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.
Gary Hirshberg is Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt producer, and Managing Director of Stonyfield Europe, with organic brands in Ireland, and France. Gary serves on several corporate and non-profit boards including Applegate Farms, Honest Tea, Peak Organic Brewing, Late July, The Full Yield, SweetGreen, RAMp Sports, Glenisk, the Danone Communities Fund and the Danone Livelihoods Fund. He is the Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of Chelsea’s Table Cafés, a natural and organic fast casual restaurant firm. In 2011, President Obama appointed Gary to serve on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. He is a Co-Chair of AGree, an agricultural policy initiative formed by the Ford, Gates, Kellogg, Rockefeller, Walton and other leading foundations. He is Chairman and a founding Partner of Just Label It, We Have the Right to Know, the national campaign to label genetically engineered foods, and is co-author of Label It Now — What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Foods. He is the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World.
Gary has received nine honorary doctorates and numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership including a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award by the US EPA. Previously, he was the Founder of Climate Counts, Director of the Rural Education Center, the small organic farming school from which Stonyfield was spawned and Executive Director of The New Alchemy Institute — a research and education center dedicated to organic farming, aquaculture, and renewable energy. Before that he was a water-pumping windmill specialist and an environmental education director with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He also authored books on wind-power and organic gardening.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall was standing room only as more than 1,100 people showed up Thursday night to hear a presentation by environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva.
“Your island is truth speaking to the world,” Shiva told the crowd to thunderous applause.
Joining Shiva as part of a three-day Hawai‘i SEED Tour was environmental attorney Andrew Kimbrell and Hawaiian rights activist Walter Ritte of Moloka‘i.
“Dr. Shiva is like the Dalai Lama of Agriculture,” Ritte said of the Indian philosopher, physicist, environmental activist and eco-feminist who has authored more than 20 books. As a leader in the International Forum of Globalization, Shiva fights for changes in the practices and paradigms of food, according to her biography.
Shiva met with residents of the Westside for dinner ahead of time to discuss a pending class action lawsuit over the continued experimental use of pesticides by biotech companies in the area.
Because of the experiments taking place with pesticides and genetically engineered seeds on the Westside of the island, Kaua‘i is considered ground zero internationally in the fight to stop biotech companies such as Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer and Syngenta from creating more products and patenting more seeds.
Organizers are also working to have Hawai‘i become the first state to label foods containing genetically modified organisms.
In assisting grassroots organizations in the green movement worldwide, Shiva has been featured in several documentaries and received the Right Livelihood Award and the Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environmental Program. She has been called one of the five most powerful women in Asia.
Along with Shiva was Andrew Kimbrell, who became the executive director of the International Center for Technology Assessment in 1994 and the executive director of the Center for Food Safety in 1997. As one of the leading environmental attorneys in the nation, he has authored several books on the environment, technology in society and food issues. In 1994, Utne Reader named him as one of the world’s leading visionaries.
Sponsored by Hawai‘i SEED, The Center for Food Safety and Navdanya, the evening discussing the elimination of genetically modified organisms, along with the labeling of GMO products, was the culmination of a three-day long Hawai‘i SEED Tour that had Shiva, Kimbrell and Ritte speaking to a sold out audiences at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and at the Kapolei Salvation Army Ray Kroc Center, along with legislative briefings and presentations in the State Capitol by Kaua‘i County Councilman Gary Hooser, Sen. Laura Thielen and others.
At the outset of the evening, vendors from around the island set up a seed giveaway featuring a local farming resource fair and silent auction to benefit Hawai‘i SEED.
Emceeing the Kaua‘i event was Nancy Redfeather of Kawanui Farm on the Big Island, who in her work as a teacher and gardener has helped create 65 school gardens through her work as program director for the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network and is the director of the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative.
Opening the evening at the Kaua‘i War Memorial were students from Kanu I Ka Pono New Century Public Charter School, who greeted the audience with chant and poetry.
“There’s room for man’s need, but not man’s greed,” said one Kanu I Ka Pono student in her poem, paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi.
Up next was performer Makana, who played a modified version of his “We Are the Many” anthem advising the crowd to “Occupy GMO.” He also performed a new song titled, “The Story of the GMO,” which addresses the history of the anti-GMO movement and closed the evening with an untitled “Song for Vandana,” that he was inspired to write while listening to Shiva’s presentation.
In introducing Dr. Shiva, Redfeather said Dr. Shiva has trained more than 650,000 farmers in India and is advising Bhutan on how to be come the first wholly organic country in the world.
“I was told you were a very small island with a very small population. It doesn’t look like it when you stand in this hall,” she said.
She said that the myth was that spraying pesticides has lead to the rise of GMOs.
Dr. Shiva said farmers were told they would never have to spray again, “we known through the practice in the rest of the world that in fact the spray increases and you talk about it. The GMOs are not a safe alternative to poisons. They are pushed by the poison industry to increase poison sales and monopolize the seed industry.”
In discussing the 1984 Bhopal disaster, Dr. Shiva said 3,000 people died in a gas leak from a Union Carbide plant and more than 30,000 people have died since then. She said the disaster didn’t stop after the explosion “as generations being born today are being born crippled.”
She said Bhopal isn’t the only poison tragedy in India. She said 1,000 people died in the past couple years in “the endosulfan tragedy,” when thousands of people were sprayed with pesticides that went into water and wells.
Dr. Shiva said India’s Green Revolution started off with chemicals that were designed for killing people in times of war. After World War II, these companies then turned the chemicals into pesticides and now have become a biotech.
“The explosive factories were redesigned to create fertilizer,” Dr. Shiva said, noting that the Oklahoma bombing, the Oslo bombing and every bombing in India were created using fertilizer bombs.
“We delivered sacks and sacks of fertilizer to the Afghans and now they are making bombs,” she said of the Central Intelligence Agency providing fertilizer to the country. “A century of war making and destruction is behind this.”
Her research for the United Nations also uncovered that nerve gas was being modified into modern day pesticides.
She addressed her plans to organize new Nuremberg Trials to go after the companies making nerve gas to kill people during World War II that are still making chemicals today.
“We are going to organize new Nuremberg trials and bring together everyone that has been harmed in the name of agricultural progress,” she said.
Dr. Shiva went on to say she was at a conference where people were talking about making seed saving a crime. She said one of the big fights being faced is to prevent the criminalization of seed saving by farmers.
“How could it be that the death industry can recreate itself as the life sciences industry?” she asked, adding that the companies position themselves as patient and diagnostician for a problem, with the problem being farmers saving seeds.
She said that growing up, her family used the neem tree for pest control, which causes bugs to reproduce slower. She said the neem tree is called the “village farmer,” and has more than 1,000 uses.
After Bhopal, Dr. Shiva delivered neem trees to the area and made posters that read, “No more Bhopals. Plant a Neem.”
She discussed other biopiracy cases such as basmati rice, which RiceTec patented and claimed to have invented along with how worldwide trade impacts the industry.
“Everything comes from China,” Dr. Shiva said of the U.S. being in a negative trade balance. “Patented seeds and GMO crops are the only things leaving. You have become the nerve center for this destruction.”
In the end, though, Dr. Shiva said the biotech companies have left us with bug-resistant super pests and super wheats.
“The GMO emperor has no clothes,” Dr. Shiva said. “We have the clarity to speak truth. We do not recognize patents on life.”
Monopolies and monocultures go together and have reduced to just eight commodities including animal feed, biofuel and human food last. She said it wastes communities by destroying them and imposes uniformity along with shipping them in trucks.
“Food is a waste system. It wastes the Earth, it wastes communities, it wastes potential, they ship it thousands of miles in trucks,” she said.
“Bees usurp pollen, weeds steal sunshine … everyone is a thief in their world because they are the thieves,” Dr. Shiva said of what the biotech companies are telling the world, “This is not about technology. This is about conquest. That’s why every time a religion has conquered, they destroyed sacred shrines and put in churches.”
She said people should live by the tenets of Gandhi, including satyagraha meaning fight for truth; swaraj meaning self-organized freedom; and swadeshi, meaning self-making as a rule of freedom; and the concept of lifting up everyone including the most vulnerable.
In the end, Dr. Shiva called on Kaua‘i’s residents to work on feeding themselves.
“You have so much water and biodivesity here on the Garden Island that it should be a garden and in reality feeding itself.”
2012 was the year the lights came up on the biotech industry. Its claims, its tactics and its products all came under scrutiny and some of its biggest PR fairytales bit the dust. Here are some prime examples.
1. Fleeing Europe: The biotech bubble needs to appear to be constantly expanding but in early 2012 came the news that the GM and chemicals giant BASF was pulling its GM division out of Europe because it was facing opposition “from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians.” BASF also announced it was stopping the commercialization of its GM Amflora potato, one of only two GM crops authorized for cultivation in the European Union. The crop had been a commercial flop. The industry’s only other crop grown in Europe, Monsanto’s Mon810 GM maize, continued to face bans in a number of countries including Germany, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg, France, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Poland. Even GM crop trials are in decline and with BASF quitting Europe they’re expected to decline still further.
2. Meltdown in India: Bt cotton in India has been claimed as one of the industry’s biggest success stories but in 2012 the PR claims completely fell apart. First, a leaked agriculture ministry advisory to cotton-growing states admitted, “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” Two new award winning films also helped expose the truth about GM cotton in India to a wider audience. So too did a powerful report from India’s Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, after its committee members visited five States, examined thousands of documents and talked to large numbers of farmers and experts. The 31 MPs also met around a hundred widows of Bt cotton farmers, including 14 in a village promoted by Monsanto as a model for Bt cotton’s success. It turned out the farmers in Monsanto’s “model village” wanted a ban on Bt cotton. The shocked MPs issued a unanimous report saying GM crops were not the right way forward for India and called for an immediate ban on all GM crop trials. Not long afterwards an expert panel of scientists set up by lndia’s Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on GM crops.
3. Opposition grows in the US: Everyone knows about California’s referendum on the labeling of food containing GM ingredients, which was narrowly lost in the face of a massive advertising blitz by its industry opponents. But it took all kinds of lies, dirty tricks and a cool $45 million to kill off the initiative, and still 48.6 percent of voters supported it. Worse still for the industry, the controversy it stirred up helped spread GMO awareness nationwide. Many other states and local governments are now picking up the fight for GMO labeling, while the national Just Label It campaign has already submitted over a million signatures to the FDA asking the agency to require the labeling of GM foods. Some activists even took to the supermarket aisles to label GMO foods themselves. The industry has also been facing street protests across the US, with at least 60 protests targeting Monsanto on the anniversary of the Occupy movement.
4. Opposition grows worldwide: In 2012 protests against GM crop trials and the biotech industry’s activities took place across the globe. And although 60 countries already have GM food labeling, important new breakthroughs were achieved in: India, which is to introduce labeling for the first time in 2013; South Africa, where GM labeling is being tightened up to help enforce food industry compliance; Brazil, where the courts forced the multinational food company Nestle to label GM ingredients in its products; and Turkey, where mandatory labeling is to be extended to include GMO-fed animal products.
5. The reality of GM farming overwhelms public relations – nature cannot be fooled: US farmers are having to use still more pesticides to try and save their crops as infestations of rootworms have exploded on GM (Bt) corn engineered to eradicate them. “I lost $25,000 in yield,” said Charles Sandager, a Minnesota farmer. “They are going to outsmart us, them bugs.” Likewise, in order to combat the ever proliferating numbers of herbicide-resistant superweeds, the GM industry is preparing to roll out crops resistant to older and even more toxic herbicides, as well as to multiple herbicides. Washington State University agronomist Charles Benbrook says what the GM industry is doing “makes about as much sense as pouring gas on a fire to put it out.” Benbrook’s research shows that GM crops, far from cutting agrochemical use in the US as the industry likes to claim, have unleashed a pesticide gusher.
6. Toxics exposed: Among the toxic herbicides GM crops are now being engineered to resist is 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange. Research has shown 2,4-D to be an endocrine disruptor, and has linked exposure to cancers, neurological impairment and reproductive problems. As a result, Norway, Denmark and Sweden have banned it, but the new wave of 2,4-D-resistant GM crops will massively increase the exposure of farmworkers and consumers to this dangerous herbicide. In 2012 there was also growing evidence of the dangers of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide, which with the considerable help of GM Roundup Ready crops is the most heavily used herbicide worldwide: + Glyphosate found in people’s urine – A German university study found significant concentrations of glyphosate in the urine samples of city dwellers. All had concentrations of glyphosate at 5 to 20-fold the limit for drinking water. News of this study came not long after the publication of a study confirming glyphosate was contaminating groundwater. Last year also saw the publication of two US Geological Survey studies which consistently found glyphosate in streams, rain and even air in agricultural areas of the US. Glyphosate has also been found circulating in women’s blood and can even cross the placental barrier and so reach the developing fetus. + Glyphosate and Roundup damage DNA in human mouth cells – A 2012 study by Austrian researchers raises concerns over the safety of inhaling glyphosate, one of the most common ways in which people are exposed to the herbicide in the GM soy-producing countries of South America. + Glyphosate damages nerve cells – A new study adds confirmatory evidence to previous studies that found a correlation between Roundup exposure and Parkinson’s disease. + Roundup can cause amphibians to change shape – A 2012 study found that tadpoles exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of Roundup grew abnormally large tails. + Roundup kills rat testicular cells – A new study showed that at low doses Roundup reduced testosterone by 35% in mature rats. At high doses, it destroyed testicular cells. + Roundup harms beneficial gut bacteria – A study by scientists at Leipzig University found that Roundup negatively impacted the gastrointestinal bacteria of poultry in vitro. The researchers found that highly pathogenic bacteria resisted Roundup, whereas beneficial bacteria were moderately to highly susceptible to it. The study provides a scientific basis to farmer reports of increased gastrointestinal disease in animals fed GM Roundup Ready soy. + Roundup probably causes birth defects, according to a new peer reviewed paper published in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology
7. Monsanto guilty of false advertizing: An advertisement for Roundup that Monsanto placed in Dutch newspapers made a number of misleading claims, according to the Dutch Advertising Code Commission. Earlier in the year, the Advertising Standards Council of India concluded that Monsanto’s claims of economic benefits to farmers from its GM cotton were baseless. Monsanto has also previously been found guilty of using wrong, unproven, misleading and confusing claims to promote either its GM crops or Roundup by advertizing watchdogs in the UK, South Africa and France.
8. Unethical research practices and scientific fraud: In December the Chinese authorities sacked three officials who had approved and conducted a controversial US funded research project that involved testing GM golden rice on school children. The officials were punished for “violating relevant regulations, scientific ethics and academic integrity.” The Chinese investigation into how the research was conducted has also provided evidence that contradicts the claims made about how much golden rice was fed to the children in a paper on the study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. As a policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has commented, “Either the researchers are lying about this now or they lied about it in their paper. It’s a serious offence either way.” Earlier in 2012 came the retraction of a study by researchers at the Monsanto-backed Danforth Center that claimed to have found a way through genetic engineering to boost the protein content of cassava. The retraction occurred “after researchers failed to find any supporting data to back up [the paper’s] claims.” In late 2012 there was also news of researchers studying the Bt toxins used in GM crops having doctored images in a whole series of published papers. Neither of the researchers involved seems to be facing the sack, although one of the researchers is having to step down as head of their university’s Committee on Bioethics! In October of 2012 came the headline, “Top GM researcher falsified patent claim to grab national award.” Back in February 2012 there was yet another remarkable headline, “Untangling India’s Bt cotton fraud: ICAR’s top research institutes and GEAC [the key GM regulator] exposed in Bt cotton research scam.” The scam apparently involved, among other things, stealing a Bt cotton gene from Monsanto, but Monsanto itself and various Indian agricultural universities also stand accused of theft – criminal biopiracy – in the case of another GM crop. And that’s all in just the last 12 months! Some see all this as the result of an over-commercialised public science sector, while others suspect it is the inevitable by-product of GM crops being based on a fraud themselves – a massively hyped technology rooted in entirely false premises.
9. Seralini publishes explosive GMO/Roundup study: Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini’s research found serious adverse health impacts in the rats fed Monsanto’s GM corn (NK603) and/or small amounts of the Roundup herbicide that the crop was engineered to withstand. Wave after wave of dubious criticism, fuelled and orchestrated by those with industry connections, attempted to silence the questions raised by the long-term study, as well as to stifle scientific discourse and get the paper retracted. But as the dust starts to settle over the controversy, the study not only remains unretracted but there is a growing recognition of the need for long-term studies on GM crops of the sort Seralini has conducted. Worst of all from the biotech industry’s point of view, their supporters’ savage attacks on Seralini’s study have exposed the fact that a careful comparison of Seralini’s research with Monsanto’s own safety trials shows that if the Seralini experiments are considered insufficient to demonstrate harm, then those carried out by Monsanto cannot prove safety. This is because, whatever its limitations, Seralini’s study was conducted to generally higher scientific standards than the studies underlying GM food approvals. As a result, the attacks on Seralini’s study are bound to fuel calls for mandatory long-term testing of all GMOs and their associated pesticides before they’re commercialized, as well as bringing into question all existing GM crop approvals.
10. Regulatory capture exposed: The other damaging consequence for the biotech industry of the attacks on Seralini and the rush by the likes of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to reject the study, has been the resulting exposure of the double standards of regulators who have accepted Monsanto’s studies claiming safety for their products at face value while demanding that public researchers like Seralini prove any harm from GM crops beyond all doubt. This is why 140 French scientists in a public statement published in Le Monde, declared that it was contrary to all scientific ethics to damn an experimental protocol when it gave results that were not wanted, while accepting it when it gave results that were. EFSA’s behaviour has also brought further focus on the problems of regulatory capture and of serious conflicts of interest among the regulators. This was already an open scandal, not least after EU member states earlier in 2012 had had to refuse the nomination of an ex-Monsanto employee to EFSA’s management board. By the end of 2012 there was growing awareness of the extent of regulatory dysfunction and the scandal of government agencies doing exactly what multinational corporations ask them to do.
This proposal was submitted by Harrington Investments, Inc., 1001 2nd Street, Suite 325, Napa, CA 94559, as lead proponent of a filing group. The proposal has been carefully considered by the board of directors, which has concluded that its adoption would not be in the best interests of the company or its shareowners. For the reasons stated after the proposal, the board recommends a vote “Against” the shareowner proposal.
The proposal and supporting statement are presented as received from the shareowner proponents in accordance with the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the board of directors and the company disclaim any responsibility for its content. We will furnish, orally or in writing as requested, the name, address and claimed share ownership position of the proponents of this shareowner proposal promptly upon written or oral request directed to the company’s Secretary.
Information regarding the inclusion of proposals in Monsanto’s proxy statement can be found on page 77 under Shareowner Proposals for 2014 Annual Meeting.
The labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is an increasing matter of concern among state legislators across the United States;
Vermont, Alaska, Maine and Nebraska have passed laws requiring labeling of GMOs and at least fifteen states have offered legislation that would require similar labeling;
The biological and physical movement of material derived from genetically engineered crops is difficult and sometimes impossible to control or recall;
Many domestic and global food markets demand foods with zero or near-zero levels of material derived from genetically modified organisms;
Genetically modified crops have been found to contaminate conventional (non-GMO) and organic farms, threatening farmers’ livelihoods, and affecting critical food supply, and imposing a significant financial burden on farmers seeking to satisfy markets for GMO-free products;
RESOLVED: The Monsanto board shall prepare a report, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, assessing any material financial risks or operational potential impacts on the Company with:
Seed contamination, including costs of seed replacement, crop and production losses and clean up, decontamination and continued testing of affected seeds;
Ongoing buffer zone control, including production acreage losses and on-going maintenance required to secure or maintain access to contamination-sensitive markets;
Crop, production, and post-harvest losses and associated costs of market rejections, including temporary or permanent market losses resulting from GMO contamination;
Loss of organic or other third-party certification due to GMO contamination and any costs associated with additional record-keeping, testing or surveillance required to regain certification or retain certification on impacted operations;
Well water testing and/or groundwater cleanup contamination if found;
Removal and destruction of contaminated GMO plants;
Pollinator losses and related damages, e.g. to non-target organisms;
Soil contamination and on-going related mitigation and remediation costs; and
Damage to farmers’ reputation, livelihood, and standing in the community.
The report shall also discuss the impact of such a policy regarding such issues and related public policies on our customers and consumers, and shall be available by July 1, 2013.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS A VOTE “AGAINST” THE FOREGOING PROPOSAL FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:
Disclosure of material financial risks or operational impacts on the company is required by SEC reporting requirements and we take seriously our responsibility to identify, analyze and transparently report such risks or potential impacts. Existing processes and procedures are in place that are intended to ensure compliance with SEC disclosure requirements relating to the topics raised by the proponent. An additional report to restate such risks or impacts as suggested in the proposal would be redundant and provide no meaningful additional information to shareowners.
Our Technology Use Guide, which is updated annually, distributed to our customers and posted on our website, provides information specifically about coexistence and identity preservation to our customers, including general instructions for management of mechanical mixing and pollen flow.
We engage in robust, ongoing dialogue with the seed trade, agricultural value chain and academic community to address the complex subject areas encompassed by the shareowner proposal in a manner consistent with best industry practice. These are routinely discussed in these settings and are well known to the company individuals responsible for identifying and reporting material risks and potential impacts.
Monsanto is a founding member of “Excellence Through Stewardship,” the agricultural biotechnology industry’s global initiative for advancing best practices in stewardship and quality management. As a member, Monsanto is subject to regular global compliance audits to ensure best practices are being followed. See http://www.excellencethroughstewardship.org/  for more information about this initiative.
Constructive coexistence among diverse segments of agriculture is well established and practiced. It is commonplace to find different agricultural production methods working effectively side by side based on well established practices and a long, successful history in agriculture. Careful management of these production methods is in the interest of all concerned – our company, our customers, the value chain and consumers.
Farmers and seed companies rely on standards and best practices in seed and grain production, harvest, handling and transportation to support production, distribution and trade of products from different agricultural systems. This is essential to preserve the identity of products to meet market specifications. Examples of identity preserved production include certified seed, specialty oil or protein crops, and crops that meet commercial contract specifications such as organic and non-genetically enhanced specifications.
Based on historical experience generally accepted agricultural practices to manage production to meet quality specifications have been established. Among these practices are appropriate seed sourcing, field management, storage and handling practices. This array of agricultural planning tools and practices maintains product integrity and quality specifications.
A mosaic of agricultural production systems must be preserved to enable farmer choice and meet global productivity needs. Drought in several major agricultural production regions in 2011 and 2012 is a vivid reminder of the challenges facing agricultural production and food security. Monsanto believes farmers should have the freedom to choose the production method best suited for their environments, markets and needs, whether organic, non-GM conventional, or products improved through biotechnology. All of the agricultural systems can and do work effectively side by side and contribute to the varied needs of different farmers, markets and consumers and meeting the demands of a growing population.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS A VOTE “AGAINST” THIS SHAREOWNER PROPOSAL AND YOUR PROXY WILL BE SO VOTED IF THE PROPOSAL IS PRESENTED UNLESS YOU SPECIFY OTHERWISE
A group of demonstrators who flocked to Syngenta Flowers in Gilroy last week was a modest-sized crew that lobbied against genetically engineered seeds, voicing their stance through colorful signs, chants, stickers, biohazard suits and even a chocolate Labrador named Lady, who wore a sign that declared, “No to GMOs! Dogs don’t like it either.”
Around 15 or so participants carpooled from various parts of the Bay Area to participate in Friday’s all-day peaceful demonstration. Syngenta and city staff anticipated the visitors, who hailed from Morgan Hill, Campbell, Santa Clara, San Jose and San Francisco. Parts of Hecker Pass were previously lined with Caltrans “no parking signs,” while a chain link fence barricaded Syngenta’s parking lot entrance. Four Gilroy police officers kept a watchful eye over the scene from the morning until 2 p.m. Two officers stayed on until 5 p.m.
“This is Goliath, and we are David,” said event spokesman Eduardo Abarca, 24, projecting his voice through a bullhorn toward the Syngenta facility at 2280 Hecker Pass Highway. “You don’t have a right to mess with nature and you can’t control how nature works.”
Formally known as “Occupy Monsanto” in protest of the American agricultural biotech company and leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, the gathering marked the final day of a nationwide “global week of action” against “evil biotech” facilities linked to the Genetically Modified Organism food system.
Protesters decided to demonstrate in Gilroy since “there wasn’t a Monsanto facility that we could find near San Francisco.” Staging a demonstration at Syngenta is just as legitimate, the group maintained, as the company also breeds, manufactures and sells genetically modified vegetable seeds that ultimately make their way into the food system.
While the local Syngenta facility in Gilroy doesn’t actually sell or manufacture vegetable seeds or vegetable plants – it’s a flowers-only operation – the Swiss biotech giant that employs more than 26,000 people in more than 90 countries is currently the world’s No. 2 vegetable seed proprietor, according to its website.
Abarca and company protested against Genetically Modified Organisms known as GMOs, as well as the absence of FDA regulations that require GMO food labeling. Biotechnology labeling is not required by the Food and Drug Administration, although it has been adopted by more than 40 countries, including New Zealand, parts of Asia and Australia and most of Europe.
Genetically engineered seeds, such as those manufactured by Syngenta, “are tailored for individual geographical regions to be high-yielding and reliable,” as well as “genetically enhanced with built-in insect resistance or herbicide tolerance,” according to Syngenta. Farmers may opt to use these types of seeds, which can be more efficient and yield a higher output. Some common examples of GMO crops include corn, soy beans, sugar cane, rice, cotton, vegetable/canola oil, as well as vegetables that have been genetically modified to remain fresher longer, and thus have a longer shelf life in grocery stores.
Arguments against genetically engineered seeds include: Risks to human health and the environment, GMO seeds being too expensive, resistant to weed killer, and genetically contaminating traditional crops – which are important to organic farmers, as well as conventional farmers who export crops to other countries that reject genetic engineering.
Syngenta, on the other hand, contends that “genetically modified food and feed products are the most extensively tested and regulated in the entire food sector,” according to Senior Communications Manager Lori Schwind with Syngenta Corporate Affairs, North America.
“Testing by independent public authorities and scientists throughout the world, including national and international food standards bodies, continues to demonstrate that approved genetically modified plants are just as safe as conventional varieties,” according to a company statement issued Monday by Schwind.
Friday’s protesters argued otherwise.
Activists touted signs with messages such as, “We risk becoming the best informed society that has died of ignorance” and, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature! No GMO! Yes 37!” in reference to Proposition 37, the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.” The measure to make GMO food labeling mandatory in California is one of 11 statewide initiatives that is on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Monsanto and Syngenta are listed as donors to the “No on 37” campaign.
Genetic tinkering and the subsequent denial of the public’s “right to choose what we put into our bodies” prompted Campbell resident Robert W. Groff, 58, to participate in the Syngenta protest.
“I don’t think multinational corporations should be dictating our food chain,” said Groff, who has a master’s degree in engineering. “It’s not the right way to do things.”
Participant’s ages were as mixed as their origins. One of the younger protesters included 14-year-old Saul Navejas, who donned a white biohazard jumpsuit.
“Yeah,” he admitted, peeling off the top layer. “It’s really hot.”
Abarca also wanted to bring awareness to the fact that Syngenta manufactures an herbicide called Atrazine, “one of the most commonly detected pesticides that we find in our water,” he claims.
“If it’s so good for you, what do you got to be afraid of?” queried San Jose protester Joe Cernac, 64, who sat on the highway curb and played his harmonica while holding a sign that read, “power to the people.”
Cernac trekked to Gilroy Friday because he believes the fine print of food labeling is an “issue.”
“People need to know what’s in the food that they’re buying,” he rationed.
Adam Eidinger, Washington D.C.-based spokesman for Occupy Monsanto, claims studies have linked GMOs in food to autism, obesity, food-based allergies, dropping fertility rates, birth defects and “weird” neurological disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s a source of deep concern for Morgan Hill resident Loya Jackson, 58, a retired GUSD teacher of more than 18 years.
“I am passionate about what GMOs are doing to kids,” says Jackson, who claims asthma, allergies and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have proliferated in the classroom.
“Talk to any teacher and we are beside ourselves with allergies,” she said, taking a break from chanting anti-GMO slogans through a bullhorn. “We have tons of EpiPens hanging in our classrooms.”
The EpiPen is an auto-injector for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions.
Protesters argued that a lack of GMO food labeling is a direct impediment to “food sovereignty,” something 78-year-old Santa Clara resident Joan Bazar defines as “the right for people to have control over the source and type of their food.”
A former copy editor for the San Jose Mercury News, Bazar belongs to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She gathered video footage of Friday’s gathering for a documentary project on the global food crisis.
Giant corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta “crowd out the local food production,” she argues.
“Monsanto and companies like them are dominating our food supply and contaminating our bodies,” echoed KateAnn Riser, 62, of Campbell. “If we don’t stand up and be counted, then we have no right to complain.”
Syngenta contends the company is helping to “protect the environment and improve health and quality of life,” the company states. “This includes agricultural biotechnology, which can improve crop productivity and yields and produce higher quality crops. If food production is to increase to meet projected population levels over the next few decades, GM and other biotechnologies must be available to growers as an option.”
This article was Monday’s front page story in Metro Boston, a free daily newspaper. Was Metro Boston hoping for a riot? The impact of a demonstration is not about the number of people present, but the number of people reached by the message. Metro Boston missed the point that unlabeled GMOs are hazardous to our health, environment, and future generations.
Where have all the BIO protesters gone?
by MICHAEL NAUGHTON BOSTON Published: June 17, 2012 7:40 p.m.
An international biotechnology conference that once drew thousands of passionate protesters to Boston 12 years ago may only see a handful of chanters during a return visit to the Hub this week.
The four day BIO International Convention, a gathering of biotechnology leaders from around the world, kicks off today at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston. More than 16,000 people are expected to attend and contribute nearly $27 million to the local economy.
But, as they have in years past, those biotechnology industry leaders will be welcomed by a group of protesters who are planning a rally this morning for the start of the conference.
Groups who have expressed their support and plan to participate in the protest include Occupy Monsanto, the Northeast Organic Farming Association and Occupy Boston.
Rica Madrid, a member of Occupy Monsanto, said last week that she expected about 50 people to show up to the protest. As of yesterday afternoon, about 60 people were signed up on the group’s Facebook page to attend today.
“We really do hope it’s by the thousands, but to be realistic, I think a lot of people really do care, but conflicts are people’s families. And they don’t have a lot of time to come out to a demonstration on a Monday morning,” Madrid said.
She also said a problem to attracting people to the protest is the lack of knowledge about the group’s cause – genetically modified organisms in food.
The group hopes to force companies to label food that includes genetically engineered ingredients.
A Boston police spokesman said in an e-mail that police are aware the convention “may draw some opposition groups” and that the department has assigned additional resources.
Conference organizers said protesters will use a “First Amendment designated area” and that the safety and well-being of convention attendees and Hub citizens is top priority.