Executive director, Organic Consumers Association; former director, Jeremy Rifkin’s Beyond Beef Campaign & Pure Food Campaign; author of books on Central American culture; co-author, Genetically-Engineered Foods: A Self-Defense Guide for ConsumersRonnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has spent a lifetime as a professional activist. Since getting his start in anti-war activism in 1967, he has dabbled in the “human rights, anti-nuclear, labor, consumer, and sustainable agriculture” movements. From 1992 to 1998 he served as a campaign consultant and director for anti-technology zealot Jeremy Rifkin’s Foundation on Economic Trends.
Cummins spent the 1990s leading food-scare efforts of national and international scope, including Rifkin’s “Beyond Beef” campaign, the “Pure Food” campaign (which later became the OCA), and the “Global Days of Action Against Genetic Engineering.” At the height of the American mad-cow food scare, Cummins insisted (with no evidence to support his warning) that “we may already have an epidemic in the United States.”
In 1998 Cummins told the Minneapolis City Pages that “Consumers and farmers would both be better off if people paid twice as much for their meat and ate half as much.” And despite the promise of important biotech advances to the world’s food supply, Cummins promised a San Diego Union Tribune reporter that “it’s not going to be that long before we’ll have the same movement around industrial agriculture and genetic engineering that we had around nuclear power.”
In July 2000, Cummins poured his fear-of-food charisma into an apocalyptic book calledGenetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers. Despite his commitment to “educating” consumers through his writing and organized protests, Cummins doesn’t seem to have much respect for them. At a June 2001 protest outside a Washington, D.C. Starbucks coffeehouse, he conceded that his strategy depends on “the fact that most consumers aren’t smart enough to know what they want.”