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.
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.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard the case of a small Indiana farmer versus the bio-tech giant Monsanto. In the case, a 75 year-old man is being accused of patent infringement by the company, but Vernon Bowman isn’t the only farmer Monsanto is pursuing legally; overall the seed giant has filed 144 lawsuits against 410 farmers, but do the little guys stand a chance against Monsanto? Here to discuss the ongoing battle against the bio-tech giant is Patty Lovera, assistant director for Food and Water Watch.
Abby Martin talks to Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, about the Supreme Court case between Monsanto and one Indiana farmer, and the implications this could have on international agro-business.
2012 was the year the lights came up on the biotech industry. Its claims, its tactics and its products all came under scrutiny and some of its biggest PR fairytales bit the dust. Here are some prime examples.
1. Fleeing Europe: The biotech bubble needs to appear to be constantly expanding but in early 2012 came the news that the GM and chemicals giant BASF was pulling its GM division out of Europe because it was facing opposition “from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians.” BASF also announced it was stopping the commercialization of its GM Amflora potato, one of only two GM crops authorized for cultivation in the European Union. The crop had been a commercial flop. The industry’s only other crop grown in Europe, Monsanto’s Mon810 GM maize, continued to face bans in a number of countries including Germany, Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg, France, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Poland. Even GM crop trials are in decline and with BASF quitting Europe they’re expected to decline still further.
2. Meltdown in India: Bt cotton in India has been claimed as one of the industry’s biggest success stories but in 2012 the PR claims completely fell apart. First, a leaked agriculture ministry advisory to cotton-growing states admitted, “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” Two new award winning films also helped expose the truth about GM cotton in India to a wider audience. So too did a powerful report from India’s Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, after its committee members visited five States, examined thousands of documents and talked to large numbers of farmers and experts. The 31 MPs also met around a hundred widows of Bt cotton farmers, including 14 in a village promoted by Monsanto as a model for Bt cotton’s success. It turned out the farmers in Monsanto’s “model village” wanted a ban on Bt cotton. The shocked MPs issued a unanimous report saying GM crops were not the right way forward for India and called for an immediate ban on all GM crop trials. Not long afterwards an expert panel of scientists set up by lndia’s Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on GM crops.
3. Opposition grows in the US: Everyone knows about California’s referendum on the labeling of food containing GM ingredients, which was narrowly lost in the face of a massive advertising blitz by its industry opponents. But it took all kinds of lies, dirty tricks and a cool $45 million to kill off the initiative, and still 48.6 percent of voters supported it. Worse still for the industry, the controversy it stirred up helped spread GMO awareness nationwide. Many other states and local governments are now picking up the fight for GMO labeling, while the national Just Label It campaign has already submitted over a million signatures to the FDA asking the agency to require the labeling of GM foods. Some activists even took to the supermarket aisles to label GMO foods themselves. The industry has also been facing street protests across the US, with at least 60 protests targeting Monsanto on the anniversary of the Occupy movement.
4. Opposition grows worldwide: In 2012 protests against GM crop trials and the biotech industry’s activities took place across the globe. And although 60 countries already have GM food labeling, important new breakthroughs were achieved in: India, which is to introduce labeling for the first time in 2013; South Africa, where GM labeling is being tightened up to help enforce food industry compliance; Brazil, where the courts forced the multinational food company Nestle to label GM ingredients in its products; and Turkey, where mandatory labeling is to be extended to include GMO-fed animal products.
5. The reality of GM farming overwhelms public relations – nature cannot be fooled: US farmers are having to use still more pesticides to try and save their crops as infestations of rootworms have exploded on GM (Bt) corn engineered to eradicate them. “I lost $25,000 in yield,” said Charles Sandager, a Minnesota farmer. “They are going to outsmart us, them bugs.” Likewise, in order to combat the ever proliferating numbers of herbicide-resistant superweeds, the GM industry is preparing to roll out crops resistant to older and even more toxic herbicides, as well as to multiple herbicides. Washington State University agronomist Charles Benbrook says what the GM industry is doing “makes about as much sense as pouring gas on a fire to put it out.” Benbrook’s research shows that GM crops, far from cutting agrochemical use in the US as the industry likes to claim, have unleashed a pesticide gusher.
6. Toxics exposed: Among the toxic herbicides GM crops are now being engineered to resist is 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange. Research has shown 2,4-D to be an endocrine disruptor, and has linked exposure to cancers, neurological impairment and reproductive problems. As a result, Norway, Denmark and Sweden have banned it, but the new wave of 2,4-D-resistant GM crops will massively increase the exposure of farmworkers and consumers to this dangerous herbicide. In 2012 there was also growing evidence of the dangers of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide, which with the considerable help of GM Roundup Ready crops is the most heavily used herbicide worldwide: + Glyphosate found in people’s urine – A German university study found significant concentrations of glyphosate in the urine samples of city dwellers. All had concentrations of glyphosate at 5 to 20-fold the limit for drinking water. News of this study came not long after the publication of a study confirming glyphosate was contaminating groundwater. Last year also saw the publication of two US Geological Survey studies which consistently found glyphosate in streams, rain and even air in agricultural areas of the US. Glyphosate has also been found circulating in women’s blood and can even cross the placental barrier and so reach the developing fetus. + Glyphosate and Roundup damage DNA in human mouth cells – A 2012 study by Austrian researchers raises concerns over the safety of inhaling glyphosate, one of the most common ways in which people are exposed to the herbicide in the GM soy-producing countries of South America. + Glyphosate damages nerve cells – A new study adds confirmatory evidence to previous studies that found a correlation between Roundup exposure and Parkinson’s disease. + Roundup can cause amphibians to change shape – A 2012 study found that tadpoles exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of Roundup grew abnormally large tails. + Roundup kills rat testicular cells – A new study showed that at low doses Roundup reduced testosterone by 35% in mature rats. At high doses, it destroyed testicular cells. + Roundup harms beneficial gut bacteria – A study by scientists at Leipzig University found that Roundup negatively impacted the gastrointestinal bacteria of poultry in vitro. The researchers found that highly pathogenic bacteria resisted Roundup, whereas beneficial bacteria were moderately to highly susceptible to it. The study provides a scientific basis to farmer reports of increased gastrointestinal disease in animals fed GM Roundup Ready soy. + Roundup probably causes birth defects, according to a new peer reviewed paper published in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology
7. Monsanto guilty of false advertizing: An advertisement for Roundup that Monsanto placed in Dutch newspapers made a number of misleading claims, according to the Dutch Advertising Code Commission. Earlier in the year, the Advertising Standards Council of India concluded that Monsanto’s claims of economic benefits to farmers from its GM cotton were baseless. Monsanto has also previously been found guilty of using wrong, unproven, misleading and confusing claims to promote either its GM crops or Roundup by advertizing watchdogs in the UK, South Africa and France.
8. Unethical research practices and scientific fraud: In December the Chinese authorities sacked three officials who had approved and conducted a controversial US funded research project that involved testing GM golden rice on school children. The officials were punished for “violating relevant regulations, scientific ethics and academic integrity.” The Chinese investigation into how the research was conducted has also provided evidence that contradicts the claims made about how much golden rice was fed to the children in a paper on the study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. As a policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has commented, “Either the researchers are lying about this now or they lied about it in their paper. It’s a serious offence either way.” Earlier in 2012 came the retraction of a study by researchers at the Monsanto-backed Danforth Center that claimed to have found a way through genetic engineering to boost the protein content of cassava. The retraction occurred “after researchers failed to find any supporting data to back up [the paper’s] claims.” In late 2012 there was also news of researchers studying the Bt toxins used in GM crops having doctored images in a whole series of published papers. Neither of the researchers involved seems to be facing the sack, although one of the researchers is having to step down as head of their university’s Committee on Bioethics! In October of 2012 came the headline, “Top GM researcher falsified patent claim to grab national award.” Back in February 2012 there was yet another remarkable headline, “Untangling India’s Bt cotton fraud: ICAR’s top research institutes and GEAC [the key GM regulator] exposed in Bt cotton research scam.” The scam apparently involved, among other things, stealing a Bt cotton gene from Monsanto, but Monsanto itself and various Indian agricultural universities also stand accused of theft – criminal biopiracy – in the case of another GM crop. And that’s all in just the last 12 months! Some see all this as the result of an over-commercialised public science sector, while others suspect it is the inevitable by-product of GM crops being based on a fraud themselves – a massively hyped technology rooted in entirely false premises.
9. Seralini publishes explosive GMO/Roundup study: Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini’s research found serious adverse health impacts in the rats fed Monsanto’s GM corn (NK603) and/or small amounts of the Roundup herbicide that the crop was engineered to withstand. Wave after wave of dubious criticism, fuelled and orchestrated by those with industry connections, attempted to silence the questions raised by the long-term study, as well as to stifle scientific discourse and get the paper retracted. But as the dust starts to settle over the controversy, the study not only remains unretracted but there is a growing recognition of the need for long-term studies on GM crops of the sort Seralini has conducted. Worst of all from the biotech industry’s point of view, their supporters’ savage attacks on Seralini’s study have exposed the fact that a careful comparison of Seralini’s research with Monsanto’s own safety trials shows that if the Seralini experiments are considered insufficient to demonstrate harm, then those carried out by Monsanto cannot prove safety. This is because, whatever its limitations, Seralini’s study was conducted to generally higher scientific standards than the studies underlying GM food approvals. As a result, the attacks on Seralini’s study are bound to fuel calls for mandatory long-term testing of all GMOs and their associated pesticides before they’re commercialized, as well as bringing into question all existing GM crop approvals.
10. Regulatory capture exposed: The other damaging consequence for the biotech industry of the attacks on Seralini and the rush by the likes of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to reject the study, has been the resulting exposure of the double standards of regulators who have accepted Monsanto’s studies claiming safety for their products at face value while demanding that public researchers like Seralini prove any harm from GM crops beyond all doubt. This is why 140 French scientists in a public statement published in Le Monde, declared that it was contrary to all scientific ethics to damn an experimental protocol when it gave results that were not wanted, while accepting it when it gave results that were. EFSA’s behaviour has also brought further focus on the problems of regulatory capture and of serious conflicts of interest among the regulators. This was already an open scandal, not least after EU member states earlier in 2012 had had to refuse the nomination of an ex-Monsanto employee to EFSA’s management board. By the end of 2012 there was growing awareness of the extent of regulatory dysfunction and the scandal of government agencies doing exactly what multinational corporations ask them to do.