newsletter from Nation of Change, a nonprofit progressive journalism group, in which he warned of “tomato tamperers.”

This article was illustrated by an image of someone wearing a lab smock and rubber glovers injecting a large syringe into a bright red tomato.

A comment by Kevin Folta of Gainesville, Fla., stood out among the others.

He is a horticulture professor at the University of Florida-Gainesville. He called out Hightower for the hyperbolic illustration and noted there were not transgenic (GM) tomatoes in production.

“Breeding and selection by humans unnaturally brought us what we have today — improved food with superior shipping quality and excellent resistance to disease. Momma Nature did not intend it to be this way — humans drove the change.”

Bravo, and keep going, Folta.

We each need to be ready to respond to the myriad attacks on the fresh produce industry.

This is a good lead to follow.

Let’s do our best to respond thoughtfully. It is tough, since the arguments are not necessarily cogent, but based more in angst. Perhaps one of us will strike a folksy note that will alleviate concerns.

crobinson@thepacker.com

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.