Posts Tagged ‘Monsanto’
Posted on June 24, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
By Guest Blogger: Lisa J. Bunin, Ph.D.
The media got it wrong and let the public down when it erroneously reported Monsanto’s wholesale victory in its Supreme Court appeal of the GM alfalfa case — the first-ever Supreme Court case on GMOs (Monsanto Co. v Geertson Seed Farms). Despite claims and headlines to the contrary, Monsanto is still prohibited from selling and planting its Roundup Ready GM alfalfa. The true victors in the case are farmers, consumers and environmentalists who have argued that planting GM alfalfa would contaminate conventional and organic crops and lead to spraying noxious pesticides in regions where over 90% of alfalfa farmers do not use or need them.
So, why did the press get it so wrong? Monsanto hit the press early and convincingly and the press failed to do its due diligence by corroborating Monsanto’s facts with both sides in the case. It should have known better and acted more carefully despite the rush to get the first story published, but it didn’t. Monsanto’s Goliath PR machine succeeded in framing the Supreme Court decision as a slam dunk in its favor, to head off a drop in its stock market price. The real news — that it still can’t sell its patented GM alfalfa — would surely have driven impatient investors to sell their stocks.
Not surprisingly, shortly after the publication of multiple stories announcing Monsanto’s unequivocal win, an alternative narrative began to circulate on the web and people started asking questions about whether Monsanto actually “won” the case and what it meant to “win” the case anyway. Fulfilling the role of David against Goliath, bloggers exposed how the rightful victors had been unfairly slain by the press due to the unsavory alliance between the Goliath biotech giant and the major media.
The answer to the question of “who really won the case,” requires examining on what grounds Monsanto appealed to the Supreme Court. Specifically, Monsanto asked the court to reconsider the lower court decision in the GM alfalfa case by:(1) lifting the injunction on GMO alfalfa, (2) allowing the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa, and (3) not allowing contamination from GMO crops to be considered “irreparable harm.”
In truth, the Court only ruled on Monsanto’s first request, which it affirmed by stating that the injunction was too broad to be allowed to remain in place. However, it ruled in favor of the farmers and Center for Food Safety on the two other remaining issues, which in many ways are even more important. First, the Court did not overrule the lower court’s ban on the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa and, therefore, the ban remains intact. Moreover, the Court’s decision to set aside the injunction was based, in part, on the fact that a prohibition on GMO planting was already in effect, due to the lower court’s ruling and, therefore, the injunction was duplicative overkill. Second, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the threat of GMO contamination was a sufficient cause of environmental and economic harm to support future challenges on GMOs. Unfortunately, these critical details about the Supreme Court’s decision were omitted in early press accounts, making it look as though Monsanto prevailed in its quest to deregulate GM alfalfa.
Two and three days later, the real story about the outcome of the GM alfalfa Supreme Court case has emerged in some press accounts. Yet, any analysis about the need for civil society to demand greater corporate accountability in the face of government inaction to halt threats of GMO contamination has yet to surface in the mainstream media. Clearly, the greatest significance of this case is that it shows how Goliath corporations, like Monsanto, BP and the rest, can be held accountable for their actions by members of civil society who have the courage to take on the role of David in the battle to protect our environment and food supply.
Lisa J. Bunin, Ph.D. is the Organic Policy Coordinator at the Center for Food Safety, a national, non-profit, membership organization, founded in 1997, that works to protect
human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. On the web at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org
Posted on June 22, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
It comes as no surprise that Monsanto’s PR machine managed to spin the Supreme Court decision on June 21, 2010 (Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms) as being a ‘big win’. While the decision is complicated, the decision is by no means the victory that Monsanto was hoping for (and claimed through media outlets who didn’t do their homework). The bottom line is that it is still illegal to sell or plant GMO alfalfa.
“The Justices’ decision means that the selling and planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal. The ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate EIS is prepared by USDA and they officially deregulate the crop. This is a year or more away according to the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further litigation if the agency’s analysis is not adequate,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “In sum, it’s a significant victory in our ongoing fight to protect farmer and consumer choice, the environment and the organic industry.”
- If you would like to hear more, the Center for Food Safety has an update on the decision here: http://truefoodnow.org/2010/06/21/update-on-supreme-court-decision/
- Andrew Kimbrell’s diary on the decision is extremely helpful: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-kimbrell/supreme-court-case-a-defe_b_620087.html
- Berkeley Law & UCLA Law have a helpful analysis of the decision as well: http://legalplanet.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/u-s-supreme-court-issues-decision-in-monsanto-case/
Genetic contamination from GMOs are still considered harmful under the law, both from an environmental and economic perspective. We will keep you updated on any changes regarding the efforts to deregulate GE alfalfa. In the meantime, share this blog and make sure that you help your friends, family and social networks see past Monsanto’s PR campaign and maintain our fight against GE alfalfa!
Please consider donating just a few dollars to help FRESH continue our outreach and educational efforts. Donate today: https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5958/t/10286/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=1765
Distribution & Outreach Coordinator
Photo from flickr user dbking
Posted on June 15, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
On June 4th, 10,000 peasant farmers gathered in protest in Haiti to burn over 400 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds donated to the country by Monsanto. This was a hugely symbolic gesture and one that the rest of the world needs to listen to. Haiti is asking for our help in establishing a local, sustainable food system from the rubble that the country currently lies in. This is our opportunity to raise our voices in protest against Monsanto’s involvement in the fragile beginnings of true food sovereignty in Haiti.
This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend a Brooklyn church’s community meeting I heard peasant farmer Leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) share the concerns of Haitian peasants regarding Monsanto’s donation hybrid seeds. I was greatly moved by his words and I want to share them with you. Below are the highlights from his speech. Please note that the quotes are not exact as Jean-Baptiste was speaking in Creole and his words were translated into English.
- Hybrid seeds are a poison gift. They don’t reproduce, and therefore cannot be shared among a community. Haiti does not yet view seeds as a commodity like the US does. These hybrid seeds threaten the cultural fabric in Haiti because they break the cycle of food sharing.
- Jean-Baptiste believes that Monsanto has taken the opportunity of the recent earthquake in Haiti to intentionally introduce the seeds and destroy Haitian agriculture, creating a dependency on Monsanto each season for new seeds.
- If the Haitian government accepts Monsanto’s seeds, rather than trying to build a system of food sovereignty, the Haitian farmer will become a day laborer, working for industrial farms. This would completely transform the economy to an industrial system instead of working to support farmers through a local economic system.
- “We are an occupied country and want to recover our freedom, starting with food sovereignty. The struggle against Monsanto is not a small thing – they are extremely powerful. We need to unite ourselves – this is a global struggle.”
- “Haiti is essentially road kill, and not even road kill that can serve as proper food. We are at the point that the dogs and vultures are tearing us apart. Companies like Monsanto are devouring what is left of us at this point.”
- “This is a country that is used to struggle. We will fight and have the capacity for resistance, particularly when the threat is to the very fabric of our country. A large population of Haitians do not yet understand the implications of the relationship with Monsanto, many have never heard of the company before. The first task is to educate. “
I received a handout at this event that I can’t seem to find online that has a number of important and informative facts regarding Monsanto and Haiti. I’ve scanned it and made it available – you can VIEW HERE.
There were also three letters that we were asked to sign. Please feel free to download, sign and send.
- To: Bill Clinton, urging him to ensure that farmers have a central role in deciding how to boost food production in Haiti, so that the country may feed itself.
- To: His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Haiti Ambassador to the US, urging him to reject hybrid seeds and to engage organizations of small farmers about how to move forward in ways that support sustainable food systems.
- To: Rajiv Shah, Administrator, US Agency for International Development, urging USAID to decline the use of Monsanto’s hybrid seeds in the WINNER Project and to support small farmers in their efforts to restore sustainable small scale agriculture.
Thank you for listening, eat safe!
FRESH Distribution & Outreach Coordinator
photo from Ian Hayhurst on Flickr
Posted on February 3, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
Dear FRESH supporters,
Genetic food giant Monsanto is at it again. Its next target: a new product that could eliminate all organic alfalfa, a key food for raising organic-fed cows and pigs without any genetic engineering.
The USDA is well on its way to approving Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa. In its own report, the USDA says that not enough consumers care enough about organic foods for the USDA to block Monsanto’s modified alfalfa seeds.  This is absurd since one of the main reasons people buy organic food is to avoid genetically engineered crops.
The USDA is only accepting public comments for the next two weeks. We need you to write to the USDA right now and tell them they must not approve Monsanto’s mutant alfalfa. We’ll deliver your comments before the deadline. 
Alfafa is one of the major food sources for certified organic animals, not only because of its quality as forage, but because Monsanto’s patented genes are already found in 95% of soybeans and 80% of corn. If the USDA lets Monsanto sell its new alfalfa, it will inevitably overtake organic alfalfa crops through the natural pollination process.  As a result organic farmers may be feeding their cows genetically modified food.
Just like its corn and soy, Monsanto’s alfalfa is designed to tolerate its leading herbicide: Roundup. We can’t allow Monsanto’s greed to take-over one more crop. The consequences to our choice as consumer, to biological diversity, to the survival of our small and organic farmers depends are too dire.
Monsanto’s domination of our food must stop. For the USDA to shrug it off like nobody cares is to add insult to injury. We only have two weeks to submit our comments.The fight for FRESH food will continue, and with your help we’ll make it clear that people care about the food they eat.
Let’s show the USDA and Monsanto that people want food free from Monsanto’s modifications. Write your comments to the USDA now and say no to genetically modified alfalfa.
The fight for FRESH food will continue, and with your help we’ll make it clear that people care about the food they eat.
Thanks for all you do.
ana Sofia joanes
FRESH the Movie
1. United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement-November 2009. P.T-2.
2. Docket: APHIS-2007-0044: USDA Seeks Public Comment on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
3. United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement-November 2009. P.95.
Reviews Supplemental documents here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/alfalfa_documents.shtml
10 Things you should know about GE Alfalfa
Photo courtesy of OceanFlynn on Flickr
Posted on January 13, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
When it comes to the Big Bad Wolf of our food system, look no further than Monsanto.
Monsanto squeezes out farmers, seed growers, and practically everyone else in the business of growing food. Monsanto has its patented genes inserted into 95% of soybeans and 80% of all the corn grown in the United States. Their monopoly is so insidious that the Department of Justice is looking into whether Monsanto’s business practices are illegal.
Vu Manh Thang – I Am Superman
And now, Forbes Magazine named Monsanto the #1 company of the year for 2009.
Whatever the selection criteria at Forbes, I don’t support them or the values they embody.
In order to regain control of our agriculture, we MUST raise awareness and inspire MORE people to vote with their dollars. This is our mission at FRESH and we need your support. 2010 can be a huge year for the future of food, but FRESH needs your help to do it.
What Monsanto fears is the public knowing there’s a new way forward for our food, free from genetic engineering and harmful pesticides. That’s why, when Michelle Obama created an organic garden at the White House, Monsanto had the nerve to protest the garden, urging Michelle Obama to use pesticides on her food!
Monsanto is the prime example of everything that’s wrong with our food. They’re a huge corporation that plows down everything in its path in pursuit of cheaper food for bigger profits. And now that Forbes named Monsanto company of the year, it’s clear that fresh, organic food advocates are the David to Monstanto’s Goliath.
We’ve got a mountain to climb in 2010, and we’re convinced we can do it with your help. Please donate today to help us spread FRESH across America. Help us raise our voice and raise the voices of all of the farmers and food producers who we fight for.
Thanks so much for your help in making 2009 a great year for FRESH, and for your support in making 2010 even better.
ana Sofia joanes
FRESH the Movie
Posted on January 5, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
This post and accompanying video, the first in a new series called Seeds of Life, was originally published by our friends at Cooking Up a Story.
In an ongoing David versus Goliath legal battle, Frank Morton, an organic seed breeder in Philomath, Oregon, along with the plaintiffs listed in this lawsuit, have successfully sued the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), for failure to require an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet plant. In the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled on September 21, 2009 in favor of the plaintiffs— Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds— requiring that APHIS prepare an environmental impact statement, and setting in place the remedy phase of the trial, scheduled to begin today (December 4) to decide the fate of next year’s transgenic sugar beet crop.
This interview took place this summer prior to Judge White’s September ruling in favor of Frank Morton, and the other plaintiffs.
This ruling marks a resounding renunciation of the USDA/APHIS 2005 decision to deregulate and thus allow the unrestricted commercial development of “Event H7-1”, a Glyphosate tolerant sugar beet engineered by Monsanto and the German company KWS. Deregulation opened the door for transgenic sugar beet production in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. The judge ordered that an environmental impact statement be conducted because USDA/APHIS failed to adequately consider the impact on the environment from stated cross contamination concerns, and the socio-economic impacts on consumers (eaters), farmers, and other market participants over the question of the continued availability of non-transgenic sugar beet crops.
In 2006, most of the sugar beet production was from conventional seeds but the Roundup Ready transgenic variety increased sharply in 2008 to about 60% of production, and rose again this year to estimates as high as 95% of the total U.S. market. The United States is among the largest producers of sugar, more than half comes from the production of sugar beets. Most of the U.S. sugar beet seed is produced in the Willamette Valley, where between 3000-5000 acres of sugar beet seeds are grown each year. The sugar beet plants grown from these seeds occupy areas of the western and mid-west regions of the country; the largest concentrations of (harvested) acres are in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan.
From Frank Morton’s perspective, his livelihood depends upon the ability to produce organic seeds that are not contaminated with transgenic genes spread from neighboring GMO related species of plants. In the Willamette Valley, an elaborate, but voluntary system exists to coordinate the growing of a diversity of crops to prevent the accidental cross-pollination and contamination that can occur naturally between related species. In the case of sugar beets, Morton’s Swiss Chard organic seed is commercially threatened by neighboring GMO sugar beet plants; the tiniest of contamination if it were to occur, would prevent him from selling his Swiss Chard organic seeds to his customers here and abroad. In addition, the introduction of any GMO crops into the ecologically unique Willamette Valley without a thorough environmental impact study sets a dangerous new precedent for more unregulated transgenic crops to follow.