This is a Call to Action for a Non-Hierarchical Occupation of Monsanto Everywhere
Whether you like it or not, chances are Monsanto contaminated the food you ate today with chemicals and unlabeled GMOs. Monsanto controls much of the world's food supply at the expense of food democracy worldwide. This site is dedicated to empowering citizens of the world to take action against Monsanto & it's enablers like the FDA, USDA, EPA, GMA, BIO, and the processed food companies that use Monsanto's products.
Political heavyweight Monsanto took on an Indiana soybean farmer today in the U.S. Supreme Court over Monsanto’s patents of its Roundup-resistant seed.
And, once again, Justice Clarence Thomas was on the bench, hearing the case with the other justices. Thomas worked as a corporate lawyer for Monsanto in the 1970s. Thomas has participated in at least one other case involving the company, Monsanto v. Geertson, which resulted in a favorable decision for Monsanto; Thomas joined the majority in that case.
Some have criticized Thomas’ participation in cases involving a previous employer. Monsanto is so used to the question that it gets space on the company website.
Thomas knows something about the subject of today’s case: In 2001, he authored an important decision in this field, J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, which — while it didn’t involve Monsanto — held that new, developed plant breeds are patentable.
At issue today were Monsanto’s patents of its herbicide-resistant seed. Monsanto requires farmers to use its purchased seed for just one planting cycle; they must buy new seed every spring. Farmer Vernon Bowman has not reused any of the soybean seeds hepurchased. However, Monsanto’s patent does allow growers to sell second-generation seed to a grain elevator, where Bowman purchased his seed and has been planting it in some of his fields since 1999.
That’s where Monsanto took issue. It claims Bowman’s use of the second-generation seed infringed the company’s patent rights, even if it was sold by a third party and is not the original Monsanto seed, but descended from it. Monsanto won its case in a lower federal court.
Monsanto typically reaches a settlement with farmers it has sued for patent infringement. This time, The Guardian reports, the case traveled to the Supreme Court because 75-year-old Bowman — already bankrupt from an unrelated land deal — couldn’t pay damages and is fighting the case with literally nothing to lose.
Monsanto itself contributed more than $500,000 to federal candidates in the last election cycle, primarily favoring Republicans. Monsanto spent nearly $6 million on lobbying in 2012, down from its $8.8 million record in 2008. That’s still enough to keep Monsanto the big guy on the agribusiness block — it has spent the most on lobbying by far in the industry since 2008; the American Farm Bureau is the only other to even come close. The majority, by far, of Monsanto’s lobbyists have made at least one trip through the revolving door; in-house lobbyist Michael Holland, Jr., for instance, logged 13 years working for various House Republicans before he jumped to Monsanto in 2011.
The Obama administration pushed the Court not to take the case in the first place, echoing concerns of those filing briefs for Monsanto that a reversal of the lower court’s decision could adversely affect other patents involving DNA, nanotechnology or other self-replicating technology, according to the Huffington Post.
Monsanto Annual Shareholder Meeting
800 Lindberg Road
Creve Coeur, MO
January 31, 2013
Good Afternoon. I am here speaking on behalf of Harrington Investments, the Pesticide Action Network and my 75 shares . Our resolution for consideration by fellow shareholders addresses serious and potential risks associated with our Company’s genetically engineered crops, the toxic chemicals applied to these crops, and the related civil liability our Company may face due to their continued sales.
I realize our resolution is the same as last year and is unlikely to receive enough votes today to pass. So instead of speaking to the merits of the resolution or the Board’s prepared response, I am going to use my limited time to inform fellow shareholders that a massive tidal wave of consumer rejection of foods derived from our company’s patented technology has yet to crash down, but will soon.
What I am speaking of is a historic re-ordering of what crops farmers will be permitted to grow and the near-complete collapse of our customer base if we don’t change our business practices. Customers in our value chain are beginning to reject our patented technology due to the unsustainable consequences its use brings for human health and that of our soil and water.
First of all, why is our Company and it’s industry partners as a whole so vigorously hostile to new independent, peer-reviewed research? Last Fall, Dr. Seralini’s research clearly showed that rats fed this Company’s NK603 corn over their lifetime had serious health issues versus rats fed the control, a non-genetically engineered diet. We know the Company’s Technology Agreement does not permit farmers to give their seed away to scientists for research purposes. But in order for Monsanto to uphold its official pledge of “Transparency,” the Company’s patented technology must be scrutinized by scientists in every country in the world, without restrictions. The Company must embrace all research, in all its forms, to be truly transparent with current and future customers.
It is clear from the research of Dr. Seralini, that exposure to glyphosate and our Roundup Ready family of herbicides in only trace amounts of drinking water was linked to severe tumors in these rats over a lifetime of feeding. Moreover, our Company’s own rat feeding trials were woefully inadequate in measuring the long-term health risks of foods derived from our Company’s technology because our studies took place over only 90 days versus a rat’s entire lifetime as shown in Dr. Seralini’s study. To dismiss long-term animal feeding studies that were reviewed by the same scientific journal that years earlier did not reveal the long-term impacts of eating GMOs in Monsanto’s own studies is another example of this Company being two-faced and opaque. Customers, government regulators, and concerned scientists deserve nothing less than crystal-clear transparency from this Company. This starts by welcoming research by scientists who may be critical of our patented technology.
Secondly, last year I warned shareholders and the Board of Directors that the Company’s misguided hostility to safe food activists and farmers was fueling a consumer backlash. There was the Just Label It campaign, which last year sent over 1.1 million petition signatures to the FDA requesting labels for GMO foods. This effort led by Stoneyfield Organic CEO Gary Hirshberg, set the record for the most public comments on a petition to the FDA ever. And most recently social media campaigns have emerged, like the GMO Inside campaign, which urges grocery shoppers to label the suspected GMO foods and post the photos to Facebook and Twitter, as they have done by the thousands.
And then there was Proposition 37 in California. When I asked you Mr. Grant straightforwardly last year, “How much would this Company spend to defeat the California Right2Know Ballot initiative,” you refused to answer my question. Today fellow shareholders I am displeased to report our company wasted $8.2 million dollars to defeat transparency in food labels. Spending millions of dollars through lies and misinformation is not the way to stop the customer backlash towards GMOs. It’s only made it worse. Shareholders need to take this breech of trust very seriously.
While the proposition to label GMO foods in California failed to pass by a slim margin, people now say that if this Company was so proud of its patented technology, it would demand labels just as much as grocery shoppers do. This paradox exists because the Company is not being transparent with itself. This blatant denial of the wishes of customers in our value chain has the fuel to generate a wild fire of grassroots activism against this company. Customers recognize the lack of transparency in our food labels means there must be something to hide and they are wising up to the fact that its our patented technology that is being concealed.
For that matter why is this a closed-door meeting and no video feed made available to the hundreds of millions world-wide who eat our patented technology? Why must we meet in secret if the Company truly embraces transparency?
Since last year’s shareholder meeting we know more than 6 million Americans have voted & signed petitions demanding more transparency in food labels. This voting block is not going away because they vote three times a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Throughout 2012 there were over 150 large-scale protests against this Company’s opaque & undemocratic control of global food policy. There were at least 50 protests at Monsanto facilities world-wide this past September 17 alone and just this last Tuesday there were thousands who took to the streets of Argentina protesting this company. Unless things begin to change and become more transparent, these protests will increase in size and number. Mr. Grant, the grassroots are Roundup resistant.
The way forward is by upholding the Company’s pledge to transparency. First, this means following the lead of other Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Walmart and begin to stream over the Internet audio & video of all future shareholder meetings. Second, the Company should cease its efforts to stymie legislative solutions that provide increased transparency around GMO foods. States like Washington, Hawaii, Connecticut, Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, and even here in Missouri have legislative solutions in the works. These efforts should be embraced by the Company, not fought off with lobbyists & lawyers. Third, the company needs to provide scientists access to the Company’s seeds & existing body of research. Let independent scientists provide the much-needed peer-reviewed studies, so the public at large believes this Company is being truly transparent.
A video published yesterday on the Wall Street Journal’s website, Mr. Grant said quote “we need to do much better job explaining where food comes from” We wholeheartedly agree. From independent scientific experimentation to honest food labels to streaming future shareholder meetings, this Company needs to look inward and become transparent.
Thank you for your time and I will answer questions shareholders may have.
On September 22, 2011, the White House unveiled their on-line petition microsite to provide citizens the opportunity to directly petition president Barack Obama’s administration. In the year since the petition platform went online, there have been over 50,000 petitions submitted, and of those petitions, 116 were able to reach the signature threshold and 103 of those petitions received a response from the White House. Except the petitions related to GMO….
On September 23, 2011, the second day after the “We The People” petition platform went live, there was this petition submitted:
Without a response from the White House, nearly 7 months later a second petition on GMO was submitted:
There is currently a third petition on GMO which is in the process of collecting signatures on We The People. But why should people sign this petition when the White House has failed to answer the previous two?
Yesterday an official from the White House said that they were going to respond to Secession Petitions that were recently submitted. So why is the White House ignoring petitions on GMO that have been languishing for over a year?
We believe its due to Monsanto’s pervasive influence on the White House & the FDA. With over 90% of Americans in support of labeling GMO foods, its not like President Obama will lose any support from the American public for taking a stand on GMO like he did in 2007. Therefore, we demand that the White House immediately answer the petitions on GMO and have the FDA promulgate regulations for mandatory GMO labeling.
Three members of Congress have called for a federal investigation into possible conflicts of interest involving three officials of the Food and Drug Administration, which approved a controversial genetically engineered Monsanto Corp. drug last year. All three agency officials had some ties to Monsanto before coming to the FDA, but an agency spokesman denied there was any misconduct.
In a letter Friday to the General Accounting Office, Reps. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calf.), David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) asked the watchdog agency to conduct a 30-day review of the FDA’s approval of recombinant bovine somatotropin (bST), a substance that increases milk yields in cows.
“A troubling pattern of unanswered questions is emerging that suggests an altogether too cozy relationship between some FDA officials central to this food safety decision and their close dealings with the Monsanto Company,” Sanders said in a statement.
The letter- which cites an anonymous March 16 complaint ostensibly written by members of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM)- asks the GAO to probe the roles of three “key” FDA officials in the approval of the Monsanto drug.
The highest ranking is Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for policy, a past FDA employee who rejoined the agency in 1991 from the Washington law firm King and Spalding, which represents Monsanto. Also named was Margaret A. Miller, deputy director of the agency’s office of new animal drugs. The letter characterized her as “a former Monsanto company employee” who wrote the FDA’s opinion on why milk from bST-treated cows should not require special labeling.
A third staff member, Susan Sechen, was described as a data reviewer at the FDA who had worked as a graduate student for a Cornell University professor who conducted Monsanto-sponsored research on bST.
Anti-biotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin first made the charges about Taylor in February, when he petitioned the FDA to rescind the approval of bST and investigate the three staff members’ role in the agency’s policy.
On March 15, FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler sent Rifkin a four-page letter stating that “none of the activities of Mr. Taylor cited in your petition were in violation of any applicable law or regulation, or were otherwise inappropriate … I believe that Mr. Taylor’s behavior adhered to all applicable ethical standards.”
Kessler said that Taylor had not been “intimately” involved in Monsanto’s efforts to obtain approval, as Rifkin charged, and that he was involved in the FDA’s bST policy only in the final stages of review.
Kessler attached a nine-page memo by FDA ethics official Jack M. Kress supporting that position. Upon arrival at the FDA in the summer of 1991, Taylor recused himself for one year from taking part in any agency action dealing directly with Monsanto or any other King and Spalding clients.
Some longtime agency critics found the charges against Taylor misplaced. Sidney Wolfe, a physician who heads the Public Citizen Health Research Group here has filed complaints with the FDA about revolving door ethics issues concerning other officials. But he said yesterday that “It’s barking up a silly kind of tree to be going against Mike Taylor.”
Wolfe said that “as far as we’re concerned, he’s done a perfectly good job.” Wolfe compared Rifkin’s charges to saying that anyone who worked for a drug company and began working for the FDA should not be allowed to say anything about drugs in general- a stance that Wolfe characterized as “preposterous.”
As for the two other FDA employees named in the House members’ letter, agency spokesman Jim O’Hara said there was no impropriety. “As we have learned of these allegations, we have looked at them. The appropriate safeguards against conflict of interest have been taken,” O’Hara said.
Miller was no involved in the decision to approve bST, and Sechen’s involvement with the bST review was approved at the outset by the FDA’s ethics and program integrity division, which “determined that there was no a conflict of interest based on the information they were provided,” O’Hara said.
Although reluctant to comment in the face of a possible investigation, Taylor said yesterday that “I would welcome any scrutiny of my actions.”
Much of the material used in the lawmakers’ letter, including the anonymous CVM letter alleging Miller’s conflict of interest, came from Rifkin, a long-standing opponent of bST. Bill Goold, a spokesman for Sanders, said the search of scientific literature relied upon by Sander’s staff in drafting the letter came from Rifkin’s organization.
Rifkin has fought against the approval of bST for more than seven years as a part of an all-fronts assault against biotechnology. He called his ethical charges “a significant scandal” that he said showed moral weakness at the top of the organization. “We want Kessler’s resignation,” Rifkin said yesterday. He said that the nine-page ethics memo by FDA’s Kress was “people in government trying to protect their own.”
Sanders and Obey have previously taken stands against the approval of bST and its use without consumer labels that identify the milk as coming from cows treated with the drug.
But many Capitol Hill staff members were surprised to see Brown- who chairs the Science, Space, and Technology Committee- as a signer of the letter.
Sources familiar with the process said key committee staff members felt they had been end-run by activists. One congressional aide said staff members who normally would be informed of such an action were unaware that Brown had signed the letter.
“George’s issue is with the process of approval. He wants to make sure people are squeaky-clean,” the aide said. Brown did not see the FDA response to the Rifkin petition before signing the Sanders letter, an aide said. Obey said yesterday that he had seen the FDA response and “I’m frankly not impressed.”
Some acquaintances of Taylor were incredulous that the official would be the object of ethical scrutiny. “There’s no more ethical person in this town than Mike Taylor,” said Wayne Pines, a former FDA official who now consults with companies on FDA matters. “Mike would never get involved in a situation in which there’s a conflict- that’s such a no-brainer.”
26 genetically engineered crops are currently being considered for approval in the European Union. 19 out of these 26 are genetically engineered to be tolerant to herbicides.
Renowned agricultural economist Dr. Charles Benbrook was commissioned by Greenpeace to make the first ever forecast of how Europe would be impacted by authorising the cultivation of genetically engineered herbicide tolerant corn, soy and sugar beet.
Greenpeace has also travelled through Argentina and USA to speak to farmers and their communities about how herbicide tolerant crop monocultures have affected their economy, environment and community. These first person accounts formed the basis for the documentary Growing Doubt (the film above).
Witness accounts from Argentina and USA and Dr. Benbrook’s forecast report present a grim view of a future Europe: the over-reliance on herbicide-tolerant crops in the U.S. has triggered the emergence and rapid spread of nearly two dozen glyphosate-resistant weeds, driving up farm production costs, as well as the volume and toxicity of herbicides needed to prevent major yield loss. Europe will face a similar reality by 2025, should
herbicide tolerant genetically engineered crops be authorised for cultivation.
Greenpeace is facilitating an 18 day tour of Europe with public screenings of Growing Doubt showing the reality in Argentina and USA, followed by Dr. Charles Benbrook presenting his study which you can view here.
These public meetings offer European farmers, politicians, media and civil society a chance to hear directly from Dr. Benbrook, as well as Wes Shoemyer and Wendel Lutz – two American farmers featured in the film, who have personally experienced the agricultural and social catastrophe caused by herbicide tolerant crops. Together, they have joined Greenpeace in Europe to warn European farmers against following the American example.
• As herbicide-tolerant GE crops lead to an increase in herbicide usage, that no herbicide tolerant GE crops should be authorised for cultivation in Europe.
• As part of the implementation of the 2008 Council Conclusions, that the European Commission should substantially strengthen the EU risk assessment procedure for GE crops by carrying out a thorough evaluation of the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of HTGE crops.
As you can see in the video, some customers were shocked to discover that Whole Foods sells GMOs in their store. The majority of Whole Foods customers, it turned out, had no idea the company was selling GMO. (more…)