Posts Tagged 'Monsanto'

It’s Time to Break Up Monsanto

From Food Democracy Now…

Last year the Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Agriculture held a series of 5 hearings investigating anti-competitive practices in the food and agricultural sectors. The hearings were historic and gave a vital opportunity for hundreds of thousands of America’s farmers, agricultural workers and citizens to call for an end to agribusiness’ excessive monopoly power. 1

Last December, Food Democracy Now! delivered more than 200,000 citizen comments to Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney with your demands to break up the worst abusers. 2

Nowhere are these abuses more prevalent than in the extreme market share enjoyed by the seed and chemical company Monsanto, which has a virtual stranglehold on seed supplies in crucial sectors that has severely limited farmers’ choice in what seeds they can buy. Monsanto’s control of the seed market is so high that 93% of soybeans, 82% of corn, 93% of cotton and 95% of sugarbeets grown in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented genes. 3

Not only is this level of market share allowing Monsanto to jack prices up on farmers because there’s no competition, but it also threatens our democracy as Monsanto uses their corporate power to influence our regulatory agencies, like the USDA, EPA and FDA, as well as Congress and the White House.

It’s time to fight back and the only way to do that is to make sure that the Department of Justice continues their investigation into Monsanto’s anti-competitive business practices.

Click on the link below to automatically add your name to the letter asking for the Department of Justice to break up Monsanto. It’s time to stand up for farmers and our democracy. Tell the Department of Justice that it’s time to do what’s right!

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/357?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=7

Over the past two months the biotech industry has gotten their way in Washington with the approval of three new genetically modified (GMO) crops. First GMO alfalfa, then GMO sugar beets and most recently an industrial GMO corn for ethanol.4

The common link between these crops, except for the fact that they’re bad for farmers and the environment, is that they face virtually no oversight once they’re planted and their genes are allowed to contaminate neighboring fields and our food. These multinational corporations are not required to submit rigorous, independent peer reviewed studies prior to approval, but are allowed to submit their own corporate science to the federal government for approval.

To date, no petitions for approval of GMO crops have been denied. The only way to reign in the abuse that determines the quality and safety of the food that you and your family consume is to put pressure on the Department of Justice is to make sure that they follow through on their investigations into Monsanto’s abusive practices.

Last year seven state attorneys general launched an investigation into whether or not Monsanto “has abused its market power to lock out competitors and raise prices” while the DOJ is investigating anti-competitive practices with Monsanto’s marketing abuses in limiting access to seeds for farmers and competitors through manipulative contracts.5

It’s time to end Monsanto’s abuses, tell the DOJ to do their job and complete this investigation. It’s clear that abuses of farmer’s rights are taking place and the U.S. government needs to stand up to them now!

Click on the link below to automatically add your name to the letter calling for the DOJ to protect our democracy and break up Monsanto!

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/357?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=9

Thanks for taking action — your support is greatly appreciated! We need your help to keep the pressure on! If you can, please consider chipping in as little as $10 to help us continue this fight.

http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/donate/133?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=12

We rely on folks like you to keep us going. Thanks again for your support.

Thank you for participating in food democracy —

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team

Sources:

1. “DOJ’S Holder Calls for Historic Era of Antitrust Enforcement in Agriculture”, March 16, 2010.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/352?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=14

2. “Your Voices Were Heard Loud and Clear in DC this Week, Thanks for Standing Up for Family Farmers”, Food Democracy Now!, December 10, 2010.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/353?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=16

3. “Monsanto’s Dominance Draws Antitrust Inquiry” Washington Post, November 29, 2009.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/354?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=18

4. “Update: Obama Goes Rogue on GMOs, Tell Him to Say NO to Monsanto”, Food Democracy Now!, February 15, 2011.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/355?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=20

5. “Monsanto 7-State Probe Threatens Profit From Gene in 93% of Soy”, Bloomberg, March 10, 2010.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/356?akid=303.53115.iz1tE2&t=22

 

Keep GMOs Out of ‘Organic’!

This crossed my desk today…take action if you care about keeping the definition of ‘organic’ from further erosion, and keeping Monsanto from creating an even larger agribusiness monopoly than they already have.

Take a stand for organics, tell Secretary Vilsack and President Obama to reject Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa

Keep GMOs out of Organics!

Clicking here will automatically add your name to the letter to Secretary Vilsack and President Obama:

The USDA must immediately ban Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa from the market and work to ensure that the organic industry is protected from genetic contamination and loss of profits and stand up for the basic rights for Americans to know what is in their food and how it’s produced.

Everything you thought you knew about organics is about to change. If the USDA and Monsanto get their way, organic integrity is about to go the way of the dinosaur.
Once again, the organic industry is under assault. This time the USDA is determined to let Monsanto ride roughshod over common sense environmental rules that would protect organic farmers from having their crops contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified (GMO) Roundup Ready seeds.

Last month, the USDA released its position on Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, stating that the USDA would go ahead and allow GMO alfalfa to be planted in the U.S. despite the fact that is scientifically proven to contaminate organic alfalfa, a crop that organic dairy farmers and organic beef producers depend upon for feed. According to USDA organic standards, GMO crops are not allowed for animal feed.1

If organic and conventional alfalfa crops are allowed to be contaminated by GMO alfalfa, the organic dairy industry stands to lose more than $1.4 billion, as organic integrity is dependent upon GMO-free ingredients and feed.2

Click on the link below to tell Secretary Vilsack and President Obama that you refuse to accept genetic contamination of the organic industry. Tell him it’s time to stand up to Monsanto and the biotech industry. It’s vital that he hear from you today.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/329?akid=284.53115.g1Of04&t=7

Coexistence and the Road to Continued Organic Contaminiation

In his most recent announcement, Vilsack hoped to be able to offer a “middle ground” on GMOs. The Obama administration’s bright idea calls for a new era of “coexistence” between the organic and biotech industries.

The “coexistence” model – one of the two proposed options – would create “geographic restrictions and isolation distances” between GMO and non-GMO alfalfa fields. The problem with “coexistence”, is that it looks a lot like the past 15 years where organic and conventional farmers have been forced to go out of business or adopt GMOs because the technology is so flawed that it can’t be planted in one farmer’s field and stay there.

No, GMO crops routinely contaminate other farmer’s fields — that is, genetically pollute other crops that don’t contain their patented genes. While prudent, non-corporate scientists have warned against the unknown long-term consequences of genetic contamination in nature caused by GMO seeds and crops, past administrations and USDA bureaucrats have gone ahead and recklessly approved these crops anyway.

Already the biotech industry is throwing a fit about this being a “dangerous precedent”, taken to mean that they could no longer fully dictate the terms of seed planting and approval. 3 But we need to let Secretary Vilsack and President Obama know that if they allow GMO alfalfa to be planted, from this point forward, the history books will write about the loss of the organic industry under Vilsack and Obama’s watch.

Click on the link below to tell Secretary Vilsack and President Obama that you’re outraged that they would needlessly put the organic industry, environment and future generations at risk in favor of corporate profits.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/329?akid=284.53115.g1Of04&t=9

GMO Alfalfa Not Needed By Farmers, Not Worth the Risk

Unfortunately, rather than provide protection for the fastest growing and most profitable sector in agriculture, the Obama administration is needlessly putting the $26 billion organic industry at risk over a GMO crop that is not needed by farmers.

As a crop, genetically modified alfalfa is entirely unnecessary. Since alfalfa is a perennial grain, it has significantly less weed competition than annual crops where Roundup is normally used. Unlike corn, soybeans and other crops, alfalfa does not have persistent weed problems, therefore Monsanto’s and the biotech industry’s arguments for seeking approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa based on the need for weed control are completely without merit. It would appear that the only thing that Monsanto is seeking is another revenue stream for its failed line of Roundup Ready seeds.

Unfortunately, if Vilsack does go ahead with his decision to deregulate GMO alfalfa or opt for “coexistence”, things are about to get a whole lot worse for farmers. Not only will the organic industry have to deal with massive genetic contamination, but farmers everywhere will have to figure out how to deal with the further spread of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready resistant superweeds which have already spread to at least 10 species of weeds and have infested millions of acres in 22 U.S. states since 2000.4

For farmers the rise in superweeds leads to an increased usage of herbicides, which not only contaminate our rivers and streams, but also decreases profits for farmers and creates unknown potential human health problems. Already, farmers across the U.S. are being forced to use 2 or even 3 toxic herbicides to keep superweeds at bay.

Click on the link below to tell Secretary Vilsack and President Obama to stand up for organic integrity and that organic farmers and consumers have a right to eat food that is not contaminated with Monsanto’s patented GMO genes!

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/329?akid=284.53115.g1Of04&t=11

Thank you for participating in food democracy, your action today may help save the organic industry.

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team

Sources:

1. “USDA Announces Final Environmental Impact Statement for Genetically Engineered Alfalfa” United States Department of Agriculture, Press Release, December 16, 2010.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/326?akid=284.53115.g1Of04&t=13

2. “DeFazio Wants Rules on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa”, Natural Resource Report, July 3, 2010.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/180?akid=284.53115.g1Of04&t=15

3. “Biotech alfalfa restrictions would be ‘dangerous precedent’”, Dairy Herd Management, January 7, 2011.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/327?akid=284.53115.g1Of04&t=17

4. “Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds”, The New York Times, May 3, 2010.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/328?akid=284.53115.g1Of04&t=19

Obama’s Public Works & The New Secretary of Agriculture: Your Voice Matters!

As everyone not living under a rock knows, President-elect Obama has pledged a massive public works program to reinvigorate both US economy and national infrastructure. I am mostly all for this initiative, though my inner childhood libertarian still wonders where all the money will come from. There are some good suggestions out there for funding though, so we’ll save such a ponderances for another blog post.

For now, I’d like to look at the kinds of projects deemed ‘public’ and worthy of such sweeping systemic updating. We all know that roads, bridges, and schools are vitally important. And we’ve heard the administration’s support for the creation of ‘green jobs.’ It’s the latter I’d like to expound upon, suggesting two areas of public works support that ought to receive a lot of attention and funds.

Greenways

When I first traveled to Europe in 2003, I was struck by how many of my new friends, grown adults, did not have drivers licenses. Then I was struck by how many restaurants and businesses were not connected by roads and parking, but rather, massive walking spaces. The atmosphere in these vehicle-free zones was intoxicating; I had never experienced a Commons space without cars and traffic. One of the inadvertent consequences of our first public works program in the U.S. was the creation of the Interstate Highway System, both a blessing and a curse. On the curse side, it further nationalized our food systems (more on that in a sec), and it made business dependent on proximity to highway exits. In the 21st century, we’re now looking at the relative value of this differently, recognizing what Bill McKibben calls a deep economy with ‘multiple bottom-lines.’

Enter the Greenway. When last in Atlanta, Jasmin and I had dinner with Jannan Thomas, director of DOOR Atlanta, and her husband Jay. We learned about something I should’ve known about our once-and-future city, but didn’t: The BeltLine project. The idea is simple: Take 22 miles of old, unused railroad track connecting Atlanta’s oldest cities (some now affluent, some in serious disintegration) and turn this derelict space into greenspace for joggers, walkers, and bikers. Further, develop park space and sustainable business along this space, and maybe, some nice public transportation – something the Southeast has never, ever had. The BeltLine project already has some steam and it looks like they’ll be doing it…over the next 25 years. Now I’m all for the long view; long-term projects used to be the norm and not the exception (Cathedrals used to take centuries to complete!). All the same, I think that a project of this urgent importance shouldn’t have to wait decades to complete when for-profit builders can erect a massive new condominium complex in 8 months.

Whadaya say, Obama administration? Would the BeltLine project (and others like it) merit some of our Public Works apportionment?

Local Food Infrastructure

Department of AgricultureEqually critical as where we can walk is what we eat. For health reasons, of course, but also ecological reasons. Did you know that most of our food is fertilized by petroleum and that, combined with transporting it all over the country (and world), food is the second-largest guzzler of gas behind cars? And accessibility reasons: Why is it that in the poorest sections of towns across America, the only ‘food’ available is truly awful pre-packaged faux food from gas stations and ‘convenience’ stores? Well it’s partially because of how corn and soybeam subsidies were developed during the Nixon administration, laws that are allowing mega-corporations like Monsanto to patent food itself…but I’m getting ahead of myself. : )  If this is a whole new world to you, you’re not alone. While I’ve never really mentioned it in print, for several years now I’ve been working on a book on the intersection of God, meal-sharing, and mystical spirituality. While in the process of finishing this book, I came across – only in this past year – a trio of truly mind-blowing books: The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Katz; The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. (Two of these are widely available at libraries and all three of them can be purchased quite affordably, under $35 total; get yourself a paradigm-altering Christmas present!) My education was further deepened by attending a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leaders training this past July in Washington DC and joining Slow Food USA, recommended by my friend (and Foresight@Regent program director) Jay Gary.

What have I been learning? A ton. A distillation: At present, our food system is broken and in need of healing in order to offer healthy, affordable, and ecologically-sustainable nourishment for all people. Further, food done right can build community and help people grow in compassion, ethics, and spirituality.

The aforementioned Pollan penned – just prior the election – An Open Letter to the Next Farmer-in-Chief. An excellent distillation of the needed food renaissance. His opening:

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.

I repeat: Pollan’s Open Letter is well-worth reading in its entirety. So go for it. I’ll wait for you.

Back? Okay. There’s some good news: Local food initiatives are springing up like new growth all across North America; famers’ markets are the fastest-growing segement of eating options out there these days. But there are ways government can help, just like they’ve presently favoring Big Agribusiness that’s responsible for a lot of this mess. A shift in sensibilities could reverse the damage, and bring food back home. It’s already happening in Canada: Nova Scotia’s government has just pledged a quite-affordable amount to support development of “local food” systems. In their own words:

The province will provide $2.3 million over three years to fund “strategic infrastructure” and development initiatives that “enhance industry competitiveness, market access and direct marketing methods.”

“This funding will develop the roots between rural and urban food systems, and support marketing initiatives,” Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor said in a release Friday.

The province said its investment “will make it easier and more convenient to buy local foods” and will “complement” its current food marketing programs, Select Nova Scotia and Taste of Nova Scotia.

Fortunately for all of us, there’s a really huge actionable step right on our horizon in the U.S. Here’s an email I recieved today from Slow Food Triangle:

In these final days before President Elect Obama makes his selection for Secretary of Agriculture, we urge you to spread the word to your members about a petition they can sign to express their support for dynamic and sustainable choices for the post.

The petition lists six suggestions, including Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Slow Food leader Neil Hamilton, the Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University.

You can find the petition here.

Even if the new administration doesn’t pick one of the listed candidates, signing the petition sends a strong message that we want a good, clean and fair food system and that we expect our new administration to make choices that support that vision. More information is available here and here.

We stand at a crossroads, and our next decisions matter a great deal. There are a few things we can do, right now, to make the world a safer, nourished, more abundant place: it’s going to happen through agribusiness reform.

For my friends on the left, realize this: Agriculture is a key ecological and humanitarian matter. Agriculture done right helps the earth in her innate, life-giving rhythms; it conserves and even produces energy. Intelligent agriculture policy feeds hungry people so no one will have to go without.

Friends on the right, some things to consider: Just as much as Homeland Security, this cabinet-level position will help determine our future strength as a nation and our vulnerability to terrorist attack. Smaller, localized food systems are grassroots capitalism and small business at their best. They create jobs and bring important jobs back to America. They restore the farmer to a place of respect in our society.

For my Christian friends, let’s consider: Jesus lived and died by way of his food habits. (And was resurrected as an eikon of Living Food & Drink) The way he chose to eat, and with whom he chose to eat opened up new vistas of the Kingdom of God on earth. And it was large part of what got him executed by the powers-that-be. I personally feel Jesus’ spirit stirring in this day and age to look at how food and food systems need to be approached in the 21st century. And while I feel churches should never wait for government initiatives to make a difference locally, I think we’re at a golden moment to speak truth to power – power that, it seems, is open to hearing from us.

I’m Asking You to Please Do Three Things:

Call to action time!

  • One, read Michael Pollan’s Open Letter. It’s really, really long – no matter, do it now. Interrupt your regularly-scheduled web surfing and focus for the next few minutes. Your attention span is precious and the information in this letter is vital. It’s that important. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Two, sign this petition.
  • Finally, if you don’t mind, forward this post to others you think would care about these matters – email, Digg, Stumble, Facebook message and re-post on your own blog, that’s fine by me. Thanks for caring!

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