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.
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.”
Today on the floor of the House of Representatives Congressman Dennis Kucinich said:
“In 1992 the Food and Drug Administration decided that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the functional equivalent of conventional foods. They arrived at this decision without testing GMOs for allergenicity, toxicity, anti-biotic resistance and functional characteristics. As a result hundreds of millions of acres of GMO crops were planted in America without the knowledge or consent of the American people: no safety testing and no long term health studies.
“The FDA has received over a million comments from citizens demanding labeling of GMOs. Ninety percent of Americans agree. So, why no labeling? I’ll give you one reason: The influence and the corruption of the political process by Monsanto. Monsanto has been a prime mover in GMO technology, a multi-million dollar GMO lobby here and a major political contributor.
“There is a chance that Monsanto’s grip will be broken in California where a GMO labeling initiative is on the ballot. And here in Congress, my legislation HR 3553 will provide for a national labeling law. Americans have a right to know if their food is genetically engineered. It’s time for labeling and for people to know how their food is being produced.”
Yesterday saw a handful of new developments in the push to align voters either in favor of or against Proposition 37, a measure that would require food producers who knowingly use genetically modified crops to label them as such, and prevent such producers from referring to their products as “natural.”
Women Occupy San Diego, one of the lasting and perhaps most prominent local groups to emerge from the Occupy Wall Street movement that began one year ago yesterday, organized a rally at the Hillcrest headquarters of Canvass for a Cause on Monday afternoon.
Several speakers decried the potential health impacts from genetically altered products, noting that the products have been shown to contain increased levels of allergens and that modified crops, marketed by chemical giant Monsanto as “Roundup-ready,” are treated with considerably higher doses of herbicides, as the seeds have been engineered to resist the effects of the company’s signature weed killer, allowing farmers to douse their entire crops at will to control weeds.
The Occupellas, a chorus group featuring members of Women Occupy, sang familiar yet re-branded tunes such as “Old Monsanto Had a Farm,” and a crew of demonstrators arrived with a large “Monster of Monsanto” prop that accompanied the crowd, which had swelled to over 100, as they marched toward the SR-163 overpass at Robinson Avenue.
Original plans had called for a second group of protesters to demonstrate on the bridge crossing University at the 163, but as of shortly after 5 p.m. only one bridge was occupied. Several police cruisers stood by to survey the action, but neither the demonstrators nor members of the public seemed inclined to violence.
Meanwhile, backers and detractors of the Prop 37 campaign sent out dueling press releases.
The Yes contingent seeks to draw attention to new funding received by its opponent, information made public by the state last Friday. Monsanto gave the No campaign another $2.9 million, raising its total stake in defeating the proposition to $7.1 million. Other pesticide companies recently upped their investments, including DuPont ($874,800), Dow AgroSciences ($815,200), Bayer CropScience ($381,600), BASF Plant Science ($357,700), and Syngenta ($178,700).
These groups, which measure proponents are calling the “Big 6 pesticide firms” have contributed $19 million of the $32 million raised so far by those opposing the proposition.
Others investing heavily in defeating Prop 37 include Pepsi ($1,716,300 to date), Nestle USA ($1,169,400), Coca-Cola ($1,164,400), and ConAgra Foods ($1,076,700). At number 7 on the list of highest donors, only Nestle USA (itself a subsidiary of the Swiss parent company) is based in California.
Opponents of 37 didn’t leave long to question where the influx of cash would go, announcing a major buy of radio ads to be aired statewide beginning yesterday.
“Prop. 37 is about the right to sue,” says California Grocers Association president Ronald K. Fong in a statement accompanying the ad copy. “And when it is time to sue, grocery retailers will be at the head of the line to get hit with a lawsuit. Lawyers need no proof, no damages prior to filing the lawsuit.”
The ad makes similar claims, and also says that the new labeling requirements would “increase food costs for a typical California family by hundreds of dollars per year” while “[giving] trial lawyers a special new right to file shakedown lawsuits.”
The ad closes by advertising “FactsOn37.com,” a website that was not active as of Monday evening, though the campaign website makes many similar claims and links to the study that is the basis of the figure given on higher food costs, finding that the costs of food prices could rise $4.5-$5.2 billion if the proposition is passed, mainly because producers would prefer using non-bioengineered crops to having to disclose their continued use.
“It’s an infinitesimal amount cost per product, but they’re going to say it’ll cost you hundreds,” predicted Jeffrey Smith, a consumer activist and author on genetically modified crops, in a statement about a week before the survey was posted to the No on 37 website. Smith was speaking about the cost of continuing to use the same products while producing packaging compliant with the new law, which producers are widely expected to shy away from due to real or perceived concerns from consumers regarding laboratory-altered food.
While no other U.S. state currently has such a law on the books, 50 countries including China, India, Japan, and all of Europe requires such disclosure.
Next, we will be talking with Adam from Occupy Monsanto (starts at 36:00) about this week’s actions by the Occupy Monsanto Genetic Crimes Unit. Over 75 protests are scheduled for this week to confront industrial agriculture and Frankenfoods. The protests got off to a great start with an action in Oxnard, CA where activists shut down all three entrances to the Monsanto seed distribution plant! We’ll hear about that and all the other actions going on. An interactive map with times, dates and locations of the 75+ other protests can be found at http://occupy-monsanto.com/genetic-crimes-unit/
ROB VARELA/THE VENTURA STAR – Alyssa Davis (from right), Ellie Loiacono and Heather Power-Gomez, all from Thousand Oaks, join the Occupy Monsanto protest and yell, “Label the seeds!” on Monday in Oxnard.
Local food activists chose Monday, the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street activist movement, to start a global outcry in Oxnard against agribusiness giant Monsanto Co.’s chemicals and genetic modifications of plant seeds.
Less dramatic than Tuesday’s protest at Monsanto’s seed distribution plant Seminis Vegetable Seeds Inc. on Camino Del Sol, in which nine protesters in chains and shackles were arrested when they blocked the gates, Monday’s event at the same site drew about 35 protesters who limited their opposition to signs, masks and shouting on the sidewalks.
“Stop Patents on Life” read a sign held by a graduate student wearing a paper mask over her mouth and caution tape around her neck with the word “Hazard.”
“My concern is what genetically modified organisms do to the sustainability of our environment and the ability of farmers in Third World countries to support themselves,” said Tracy Long, of Ventura, who attended a May protest at the plant.
No arrests had been made as of 5:30 p.m. Monday. Oxnard Police Department officers circulated the block in police cars.
The demonstrators were part of a group called Occupy Monsanto, which identifies itself with Occupy Wall Street.
Monday was the first day of the group’s weeklong series of 65 events planned worldwide to protest Monsanto, its relationship with Third World farmers and the seeds it develops.
Tom Helscher with corporate affairs for Monsanto, which has headquarters in St. Louis, said Monsanto helps improve farm productivity and food quality.
“Agriculture and its uses are important to California, the U.S. and the world,” Helscher said. “We respect each individual’s right to express their point of view on these topics.”
California’s Proposition 37, a November ballot measure that would require labeling on most processed foods to explain whether they have ingredients from genetically modified organisms, gave several protesters a tangible action to support.
Several Thousand Oaks teenagers came after school to their first official protest.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, we’ve got a right to know,” shouted the teens to passing cars.
Seventeen-year-old Heather Power-Gomez, a Westlake High School student from Thousand Oaks, said she came because she thought food should be labeled.
“In biology class, we learned about genetically modified organisms and how they can affect your body,” she said. “They (Monsanto and scientists) can change the genetic structure of the seeds so your body doesn’t know how to react.”
Power-Gomez said scientific and medical studies she read in class suggested links to cancer and autism.
Occupy Monsanto’s spokesperson, Adam Eidinger, whose role in Washington, D.C., is to facilitate the Monsanto events by posting the company’s locations online and inviting actions there, says the group is “a subgroup (of the Occupy movement) and focused on food issues and one company.”
“We feel a part of group,” Eidinger said. “I think we realize we belong in the Occupy movement because we’re talking corporate control of food.”
Actions by the Occupy Monsanto group also took place Monday and were planned for other days this week in Woodland, Gilroy, Davis, Ohio, Hawaii, Australia and Argentina.
Only one activist Monday was celebrating Occupy’s birthday.
A Camarillo resident wore a party hat with a foxtail pinned to the back of his pants and a full-face mask. He declined to give his name.
“Happy /b/-day Occupy! 7,435 political prisoners and counting!” his sign read, referring to those arrested in a year’s worth of Occupy protests.