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.
Haleiwa is usually crowded on weekends with folks stopping by to get shave ice, eat lunch or go shopping.
And on Saturday, it was especially packed, but not because of the typical reasons.
People came out and held a protest.
They came from different parts of the state, different walks of life, all with the same message.
“No GMO’s, we want Hawaii to be a free zone for GMO foods.”
They’re against GMOs which stands for genetically modified organisms.
A guy even wrote a rap about it.
“We all have a right to know whats in our food and what we are eating. And the truth is that we don’t,” said Evan Shafram with Good Vibe Los Angeles.
An estimated 300 people marched through part of Haleiwa even taking up a lane of traffic.
They say in Haleiwa and Waialua there are thousands of acres of GMO corn and canola being grown.
“The main concerns about GMO’s is that it is untested and an unknown technology,” sated Hector Valenzuela, UH Manoa professor and crop specialist.
The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association responded to the protest and allegations.
“We support genetically engineered crops. They’ve been around for 20 years, we’ve had 3 trillion servings consumed without any health or safety incident,” stated Alicia Maluafiti, Executive Director Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.
“There is concerns about GMO’s and also about the use of chemicals needed to grow those crops,” said Valenzuela.
“Farmers are able to use fewer pesticides by growing biotech crops. So it is completely misleading,” said Maluafiti.
Folks will be taking their anti-GMO protest to the neighbor islands this month.
Next week Saturday they’ll march on Kauai. The following Saturday in Hilo on the Big Island.
March 23rd on Maui and the final Saturday of the month on Molokai.
“Basically the march today is about the future of agriculture here in Hawaii.”
The protest was organized by a number of groups and people including the Hawaii GMO Justice Coalition, Da Hui, Dustin Barca, Walter Ritte and Makua Rothman.
NARRATOR: This week, the United States Supreme Court is hearing a symbolic case concerning a small farmer’s lawsuit against agribusiness giant Monsanto concerning their pesticide-resistant soybean seeds.
Since its introduction of genetically modified crops, Monsanto has generated a sea of controversy among small farmers across the U.S., and the company is now trying to expand south into Mexico. After years of trying to penetrate the Mexican market, Monsanto, Dupont, and Dow had a breakthrough when outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderón granted them the right to cultivate GMO corn in various northern Mexican states.
Protesting the influx of genetically modified crops in their country, activists, farmers, and academics all across Mexico have been mobilizing to urge the new Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to reject these permissions. In early February, UNORCA, the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations, held a week-long fest with 50 campesino farmers from all over the country participating in Mexico City.
FRANCISCO JIMÉNEZ MURILLO, MEXICO CITY COORDINATOR, UNORCA (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): So we believe that the only relation that we have left, us the growers, with mother nature is specifically with the natural seeds. And we have to remember something. Mexico has 60 distinct varieties of corn that we have cared for over the last 10,000 years, and with this the world has been nourished. We will fight to the end. This is a struggle that we have started for life, the healthy life of our country.
NARRATOR: At the conclusion of their fast, thousands of people marched in central Mexico, uniting their voices against the introduction of GMO corn and urging President Peña Nieto to take a stand against these crops.
LUÍS PINEDA, UNORCA MORELOS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What does Peña Nieto do? Peña Nieto lies to the people. Look at how he is now inventing things. This will result in sickness. They conducted studies at the Autonomous University and also conducted studies in France with rats consuming GMO corn to see what results it would yield. The results in France were that the rats had tumors. The rats had cancer. What will happen with Mexican citizens here? We can’t take it anymore. Leave, Monsanto! This is what we ask, all of us Mexicans who eat tortillas made with native maize.
NARRATOR: A delegation of hundreds of farmers from the northern states where the GMO corn will be planted traveled a whole day to arrive at the march.
GERARDO GARCIA, UNORCA DURANGO: I believe [corn] is the plant and seed that is most consumed in our country, our native seed, native to Mexico. It is important to have movements and peaceful protests like this in support of food sovereignty, and healthy production of corn that can nourish all of our families.
NARRATOR: Mexico has one of the highest per capita consumption rates of corn in the world. In 2005, Mexico occupied the fourth place for maize production. But this has since dropped to seventh place, largely due to importation of corn from the U.S. that has driven the crop’s prices down in Mexico.
DEYANIRA NAVARRETE, ASSEMBLY OF ENVIRONMNETALLY AFFECTED PEOPLE (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We have distribution problems, because here in Mexico it seems that we produce enough corn and beans, yet many corn farmers do not have a way of distributing their products to cities and centers of consumption and it’s not moving. Current policies merely increase foreign imports every year. So now they say: you know what, not enough corn is arriving to Mexico City; we must increase production by increasing the external supply. And a solution they are questioning is to increase the production of genetically modified corn instead of relying on the local ancestral knowledge of indigenous communities.
NARRATOR: In the United States, 86 percent of corn is grown from Monsanto genetically modified seed. And since its introduction, seed prices have grown 259 percent. For already impoverished small farmers in Mexico, this increase in prices will have devastating effects. Mexican President Peña Nieto has declared a war on poverty and hunger. Protesters decried this initiative as hypocritical, believing that GMO corn will increase hunger and poverty.
MARIA GUADALUPE BENITEZ, PROTESTER FROM MORELOS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): [GMO corn] is going to cause more hunger because we don’t even know how it grows because it is different. The people who are used to cultivating one type of corn are angered because they are paid a very low price. Therefore hunger will just continue. Peña Nieto says things just so people in other countries will believe him without knowing the truth.
NARRATOR: Monsanto commonly sues farmers who have not purchased their seeds but have GM seeds present in their fields due to contamination or cross-pollination. Hugh Bowman, a seventy-five-year-old soybean farmer from Indiana is countersuing Montsanto in the Supreme Court after they sued him for over $84,000 for planting and reusing seeds from GMO soybeans, which he purchased at a grain elevator. It appears that many of the justices, including Clarence Thomas, who was formerly a lawyer for Monsanto, are in favor of the corporation’s position. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked, quote, why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one, anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?
The result of this lawsuit could have very strong repercussions in Mexico if GMO crops are introduced.
PETER ROSSET, LA VÍA CAMPESINA ADVISER: Well, I have to say, I was just reading the transcript of the hearings today, and I was somewhat disappointed that the attorney who was challenging Monsanto didn’t actually call into question the right to patent life, but was really only arguing about something called patent exhaustion doctrine, which is whether or not the second or third generation would still be the property of the patenting company. It’s kind of nibbling around the edges, because as far as I’m concerned and farmer, indigenous peoples’ organizations are concerned, there should never be any law that allows property rights over living things. And that we would like to see that challenged.
Of course, if Bowman loses and Monsanto wins, it means that any GMO seed that’s found because of contamination, because of accidental planting, whatever, in a farmer’s field means that Monsanto or any other company who owns that patent could sue those farmers and recover damages from them. Of course, that’s very bad. But it doesn’t really get at the larger issues around GMOs and around patents on life.
NARRATOR: In the coming days, the Supreme Court will make their decision on the Bowman v. Monsanto case. Mexicans say they will continue to mobilize to prevent the introduction of genetically modified corn in their country.
Andalusia Knoll with Christiane Rasguado for The Real News Network in Mexico City.
An Idaho dairyman who bought the largest dairy in the state is growing genetically modified corn on state leasehold land in Hamakua, and a number of residents are upset about it, saying it violates the Hamakua Agriculture Plan.
County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said Saturday that he has spoken to Big Island Dairy LLC owner Steve Whitesides, and that Whitesides “has been upfront” about growing GMO corn as feedstock on about 700 acres of land near Ookala.
“He said that if they were not to grow GMO corn but instead went to the feed store to buy feed that the corn in that bag would be GMO corn,” Yagong said Saturday morning while talking to about 20 protesters who lined both sides of Highway 19 by the cornfield at the 30-mile marker. Yagong, who represents Hamakua, said he was also told by Whitesides that GMO corn was already being grown on the site by the previous owner when he acquired the lease.
Whitesides bought the former Island Dairy Inc. from Bahman Sadeghi for $13 million late last year. The land is part of 2,081 acres Island Dairy signed a 35-year-lease on in 1998 and which Whitesides’ company assumed in November. Reports at the time of the purchase said Island Dairy had a herd of 900 milking cows.
“We’ve talked to each other on a number of occasions,” Yagong said. “He’s been gracious and has shown a willingness to sit down and talk, so I’m gonna facilitate some of the community members and Mr. Whitesides and give them an opportunity to express their concerns with regards to the planting of GMO corn here in Hamakua. … I told him that we have deep soil here in Hamakua and that he has the option to grow conventional corn and, I think, get the kind of yield that you do need.”
The protest was organized by GMO Free Hawaii as part of the “Occupy Monsanto Global Week of Action,” said farmer and anti-GMO activist Eden Peart, who called the cornfield “a genetic crime scene” and said that GMO crops could post health risks.
“Around the world, people are documenting genetic crime scenes, and we’ve got one here in Ookala. Big Island Dairy is growing GMO corn here in defiance of the Hamakua Ag Plan and it has to stop right away,” she said. One stated objective of the county-commissioned plan, which was completed by May 2006 but has not become law, is to “avoid contamination of crops, seed supplies, public lands, and native ecosystems by GMOs.”
Protesters held up signs for passing motorists with slogans such as “no GMO” and “GMO = poison milk (and) poison ‘aina.”
“I agree with everything they say,” said 87-year-old Marva Joy Bennett, who grew up on a small dairy farm in Utah. She held up a sign that stated: “We fed our cows hay not GMO corn.”
State Department of Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun, whose department administers the lease on the Ookala land, confirmed Sunday that the corn being grown there is a genetically modified strain for cattle feed.
“Yes, we need to be careful about what’s growing here and all, but I think we also need to be open minded and basing our decisions on science, in terms of what’s good for the land as well as the livestock,” Kokubun said.
He that the state “does not get into specifics” about crops grown on state-leased ag lands.
“Usually, the lessees come in with a farm plan on what they intend to grow, but for us, as long as it’s by a bona fide farmer to grow agricultural crops, we don’t get into what you can or cannot grow.”
“There are only, like, two major dairies left in the state,” Kokubun continued, referring to Big Island Dairy and Cloverleaf Dairy, which is also a Big Island agribusiness. “One of the real issues for them, and for any protein producer, actually, or livestock producer, is the cost of feed. … It’s the high cost of feed is amongst the major causes of livestock producers giving up. So the idea of us being able to produce our livestock feed is one of the keys to insuring that our livestock industry will be able to continue here.”
Asked if he believes the only way that could be accomplished is by genetically modified crops, Kokubun replied: “No, we’re open to all ideas.”
“One of the big things now is a byproduct of biofuel development with algae or jatropha,” he said. “… Once you extract the oil, the residue — it’s called cake — is very high in protein. So we think that’s going to be a boon for our livestock feed in the future.”
NORTHAMPTON, MA – On Sunday September 16, field agents with the Genetic Crimes Unit (GCU) of Occupy Monsanto equipped with bio-hazmat suits, swept the downtown area for ‘biohazards released by biotechnology giant, Monsanto. GCU agents, in search of “Frankencorn,” interviewed bystanders to ascertain the genetic contamination of their most recent meal.
The GCU is responding to local concerns about the health impacts of genetically modified (GM) foods. “In the Pioneer Valley we are lucky to be able to buy fresh local food from our farmers’ markets and food co-ops. But with the unregulated and unlabeled distribution of Genetically Modified Organisms in fields and food products, there’s no way to guarantee the integrity of our food unless we get vocal and demand labeling of GMOs,” said concerned local resident, Martin Dagoberto.
According to their literature, the GCU opposes the continued genetic contamination of the organic food supply, Monsanto’s bid to increase spraying of crops with toxic weed killers like 2,4 D (the main ingredient in Agent Orange) and the health risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As highlighted during this year’s Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) Summer Conference at UMASS Amherst, there are numerous studies linking GM foods with infertility, immune problems, faulty insulin regulation, changes in organ function and other impacts.
While surveying for genetic contamination, agents spotted the rogue creature known as “Frankencorn,” described on “wanted posters” as a “dangerous accomplice of Monsanto and the FDA, wanted for possession and distribution of the Bt pesticide toxin, now found in the blood of 93% of pregnant women.” Frankencorn was later apprehended by the GCU and labeled as a Genetically Modified Organism.
“It’s absurd that the US government refuses to require safety-testing or labeling for genetically engineered foods. We wanted to do something absurd to parallel this absurdity. We have a right to know what’s in our food,” said GCU Field Agent Anne Quinn.
The action was part of a series of international actions against Monsanto, which officially starts on September 17, the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. More information can be found at Occupy-Monsanto.com.