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.
Argentinians have said no to what they call Monsanto´s “deathly” business in Latin America.
In Buenos Aires, the action group “Millions against Monsanto” has led a protest at the House of Cordoba, a province located in the center of Argentina where the US multinational company is developing its biggest regional factory.
According to activists, the construction of the facility has been approved by provincial authorities but no official report on environmental damages has yet been conducted.
Political complicity, leaders of the protest said, is fostering the expansion of Monsanto´s “chain of profit and death”: Monsanto sells seeds that are resistant to its own glyphosate-based Roundup, a key herbicide used in Argentina´s “green gold” soybean industry.
In the meantime, thousands of farmers are exposed to serious health risks -cancer, birth defects, intestinal, heart and neuronal conditions- as a recent investigation by the University of Buenos Aires shows.
But Argentina is only one link of Monsanto´s billionaire expansion in Latin America.
In Paraguay, for instance, demonstrators denounced that the biotech company has managed to introduce its transgenic soy thanks to economic lobbies linked to the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo last year. They called it the “agribusiness coup”.
Monsanto has reported to have nearly tripled its profits in the first fiscal quarter of 2013 as its regional sales boom and governments allow the US-based firm to spread.
Meanwhile, on the margins of the anti-Monsanto demonstration, Argentine left-wing opposition lawmakers held a political meeting to condemn the corporate power of agribusiness and the increasing control of food sovereignty by transnational companies.
Activist ties up the checkout line at Whole Foods by asking the clerk whether each of the items in her cart contain GMOs. Photo: Langelle/GJEP
Occupy Monsanto in St. Louis: Action 2
“Ma’am, Please Don’t Take Off Your Shirt in the Parking Lot”
by Don Fitz
Several dozen people at GMO-Free Midwest, the St. Louis portion of Occupy Monsanto, went from picketing the industry-sponsored “Biosafety” symposium at the Millennium Hotel to Whole Foods Market (WFM) in Brentwood, Missouri. It was September 17, 2012, the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Safe food activists began a series of tactics which built on previous demonstrations and caught store management and local police completely off guard.
June 9 had seen a creative picket of WFM, including a 14 foot tall coyote puppet opposed to putting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. The picket provided an opportunity to talk with WFM workers who have been led to believe that the store does not sell GMOs. A few shoppers joined the picket upon learning that WFM brags that it labels GMO food when it only labels non-GMO food, leaving customers uninformed about potentially contaminated products.
On August 18 a new tactic challenged WFM. WFM aggressively censors “soliciting” which it says includes telling customers of dangers that GMOs poses to health and the environment. So, we went into its parking lot with signs on top of cars saying “GMOs Contaminate Food” on one side and “WFM Sells GMOs” on the other. Other cars had the same message on window signs or on home-made bumper stickers.
Police told drivers that they could not enter the parking lot with “protest signs” on their cars. But they were hard pressed to explain what was and what was not a protest sign. They were particularly befuddled at trying to figure out if they should order the removal of bumper stickers, since so many cars at WFM have safe food slogans on them. As we discussed what constitutes a protest message, other drivers came in, parked, and let their cars with signs on top remain throughout the afternoon.
Eric Herm, anti-GMO cotton farmer from Texas, stands by car sign in Whole Foods parking lot. Photo: Petermann/GJEP
A new level of action
On September 17, participants from GMO-Free Midwest took activities at WFM to a higher level. A few carried signs on the sidewalk. But most walked to the front of the store.
“If you are here to protest, you need to go to the sidewalk,” the police motioned. I buttoned up my jacket over my “Genetic Engineering — Don’t Swallow It” T-shirt and walked through the police. Since we didn’t appear different from the typical WFM customer, others did the same.
Some said, “I just came here to pick up a few items” as they walked by the police, who were again unsure of what to do.
Apparently warned that we would be there, WFM staff could be heard saying “What’s happening? They’re all coming in to shop.” Safe food activist wandered through the store looking at labels carefully. They did not put items in their carts if they read, “GMO-free,” “organic,” or “365,” which is the WFM house brand.
As shoppers went through the check-out line, they picked up each item and asked the cashier if it had GMOs in it. If so, it went in the “don’t buy” pile. Cashiers often weren’t sure; and that meant it also went in the “don’t buy” pile. One cashier claimed that everything WFM sold was GMO-free, which led to each item in turn being put aside by a disbelieving shopper.
Mindful of the bad working conditions at WFM, shoppers took the opportunity to explain our concerns to every employee. And there is no better opportunity to discuss potential food contamination than doing so with a customer waiting behind you in line. WFM is particularly vulnerable to such a tactic because the vast majority of its customers are concerned about food quality, but most think that store products are GMO-free.
From chatting with us, customers found out that, though WFM products cost more than those at other grocery stores, they are very likely to contain GMOs. With a bad rep for extreme anti-unionism and buying out competitors in order to destroy them, WFM is also resented for reversing its former opposition to GMO foods. It now babbles about “informed customer choices” but fails to inform customers by labeling food that might have GMOs.
A “superbug,” caused by consumption of GMO crops, argues with a police officer outside of Whole Foods. Photo: Langelle/GJEP
From Shop-In to Talk-In
Many safe food shoppers asked for the manager to come and verify whether food in their cart was GMO-free. At one point, a frazzled manager began grabbing handfuls of food and pushing it aside, saying “Yes, all this food has GMOs.” The manager seemed obsessed with keeping the check-out lane flowing as rapidly as possible.
Managerial distress was caused by two dictums: WFM policy says that every customer question must be answered; and, WFM also says that shopping must be a “pleasant experience.” But the shopping experience might be made unpleasant either by a slowed check-out line or by customers watching someone being hassled by police for the crime of asking if food quality is compromised. This particular manager decided that pleasant shopping would best be maintained by confirming that a large amount of WFM items might be contaminated with GMOs.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) had told us that WFM could order us to leave and those who refused could be arrested. But it would have been impossible for WFM to determine who constituted “us.” WFM could have brought police from inside to harass those they thought were “protestors.” But doing so would run the risk of intimidating everyday customers who go to WFM concerned with the quality of food and happen to ask a question or two about what they are buying. Its liberal façade again makes WFM more vulnerable to a shop-in than any other supermarket chain.
Our friendly shoppers left the store with a single purchased item, confirming that they were, in fact, WFM customers. Others asked what all the commotion was about and what we were trying to accomplish. Some asked if they should boycott WFM. We explained that they could help lay the groundwork for a future boycott by telling everyone they knew about the true face of WFM.
The WFM ban on “solicitation” had been broken in store aisles, in check-out lines, and at the store entrance. Unable to distinguish “protesters” from “legitimate” customers, neither WFM management nor Brentwood police could stop people from asking “Why should we be concerned about what we buy at WFM?” Getting people to ask that question was the point of the action.
GMO farmer dressed for duty outside of Whole Foods. Photo: Langelle/GJEP
From Talk-In to Gawk-In
A stiff foam-board sign with holes for zip-ties can be fastened with bungy cords to the top of a car in 10–15 seconds by people who have practiced doing it. As cops and store managers were trying to figure out if they could do anything about the growing number of GMO conversations among customers, two people fastened a six foot long sign saying that “WFM Sells GMOs” atop a station wagon. By the time the cops figured out what had happened, the two were long gone.
Cops walked over and asked the people looking at the car who owned it; but they just shrugged their shoulders. Most picketers left their sidewalk location to see what the cops were doing. Friendly shoppers walked toward the car. Customers drifted over to hear everyone asking about why police were concerned with a car that had a sign on its hood.
There’s few things that people gawk at more than cops looking at something while a small crowd looks at the cops. Barbara Chicherio asked what bothered them. “Protest signs need to be on the sidewalk and not on cars,” a cop huffed.
Barbara talked through the car signs – window signs – bumper sticker questions concerning which needed to be removed as the cop scowled. Remembering that she was wearing a “Millions Against Monsanto” T-shirt, she had a flash: “Officer,” she asked, “If everything critical of Whole Foods and Monsanto is a protest sign, do I have to take off this T-shirt?”
“Ma’am, please do not take off your T-shirt in the parking lot!” The crowd laughed and even the cop chuckled. The absurdity of trying to wrestle through the twists and turns of exactly what type of free expression WFM could suppress was too much.
It had become clear that effects of the police presence had turned into their opposite. Intended to be soft-core harassers, the police were less than totally dedicated to protecting WFM customers from the horror of people asking about food contamination. As they drew a larger crowd, the show of police force served to increase discussion about WFM, thereby furthering goals of the action.
Many of the tactics used on September 17 had been worked out weeks before. Others arose as the event unfolded. Throughout the WFM action, neither store management nor police had any idea of what to expect next or how they should respond.
Within half an hour of the mini-confrontation in the parking lot, the police gave up efforts to get the sign off the car and walked off. Soon the crowd drifted away but the sign remained until the end of the action. Having reached over 10 times as many WFM workers and customers as all previous efforts combined, safe food shoppers boarded a bus and cars headed for their final destination of the day: Monsanto World Headquarters in Creve Coeur, Missouri.
Occupy Monsanto’s “Michael Taylor Resign” protest outside of the Washington Convention Center, April 20, 2012
The biotechnology industry is having a convention June 18-21 in Boston, Massachusetts. In order to attend the sessions you must register for the conference, which costs thousands of dollars. Since we don’t want to give a dime to the biotech industry, Occupy Monsanto, Millions Against Monsanto, and other food democracy groups will be staging our own “Sidewalk Session” on the first day of the convention outside of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. We hope you can join us.
WHO: YOU WHAT: A Sidewalk Session – An open mic for activists to share & expose the dangers of the biotechnology industry WHERE: Sidewalk in front of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, 415 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210 WHEN: Monday, June 18th, at 8am until 10am WHY: The biotechnology industry is conspiring to unleash more GMOs into the environment along with more toxic pesticides.
For over 20 years, Hawai’i has been the global center for the open-field testing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), including pharmaceutical crops. Over 5,000 experimental tests have been conducted by Monsanto, Dow, Dupont/Pioneer, Syngenta and BASF that spray chemicals on an almost daily basis on our most valuable lands. They are supported by tax-breaks, and beneficial relationships with landowners, regulators and politicians. We estimate GMO companies own or lease 40,000 — 60,000 acres that are sprayed with over 70 different chemicals.
A new vision for Hawai’i would promote small farms that grow chemical-free produce, employ our youth and restore the indigenous ahupua’a system. Hawai’i has less than 3,000 acres of certified organic farmland, which is 0.27% of Hawaiian farmland.
Kamehameha Schools is Hawaii’s largest private landowner. Despite Kamehameha’s public statements about sustainability and conservation, they lease substantial amounts of land to multi-national biotech firms, including Monsanto, Dow, Dupont/Pioneer and Syngenta for GMO open field tests and seed corn production.
Kamehameha is the only institution with the land, capital and resources to reduce our food imports, that are now over 90%, and ensure that Hawai’i does not run out of food in case of natural disasters or rising oil prices.
Occupy Monsanto is very pleased to have the support of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. Below is the statement of support posted on their website.
Boston, MA – On Monday, June 18th from 8:00-10:00 AM, NOFA/Mass (the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association) will join Occupy Monsanto and Millions Against Monsanto in front of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to demonstrate opposition to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
NOFA/Mass maintains that Genetically Modified Organisms are a major threat to the organic farming community, pose a serious health danger to consumers and animals, can have an enormous detrimental impact on plant biodiversity, promote a monopoly in the seed industry, and can increase pesticide use nationwide. “GMOs do not diminish when released into the environment as they are an alteration made to a living organism that can reproduce. Even small amounts of GMO contamination will increase over time after they are released into our agriculture and environment,” explained Jack Kittredge, NOFA/Mass Policy Director, Organic Farmer and Editor of The Natural Farmer, NOFA’s quarterly news magazine.
Unfortunately, the biotech industry has prevented any serious regulation by the federal government of releasing their products onto the market. With the USDA’s most recent deregulation of genetically modified alfalfa, sugar beets, and varieties of sweet corn in 2011, anti-GMO sentiment has been growing. Consumers, healthcare providers, community leaders, farmers, parents with children, and activists alike have joined in calling upon the FDA to label genetically modified foods in the US. “The biotech industry is well-heeled and has done a good job of slipping GMOs into foods eaten by most Americans without their knowledge,” said Mindy Harris, NOFA/Mass Public Relations Coordinator. The organic certification process or Non-GMO Verification are the only assurances consumers currently have to guarantee that they are purchasing products which do not contain GMOs. Every other processed product on supermarket shelves is likely to be contaminated with genetically modified ingredients.
In June of 2011, NOFA/Mass brought their opposition to GMOs directly to the federal court. Joining over 80 plaintiffs nationwide, NOFA/Mass filed a federal lawsuit against biotech giant the Monsanto Corporation (OSGATA v. Monsanto), seeking a Declaratory Judgment that would prevent Monsanto from filing future unfair patent lawsuits against small farmers. The biotech giant has a litigious history; pursuing aggressive investigative techniques, including trespassing on private farm property and asking for large settlements which devastate small farmers.
Jeffrey Smith, of the Institute for Responsible Technology, has been the leading consumer advocate promoting healthy, non-GMO choices. Smith will be a keynote speaker at the NOFA Summer Conference at UMass Amherst, August 10-12, 2012. He will provide anti-GMO organizing tools, and explain the problems with GMOs. His second book, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, is the authoritative work on GMO health dangers. Smith explains in plain language the dilemma facing consumers: “It looks the same-the bread, pies, sodas, even corn on the cob. So much of what we eat every day looks just like it did 20 years ago. But something profoundly different has happened without our knowledge or consent. According to leading doctors, what we don’t know may already be hurting us big time.”(Urban Garden Magazine, Nov 2009
For more information on NOFA/Mass’ Anti-GMO policy initiatives, please contact Jack Kittredge – firstname.lastname@example.org; 978-355-2853.