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.
Today activists from Occupy Monsanto and the Organic Consumers Association did an epic money drop in the Senate gallery to highlight the fact that so many Senators have been funded by the biotechnology industry. Unfortunately, the Senate voted to continue debate on the DARK Act. These activists will be in court on August 4.
Anti-GMO Activists Block Entrance to Congressional Offices to Stop Corporate Lobbying During the Shutdown
Action Follows Delivery of Monsanto’s Minions Awards
WASHINGTON, DC – Activists posing as biotechnology industry lobbyists and processed food industry insiders are on Capitol Hill today delivering “Monsanto’s Minions Awards” to the members of Congress who have worked the hardest to keep their constituents in the dark about the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in America’s food supply.
Following the awards deliveries to Congressional offices, the anti-GMO activists, posing as the Biotechnology Industry Awards Committee (BIAC), will attempt to shut down entrances to the Congressional office buildings to stop corporate lobbying during the shutdown.
Today’s action, modeled on the one Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies did at the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, involves dumping out briefcases of cash on the X-ray machines at the entrances where lobbyists are waiting in line to go through the metal detectors and enter the Congressional office buildings. The corporate lobbyists are expected to lunge for the fluttering bills just as the stock traders did, creating a melee that will shut down the entrance.
Lobbyists scurrying to grab dollar bills is an apt metaphor for what’s happening during the shutdown. They are here meeting with the Congresspersons they supported financially during the elections to create or protect federal laws that boost their profits.
“The legislative pressure-cooker created by self-inflicted deadlines and crises like the fiscal cliff, the shutdown and the debt limit are the worst way to write legislation. Corporate lobbyists are here to take advantage of the situation. That’s how we got the Monsanto Protection Act in March. We’re here to try to stop that kind of thing from happening again,” said Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, dressed for the day as Jennetta Kontamy-Nashun, Biotechnology Industry Awards Committee lobbyist.
Monsanto, the target of the anti-GMO activists’ ire, is a company that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaign donations in each election cycle and millions of dollars every year lobbying. In exchange, Congress subsidizes its genetically engineered food and makes sure it isn’t labeled or safety-tested. Monsanto’s minions in Congress are also available to do special favors for the company when the opportunity arises. This is what happened in March when, in order to avert a government shutdown, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) allowed Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to attach a rider to the continuing resolution that took away the power of the judiciary to halt the planting of potentially dangerous new genetically engineered crops.
“Now, it’s the King Amendment. If the Farm Bill gets wrapped up in a budget deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt limit, the House and Senate won’t go to through the normal conference committee process and that will make it harder to keep the King Amendment out. Everything will be dealt with through backroom deals negotiated by the parties’ leadership and the President. It’s so undemocratic! The voters get shut out, while Monsanto and the rest of the big-money agribusiness lobbyists maintain their access,” said Adam Eidinger of Occupy Monsanto, posing as Haywood U. LaBallette, BIAC lobbyist.
The King Amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill was offered by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in an attempt to block the implementation of a law passed by overwhelmingly by California voters that says farm animals need to be given enough space to spread their limbs and turn around. The King Amendment is so broadly written that it could take away states’ rights to regulate food and farming. The anti-GMO activists are concerned that the King Amendment, or future modifications to it, could be used to take away states’ rights to label genetically engineered food, a proposal that has the support of 93% of the public.
“Congress needs to go back to business as usual and do its work of appropriations and reauthorizations through the normal process. As long as Congress continues to legislate from crisis to crisis, democracy is on hold and corporations have the upper hand. We’re anti-GMO activists, but we’re forced to be pro-democracy activists,” said Gene Crimes of Occupy Monsanto, stepping out of character, as BIAC’s Ralph Alover.
The activists support Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-R.I.) proposal to ban all lobbyists from Capitol Hill during the government shutdown. They want to see Citizens United overturned and the American Anti-Corruption Act passed. They fear that if we don’t get money out of politics, we’ll never be able to pass the laws that the majority of Americans support.
“The only way we can potentially win what Americans already want is by taking our cause directly to the voters at the state level, but Congress could take that away from us, too. We’re really worried that if Initiative 522 passes in Washington State, Monsanto will use one of these crises as an opportunity to slip language into some thousand-page bill to overturn it,” said Ariel Vegosen of Occupy Monsanto, taking a break from her role as BIAC’s Olive Lotta Pestasydes.
Initiative 522 is a Washington State voter initiative on the ballot on November 5 that would label genetically engineered food. The biotech and processed food industries led by Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are spending more than $17 million to trick voters into defeating the initiative. If they don’t succeed, they’ll turn to Congress. They have many allies, including progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) who have championed Monsanto and the GMA’s proposal for voluntary rather than mandatory labels.
Three members of Congress have called for a federal investigation into possible conflicts of interest involving three officials of the Food and Drug Administration, which approved a controversial genetically engineered Monsanto Corp. drug last year. All three agency officials had some ties to Monsanto before coming to the FDA, but an agency spokesman denied there was any misconduct.
In a letter Friday to the General Accounting Office, Reps. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calf.), David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) asked the watchdog agency to conduct a 30-day review of the FDA’s approval of recombinant bovine somatotropin (bST), a substance that increases milk yields in cows.
“A troubling pattern of unanswered questions is emerging that suggests an altogether too cozy relationship between some FDA officials central to this food safety decision and their close dealings with the Monsanto Company,” Sanders said in a statement.
The letter- which cites an anonymous March 16 complaint ostensibly written by members of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM)- asks the GAO to probe the roles of three “key” FDA officials in the approval of the Monsanto drug.
The highest ranking is Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for policy, a past FDA employee who rejoined the agency in 1991 from the Washington law firm King and Spalding, which represents Monsanto. Also named was Margaret A. Miller, deputy director of the agency’s office of new animal drugs. The letter characterized her as “a former Monsanto company employee” who wrote the FDA’s opinion on why milk from bST-treated cows should not require special labeling.
A third staff member, Susan Sechen, was described as a data reviewer at the FDA who had worked as a graduate student for a Cornell University professor who conducted Monsanto-sponsored research on bST.
Anti-biotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin first made the charges about Taylor in February, when he petitioned the FDA to rescind the approval of bST and investigate the three staff members’ role in the agency’s policy.
On March 15, FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler sent Rifkin a four-page letter stating that “none of the activities of Mr. Taylor cited in your petition were in violation of any applicable law or regulation, or were otherwise inappropriate … I believe that Mr. Taylor’s behavior adhered to all applicable ethical standards.”
Kessler said that Taylor had not been “intimately” involved in Monsanto’s efforts to obtain approval, as Rifkin charged, and that he was involved in the FDA’s bST policy only in the final stages of review.
Kessler attached a nine-page memo by FDA ethics official Jack M. Kress supporting that position. Upon arrival at the FDA in the summer of 1991, Taylor recused himself for one year from taking part in any agency action dealing directly with Monsanto or any other King and Spalding clients.
Some longtime agency critics found the charges against Taylor misplaced. Sidney Wolfe, a physician who heads the Public Citizen Health Research Group here has filed complaints with the FDA about revolving door ethics issues concerning other officials. But he said yesterday that “It’s barking up a silly kind of tree to be going against Mike Taylor.”
Wolfe said that “as far as we’re concerned, he’s done a perfectly good job.” Wolfe compared Rifkin’s charges to saying that anyone who worked for a drug company and began working for the FDA should not be allowed to say anything about drugs in general- a stance that Wolfe characterized as “preposterous.”
As for the two other FDA employees named in the House members’ letter, agency spokesman Jim O’Hara said there was no impropriety. “As we have learned of these allegations, we have looked at them. The appropriate safeguards against conflict of interest have been taken,” O’Hara said.
Miller was no involved in the decision to approve bST, and Sechen’s involvement with the bST review was approved at the outset by the FDA’s ethics and program integrity division, which “determined that there was no a conflict of interest based on the information they were provided,” O’Hara said.
Although reluctant to comment in the face of a possible investigation, Taylor said yesterday that “I would welcome any scrutiny of my actions.”
Much of the material used in the lawmakers’ letter, including the anonymous CVM letter alleging Miller’s conflict of interest, came from Rifkin, a long-standing opponent of bST. Bill Goold, a spokesman for Sanders, said the search of scientific literature relied upon by Sander’s staff in drafting the letter came from Rifkin’s organization.
Rifkin has fought against the approval of bST for more than seven years as a part of an all-fronts assault against biotechnology. He called his ethical charges “a significant scandal” that he said showed moral weakness at the top of the organization. “We want Kessler’s resignation,” Rifkin said yesterday. He said that the nine-page ethics memo by FDA’s Kress was “people in government trying to protect their own.”
Sanders and Obey have previously taken stands against the approval of bST and its use without consumer labels that identify the milk as coming from cows treated with the drug.
But many Capitol Hill staff members were surprised to see Brown- who chairs the Science, Space, and Technology Committee- as a signer of the letter.
Sources familiar with the process said key committee staff members felt they had been end-run by activists. One congressional aide said staff members who normally would be informed of such an action were unaware that Brown had signed the letter.
“George’s issue is with the process of approval. He wants to make sure people are squeaky-clean,” the aide said. Brown did not see the FDA response to the Rifkin petition before signing the Sanders letter, an aide said. Obey said yesterday that he had seen the FDA response and “I’m frankly not impressed.”
Some acquaintances of Taylor were incredulous that the official would be the object of ethical scrutiny. “There’s no more ethical person in this town than Mike Taylor,” said Wayne Pines, a former FDA official who now consults with companies on FDA matters. “Mike would never get involved in a situation in which there’s a conflict- that’s such a no-brainer.”
It’s not surprising that of the 73 Senators who voted against (‘Nay’) the amendment, 37 Senators, or over 50%, received a combined total of $237,500 in campaign contributions from Monsanto’s PAC. Only 2 Senators, Senator Inouye from Hawaii & Senator Leahy from Vermont, who received a combined total of $8,000 from Monsanto’s PAC, voted in support (‘Yea’) of the GMO labeling amendment.
Monsanto’s GMO Money is rampant in the halls of Congress and the corporation’s patented genes are becoming a biohazard to the health of American democracy. With nearly half of American U.S. Senators becoming genetically mutated, we must take action to remove Monsanto’s GMO Money from the currency supply. Do you have plans for the third week of September? Yea.
Note: These figures are only from Monsanto’s PAC. Congress receives millions of dollars from the biotech industry as a whole, undoubtedly influencing their vote against the people’s right to know if they are eating GMOs.