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.
Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain, on Friday became the first retailer in the United States to require labeling of all genetically modified foods sold in its stores, a move that some experts said could radically alter the food industry.
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A. C. Gallo, president of Whole Foods, said the new labeling requirement, to be in place within five years, came in response to consumer demand. “We’ve seen how our customers have responded to the products we do have labeled,” Mr. Gallo said. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled.”
Genetically modified ingredients are deeply embedded in the global food supply, having proliferated since the 1990s. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States, for example, have been genetically modified. The alterations make soybeans resistant to a herbicide used in weed control, and causes the corn to produce its own insecticide. Efforts are under way to produce a genetically altered apple that will spoil less quickly, as well as genetically altered salmon that will grow faster. The announcement ricocheted around the food industry and excited proponents of labeling. “Fantastic,” said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy group that favors labeling.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the trade group that represents major food companies and retailers, issued a statement opposing the move. “These labels could mislead consumers into believing that these food products are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk,” Louis Finkel, the organization’s executive director of government affairs, said in the statement.
Mr. Finkel noted that the Food and Drug Administration, as well as regulatory and scientific bodies including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, had deemed genetically modified products safe.
The labeling requirements announced by Whole Foods will include its 339 stores in the United States and Canada. Since labeling is already required in the European Union, products in its seven stores in Britain are already marked if they contain genetically modified ingredients. The labels currently used show that a product has been verified as free of genetically engineered ingredients by the Non GMO Project, a nonprofit certification organization. The labels Whole Foods will use in 2018, which have yet to be created, will identify foods that contain such ingredients.
The shift by Whole Foods is the latest in a series of events that has intensified the debate over genetically modified foods. Voters defeated a hard-fought ballot initiative in California late last year after the biotech industry, and major corporations like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, spent millions of dollars to fight the effort. Other initiatives have qualified for the ballot in Washington State and Missouri, while consumers across the country have been waging a sort of guerrilla movement in supermarkets, pasting warning stickers on products suspected of having G.M.O. ingredients from food companies that oppose labeling. Proponents of labeling insist that consumers have a right to know about the ingredients in the food they eat, and they contend that some studies in rats show that bioengineered food can be harmful.
Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, a campaign for a federal requirement to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients, called the Whole Foods decision a “game changer.”
“We’ve had some pretty big developments in labeling this year,” Mr. Hirshberg said, adding that 22 states now have some sort of pending labeling legislation. “Now, one of the fastest-growing, most successful retailers in the country is throwing down the gantlet.”
He compared the potential impact of the Whole Foods announcement to Wal-Mart’s decision several years ago to stop selling milk from cows treated with growth hormone. Today, only a small number of milk cows are injected with the hormone.
Karen Batra, a spokeswoman for BIO, a trade group representing the biotech industry, said it was too early to determine what impact, if any, the Whole Foods decision would have. “It looks like they want to expand their inventory of certified organic and non-G.M.O. lines,” Ms. Batra said. “The industry has always supported the voluntary labeling of food for marketing reasons.”
She contended, however, that without scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods caused health or safety issues, labeling was unnecessary.
Nonetheless, companies have shown a growing willingness to consider labeling. Some 20 major food companies, as well as Wal-Mart, met recently in Washington to discuss genetically modified labeling.
Coincidentally, the American Halal Company, a food company whose Saffron Road products are sold in Whole Foods stores, on Friday introduced the first frozen food, a chickpea and spinach entree, that has been certified not to contain genetically modified ingredients.
More than 90 percent of respondents to a poll of potential voters in the 2012 elections, conducted by the Mellman Group in February last year, were in favor of labeling genetically modified foods. Some 93 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent, favored it.
But in the fight over the California initiative, Proposition 37, the opponents succeeded in persuading voters that labeling would have a negative effect on food prices and the livelihood of farmers.
That fight, however, has cost food companies in other ways. State legislatures and regulatory agencies are pondering labeling on their own, and consumers have been aggressive in criticizing some of the companies that fought the initiative, using Twitter and Facebook to make their views known.
In 2009, Whole Foods began submitting products in its 365 Everyday Value private-label line to verification by the Non GMO Project.
But even Whole Foods has not been immune to criticism on the G.M.O. front. A report by Cornucopia, “Cereal Crimes,” revealed that its 365 Corn Flakes line contained genetically modified corn. By the time the report came out in October 2011, the product had been reformulated and certified as organic.
Today, Whole Foods’ shelves carry some 3,300 private-label and branded products that are certified, the largest selection of any grocery chain in the country.
Mr. Gallo said Whole Foods did not consult with its suppliers about its decision and informed them of it only shortly before making its announcement Friday. He said Whole Foods looked forward to working with suppliers on the labeling.
Shareholders for Monsanto gathered on the campus of the Creve Coeur agri-giant’s world headquarters Thursday to elect members of the company’s Board of Directors.
Approximately eight demonstrators, calling themselves Occupy Monsanto, spent several hours Thursday afternoon holding signs and banners along Olive Boulevard. The group was protesting Monsanto’s use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and its lack of transparency in research.
Adam Eidinger, speaking on behalf of Harrington Investments and the Pesticide Action Network, read a statement to protesters before heading inside to speak to other shareholders. Eidinger said he owns 75 shares of Monsanto stock.
Eidinger said he was going to speak to the shareholders about transparency in labeling, research and business practices.
His speech read, in part:
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 and video of all future shareholder meetings. Second, the Company should cease its efforts to stymie legislative solutions that provided 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 and lawyers. Third, the Company needs to provide scientists access to the Company’s seeds and existing body of research. Let independent scientist provide the much needed peer-reviewed studies, so the public at large believes this Company is being truly transparent.
Eidinger quoted Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant from an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Grant said “we (Monsanto) needs to do a much better job explaining where food comes from.” To view the full WSJ interview, click here.
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.
Activist Investor to Challenge Monsanto CEO to be More Transparent at January 31 Annual Shareholder Meeting
Anti-GMO Protests Expected Outside
CREVE COEUR, MO – On Thursday, January 31, 2013, the Monsanto Company officers and shareholders will vote on a shareholder proposal to create a study of “material financial risks or operational impacts” associated with its chemical products and patented genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Activists in favor of the measure will demonstrate outside the meeting to raise awareness that the public does not currently have the right to witness what will be the only democratic vote of accountability on Monsanto’s leadership because the company bans cameras inside their Annual Shareholder Meeting.
WHO: Anti-GMO Food Activists, Adam Eidinger, Monsanto Shareholder WHAT: Protest at Monsanto Annual Shareholder Meeting WHERE: Monsanto Global Headquarters, Creve Coeur, MO, East Campus Entrance on Olive Blvd. WHEN: Thursday, January 31, 2013, Noon to 3:30PM
“Monsanto pledges transparency, but provides very little,” says Adam Eidinger, an organic food activist and Monsanto shareholder who organized a march from NY to Washington DC on behalf of honest food labeling in 2011. For the second year in a row, Eidinger will present a shareholder resolution on behalf of Napa, California-based Harrington Investments (HII) with help from the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA).
“Companies like Starbucks, Walmart, The Washington Post, Oracle, Apple and Coca-Cola among many others provide the public and media access to their shareholder meetings in one form or another, but Monsanto, a company who’s patented genetically engineered products are in most people’s food, meets in secret,” says Eidinger.
“By banning cameras from their Annual Shareholder Meeting, Monsanto is flouting its pledge to shareholders who are unable to attend, the majority of Americans who eat the products created by Monsanto Company’s patented technology, farmers who are keen to know future plans of their seed & herbicide provider, and members of the media who report on the company,“ says Eidinger.
Last year Eidinger was forced to sneak an undercover camera into the Annual Shareholder Meeting because safe food activists were concerned about Monsanto Company’s lack of transparency. The grainy footage has been viewed more than 55,000 times. “I shouldn’t be required to break the rules in order to uphold Monsanto Company’s pledge of transparency,” says Eidinger.
The shareholder proposal Eidinger will speak for represents one of the strongest signals to date that the Monsanto Company faces growing consumer, legal, and regulatory uncertainties. Public pressure for transparency in the marketplace in the form of GMO food labeling is leading to new battles for Monsanto Company, which spent over $8 million dollars in 2012 to prevent labeling of genetically engineered foods in California. Next month, on February 19, Bowman v. Monsanto, a landmark case on GMO patent exhaustion, will be argued before the US Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rules against the Monsanto Company many its patented products face an uncertain future.
The Annual Shareholder Meeting itself is only open to shareholders but concerned citizens will demonstrate outside along Olive Blvd. near the East Campus entrance to Monsanto Company’s Creve Coeur facilities beginning at 12:00 noon. The Monsanto Company global headquarters is located at 800 North Lindberg Boulevard in Creve Coeur, MO.
In 2012 there were over 100 demonstrations against the Monsanto Company around the world, including protests on five different Hawaiian Islands, three at Monsanto Company’s headquarters in Creve Coeur, Missouri along with 60 others across the US. In Argentina, Japan, Poland, Canada, Peru, Philippines, Spain, and numerous others countries people protested at Monsanto Company offices on September 17, 2012.
Last fall Monsanto and its business allies showed they can subvert the democratic process by spending more than $45 million dollars to spread lies in order to prevent GMO labeling in California’s Proposition 37. Monsanto and other biotechnology & processed food companies outspent their opposition by a factor of 5 to 1. In 2013 numerous states, including Missouri, have pending GMO labeling legislation. Washington State is expected to have a GMO labeling initiative on the ballot later this year. Efforts are already underway in California for a new 2014 labeling initiative.
John Harrington, CEO of Harrington Investments, questions the veracity of Monsanto’s GMO crops, “With the rise of Round-Up resistant ‘superweeds’ the company is simply telling farmers to spray even more toxic herbicides including 2,4 D, the main ingredient in Agent Orange. Many people are struggling to avoid GMO’s and chemicals used on them in the food they eat due to serious health and environmental concerns, yet Americans have no right to know what we are eating largely due to the close ties Monsanto has to President Obama’s USDA, EPA, and FDA, which have not satisfied more than 1 million Americans who have signed on to the JustLabelIt.org’s petition to the FDA.”
Adam Eidinger will be available for interview before and after the Monsanto Shareholder Meeting, to which he will drive in a “Label GMO Foods” art car called the Fishycorn Car.
Bay Area activists are planning a peaceful protest at Syngenta Flowers in Gilroy today, marking the final day of a nationwide “global week of action” against “evil biotech” facilities linked to the Genetically Modified Organism food system.
A provocative Facebook flier promoting the event depicts mutant zombie children gnawing on GMO-poisoned corn. Some participants will tout visual props such as signs and biohazard suits, while others will protest through music or street theater.
While the local Syngenta facility at 2280 Hecker Pass Highway 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.
Syngenta breeds, produces and markets “top-quality genetics to meet the needs of your retail-ready vegetable programs.” The company’s major field crops including corn and soybeans “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.”
Gilroy Syngenta Manager Randy Armstrong says the company is aware of Friday’s protest, but “unfortunately, I’m not allowed to speak about it,” he explained. “I can’t comment on anything.”
Senior communications manager Lori Schwind with Syngenta Corporate Affairs, North America, issued a statement Thursday morning, saying the company is “aware of activity planned for Syngenta and respects people’s rights to voice their opinions, even when they differ from Syngenta’s.”
Formally known as “Occupy Monsanto” in protest of the American agricultural biotech company and leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, the global movement that kicked off Monday and involves 65 events staged around the world aims to “confront the industrial agriculture system head-on,” with participants who are “unified in pushing back GMO food into the lab from which it came.”
“The main point is that we’re getting the word out about industrial agriculture and the food we eat,” explained Adam Eidinger, Washington D.C.-based spokesman for Occupy Monsanto.
Staging a demonstration at Syngenta is “just as legitimate as Monsanto,” he maintains. “It’s part of the same industrial food complex. It’s a fair target.”
Protesters decided to demonstrate in Gilroy since “there wasn’t a Monsanto facility that we could find near San Francisco” – although a branch of Seminis, Inc., a leading vegetable and fruit seed company acquired by Monsanto in 2005, is located at 500 Lucy Brown Lane in San Juan Bautista.
Organizers of Friday’s gathering explain on their Facebook page that, “Syngenta Flowers Inc, another evil biotech company, was the closest one. Honestly, this is more than just about Monsanto. It’s about GMOs in general. Occupy Monsanto is a rallying call to let all biotech firms making GMOs know that they are on notice.”
Opposition against genetically engineered seeds – which are used by farmers for greater efficiency and higher output – run the gamut. Reported arguments 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 countries that reject genetic engineering.
Monsanto itself has come under fire during the decades for “pollution, corruption,” and attempting to “take control of the world’s food supply,” as accused by one of many books against GMO seeds.
Eidinger says the protest in Gilroy is gaining steam through social media and organized carpool groups.
“It’s looking like this is a good one,” he noted. “They made their own flier and have done quite a bit of outreach.”
Approximately 31 people have RSVP’d to the 9 a.m. protest so far on the event’s Facebook page. The gathering is also being advertised on Craigslist and IndyBay, a non-commercial, democratic collective of independent Bay Area media makers and media outlets.
Owner Steve Costa with Headstart Nursery on Monterey Road in Gilroy believes the controversy projected onto the local Syngenta Flowers is misplaced.
“It’s kind of ridiculous to beat up a nice business” that’s an “asset to our area,” he rations.
“I don’t see the connection,” he added. “It’s huge company. That division (in Gilroy) doesn’t even know what the large seed division is doing.”
Executive Director Jennifer Scheer with the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau agrees the protest is “unfortunate,” but for additional reasons.
As the world population continues to increase exponentially, “we’re going to need to feed a third more people shortly with the same number of resources, or fewer,” she noted.
Genetic technologies employed by companies such as Syngenta have a lot of potential to address that reality, she reasoned.
Scheer can’t speak to the myriad arguments touted by activists such as Eidinger, who points out that GMOs in food have been linked to autism, obesity, food-based allergies, dropping fertility rates, birth defects and “weird” neurological disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We don’t know what the ramifications could potentially be either way,” Scheer speculated. “But at the same time, we don’t want to write it off and 20 years down the road have a mass food shortage worldwide.”
Occupy Monsanto was strategically timed with the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Movement, which began Sept. 17 on Wall Street in Manhattan and targeted, among numerous issues, corporate greed and corruption.
Protests this week mark the first global mobilization against GMOs in more than a decade, according to Eidinger.
Many individuals partaking in Occupy Monsanto are seizing the movement as a platform to dually voice their support for Proposition 37, the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” one of 11 statewide initiatives that is on the Nov. 6 ballot.
A sample of groups who oppose the initiative include Monsanto, Syngenta, Kellogg, Kraft, Smucker, Bayer, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Hershey, the California Farm Bureau, ConAgra Foods, California Chamber of Commerce and California Retailers Association. Syngenta is listed as a donor to the “No on 37” campaign.
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.
Others activists, such as San Jose protester Toby Nixon, are using the event at Syngenta Friday as an outlet to protest against Monsanto for personal reasons.
Nixon is attending the protest in support of his father, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces for 27 years who was exposed to Agent Orange – an herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military during its herbicidal warfare program in Vietnam.
Monsanto, whom Nixon likens to “a thug on a street corner,” played a primary role in manufacturing Agent Orange.
Spokesman Eduardo Abarca with Occupy Monsanto-Syngenta, a 24-year-old San Francisco student and activist, wants 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,” Abarca claims.
Developed by Syngenta, Atrazine “has long been a mainstay of corn, sorghum and sugarcane farmers for its control of a broad range of yield-robbing weeds,” according to Syngenta’s website. The herbicide increases U.S. corn crop yields by more than 600 million bushels annually, and “helps protect the environment and critical wildlife habitats by reducing soil erosion by up to 85 million tons each year.”
Abarca also claims that Monsanto sells seeds to Syngenta, although Schwind was unable to verify this statement as of press time.
Sgt. Pedro Espinoza with the Gilroy Police Department confirmed law enforcement is aware of the planned protest and has a contingency plan in case things get out of hand. Espinoza said he doesn’t anticipate any issues, so long as everyone abides by the law.
“Our role is to make sure everyone is safe while allowing demonstrators to exercise their First Amendment right,” he said. “We’ll probably have a couple officers at the entry and exit points just to make sure no one tries to storm the place or destroy any property.”
Abarca maintains the protest is a peaceful demonstration.
GMOs “seep into our food supply,” he says, “and that’s what we’re here for – to really bring awareness to this issue.”