RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Intro: "Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back."

Genetically modified (GM) crops. (photo: Genetically Modified Cartoons)
Genetically modified (GM) crops. (photo: Melvyn Calderon/Greenpeace)

Millions Against Monsanto: The Food Fight of Our Lives

By Ronnie Cummins, AlterNet

12 April 12


f you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." -- Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." -- Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998

For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and regulatory agencies, supermarket chains, giant food processors, and the so-called "natural" products industry.

Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back.

This November, in a food fight that will largely determine the future of what we eat and what we grow, Monsanto will face its greatest challenge to date: a statewide citizens' ballot initiative that will give Californians the opportunity to vote for their right to know whether the food they buy is contaminated with GMOs.

A growing corps of food, health, and environmental activists - supported by the Millions against Monsanto and Occupy Monsanto Movements, and consumers and farmers across the nation - are boldly moving to implement mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods in California through a grassroots-powered citizens ballot initiative process that will bypass the agribusiness-dominated state legislature.  If passed, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act will require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, and outlaw the routine industry practice of labeling GMO-tainted foods as "natural."

Passage of this initiative on November 6 will radically alter the balance of power in the marketplace, enabling millions of consumers to identify - and boycott - genetically engineered foods for the first time since 1994, when Monsanto's first unlabeled, genetically-engineered dairy drug, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), was forced on the market,

As Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director for the Organic Consumers Association, pointed out at an Occupy Wall Street teach-in in Washington DC in early April: "The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act ballot initiative is a perfect example of how the grassroots 99% can mobilize to take back American democracy from the corporate bullies, the 1%. By aggressively utilizing one of the last remaining tools of direct democracy, the initiative process (available to voters not only in California and 23 other states, but in thousands of cities and counties across the nation), we can bypass corrupt politicians, make our own laws, and force corporations like Monsanto to bend to the will of the people, in this case granting us our fundamental right to know what's in our food."

Moving the Battleground

This is not the first time Monsanto has been challenged by citizens' initiatives or state and local legislative efforts. But this time, the momentum is in our favor.

In the past, GMO "right-to-know" activists have been outmaneuvered and outgunned by Monsanto and its minions in every state, except Vermont and Connecticut, where passing a labeling bill is still, at least theoretically, a long-shot.  (Monsanto recently threatened to sue the state of Vermont if legislators there pass a GMO labeling bill).

Efforts to pass GMO labeling laws at the federal level have gone nowhere, despite the fact that more than one million consumers have emailed "Just Label It" petitions to the FDA, demanding mandatory labeling. (The FDA counted only 394 of the signatures, claiming that the main petition was submitted as a single document, or docket, and therefore counted as only one signature.)

Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has introduced his perennial GMO labeling bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, though everyone knows it will never make it out of committee and come to a full House vote on the floor. Similar symbolic bills have been introduced in 18 state legislatures.

The battle has been raging for decades. But this time, it's different.

Behind this historic California initiative is a broad, growing and powerful health, environmental, and consumer coalition, which includes the Organic Consumers Association, Organic Consumers Fund, Food Democracy Now!,, Nature's Path, Lundberg Family Farms,, Eden Foods, Alliance for Natural Health, Dr. Bronner's, United Farm Workers Union, American Public Health Association, Cornucopia Institute, Institute for Responsible Technology, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, California Certified Organic Farmers, and scores of others.

This time,  the industry faces informed – and alarmed - consumers who understand the danger of allowing out-of-control chemical and biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont - the very same corporations that have assaulted us with toxic pesticides and industrial chemicals, Agent Orange, carcinogenic food additives, PCBs, and now global warming – to dictate their food choices.

Keeping Consumers in the Dark, Keeping Farmers and Scientists Intimidated

Why has it taken so long to get this far? How have Monsanto and its cohorts been able to grow and maintain market supremacy while force-feeding unlabeled "Frankenfoods" to the public for decades?

By buying off politicians, bullying farmers and scientists, and keeping consumers in the dark.

Monsanto has sued more than 150 farmers across the US and Canada, and threatened thousands of others, for refusing to pay for "intellectual property theft" after their fields were contaminated by Monsanto's patented genetically engineered crops.

The company has harassed and used the media to bully scientists who have exposed the public health and environmental hazards of genetically engineered foods and crops in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe. The renowned scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai from the UK, was pressured and discredited for reporting on the dangers of genetic engineering until he was eventually fired from his job. The same thing happened to the UK's Environmental Minister, Michael Meacher.

In a number of other cases, scientists such as Ignacio Chapela, have received death threats. Chapela also said he received death threats to his children from "a high government official" in Mexico after he showed contamination of native corn with Monsanto's GMOs. Other scientists, most notably Andres Carrasco from Argentina, have been assaulted by thugs. Monsanto has even hired the notorious mercenary gang, Blackwater, to spy on its opponents worldwide.

Why has Monsanto gone to such great lengths to thwart GMO labeling laws and initiatives? Because it understands the threat that truth-in-labeling poses for GMOs – and biotech industry profits. As soon as genetically engineered foods are labeled in the U.S., millions of consumers will read these labels and react. They'll complain to grocery store managers and companies, they'll talk to their family and friends. They'll switch to foods that are organic or at least GMO-free. Once enough consumers complain about GE foods and food ingredients, stores will eventually stop selling them.  Farmers will stop planting them.

Europe Shows Labels Can Drive GMOs off the Market

In Europe, there almost no genetically engineered crops, while here in the US, nearly 75% of all supermarket foods - including many so-called "natural" foods - are GE-tainted.  Why?  Because Europe requires labeling of genetically engineered foods – and the US does not.

This is exactly why activists have launched the California Ballot Initiative. Passing mandatory GMO food labeling in just one large state, California, the eighth largest economy in the world, where there is tremendous opposition to GE foods as well as a multi-billion dollar organic food industry, will ultimately have the same impact as a national labeling law.

If California voters pass the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, the biotech and food industry will face an intractable dilemma. Will they dare put labels on their branded food products in just one state, California, admitting these products contain genetically engineered ingredients, while withholding this ingredient label information in the other states? Will they allow their organic and non-GMO competitors to drive down their GMO-tainted brand market share?

The answer to both of these questions is likely no. What most of them will do is start to shift to organic and non-GMO ingredients, so as to avoid what the Monsanto executive 16 years ago aptly described as the "skull and crossbones" label.

Can you imagine Kellogg's selling its Corn Flakes breakfast cereal in California with a label that admits it contains or may contain genetically engineered corn? This would be the kiss of death for their iconic brand. How about Kraft Boca Burgers admitting that their soybean ingredients are genetically modified? How about the entire non-organic food industry (including many so-called "natural" brands sold in Whole Foods or Trader Joe's) admitting that a large proportion of their products are GE-tainted?

Once food manufacturers and supermarkets are forced to come clean and label genetically engineered products, they will likely remove all GE ingredients, to avoid the "skull and crossbones" effect, just like the food industry in the EU has done. In the wake of this development American farmers will convert millions of acres of GE crops to non-GMO or organic varieties.

What Now? The Campaign Needs Volunteers and Money

Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association – under the guise of its front group, the so-called Coalition Against the Costly Food Law - are building up a massive war chest up to defeat the California Ballot Initiative. They will literally spend millions to spread lies and disinformation that GMO foods and crops are perfectly safe - and that we need more, not less GMO food and biofuel crops in this era of climate change and growing population.

They will lie and say that GMO labels will be costly to the food industry and raise food prices. They will say that it is the job of the FDA to decide whether GMOs are labeled, not the states. Yet we already know that this battle will never be won in Washington DC, where Monsanto and Food Inc. lobbyists have politicians in their back pockets. It will only be won in places like California (or Vermont), vital centers of organic food and farming and anti-GMO sentiment, where 90% of the body politic, according to recent polls, support mandatory labeling.

This citizens initiative in California is a battle all of us. Please contact the campaign if you are willing to volunteer to join a national phone bank to contact California voters this fall or provide other support.

It's time to take back control over our food and farming system. It's time to stand up to Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+68 # bugbuster 2012-04-12 12:01
There was an article recently describing how a crop genetically engineered to resist a certain bug has begun to fall prey to genetically modified versions of the same bug. It seems that Mother Nature is a pretty good genetic engineer herself.

Given time she would put Monsanto out of business, but honesty-in-labe ling laws are quicker.
+39 # AMLLLLL 2012-04-12 15:21
Another dangerous aspect to this game with mother nature is the toxic run-off from sprayed fields. This affects us whether we eat gmo crops or not.
+58 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-12 12:47
The most important part of fighting back is educating one another. When Americans find out how evil this corporation is and how dangerous its products, even the corrupt politicians will have to stop defending it.
-12 # RLF 2012-04-13 05:43
They should educate themselves about global over population as well and realize that if people keep reproducing like rabbits, all kinds of Monsanto-like magic tricks will be necessary to feed all the snot nosed little children. Time to put a huge tax on the third child.
+16 # BenECoyote 2012-04-13 12:51
Actually, the idea that monsanto-like tricks to feed the world is a myth perpetrated by monsanto's pr department. Actually, it has been proven that over time Monsanto products lower yield and require more and more chemicals as mother nature makes stronger and stronger weeds and bugs to combat chemical attempts to eke out a few more bushels. On the other hand, people need to be more proactive to provide as much of their own food as possible. From backyard gardens, to window sill boxes, everyone has a little space where they could grow some food. Cuba didn't suffer a food shortage under the embargo because the government mandated that every square foot available be used to grow food.
While I agree the population growth is a problem, it is only a problem of greed on the part of the wealthy (which includes the US, and multi-national corporations like monsanto, and cargill, and ADM) that has people growing crops for cash (on credit)(like cocoa, coffee, and palm oil) instead of food.
+67 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-12 12:55
For Monsanto's public relations flack to say that the safety of its products are not Monsanto's problem but the FDA's is not just moderately slick but flagrantly disonest. The FDA is bought and paid for, and its 'food safety czar' –– appointed by Barack Obama –– is Michael Taylor, former Monsanto executive and lawyer who was paid for years as a Monsanto lobbyist. Taylor also wrote the opinion that the company does not have to label its GMO foods. The government is corrupt and we can't count on any of those Washington pols to do their job. It's up to the rest of us.
+21 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-12 12:56
Substantial background information and history of Monsanto, in this piece, the face of evil:
+31 # Vardoz 2012-04-12 13:11
This and now agent orange. It feels like these corporations are trying to kill us as fast as they can. Poisoned food, water, fish, air, planet.

I have noticed though when millions protest by calling their reps and Obama and demand at the very least Labeling changes happen. But we just can't just sit back and do nothing. Find out if your rep supports Monsanto. This has to happen in big numbers. And for those who spout the hopeless odes- what have you got to lose. 202-224-3121 Hisue and senate - Obama 202 456 1111. I already called.
+11 # BenECoyote 2012-04-12 23:19
or, do like we did in Vermont, and pack your state house and demand justice! It is much more satisfying to look your legislature in the eye and say "Heck no GMO!"
+18 # X Dane 2012-04-12 19:30
Richard , thank you for informing us. Now we all MUST spread the information to all the people we know. This MUST be a grass roots operation, for Monsanto, Dupont, Dow and the other merchants of poisoned foods have so much money. We have to use PEOPLE POWER.

I wonder why companies feel it is OK to poison OUR PEOPLE. Europe has refused to import cosmetics containing cancer causing properties, so......the companies removed them!!.....but they leave them IN THE PRODUCTS SOLD IN OUR COUNTRY.....WHY , do they not care that we can get cancer??

It seems to me that Europe has more backbone, and the European countries sure do more to protect their populations. Why do WE not deserve protections??

I am afraid it is up to US to DEMAND that companies treat us with respect, and sell us wholesome products.
Remember what the boycott did to bus companies when blacks refused to ride the buses??? It brought them to their knees.

So we MUST mobilize as many as possible in order to make an impact. We should be no less than Europe!!!
+15 # RLF 2012-04-13 05:45
Frankly...trave ling to Europe makes it clear that they are better at about everything than the US...most US folks arrogantly think we are great as we steadily slip into the third world.
+6 # LetsUseOurBrains 2012-04-12 19:47
Monsanto is a horrid villain. But it is quite unfortunate that the major player fighting them, the Organic Consumers Association (Millions Against Monsanto), has such a lackluster record for Accountability & Transparency and percentage of revenues going towards programs (rather than expenses) that Charity Navigator gave it only 2 out of 4 stars. So where SHOULD we put our fighting monies???
+9 # BenECoyote 2012-04-12 23:13
save your money, go directly to your state house and demand a gmo labeling law or a gmo ban. Today I witnessed concerned citizens fill my statehouse to say hell no GMO. It was much more satisfying to testify from the floor than any donation could ever be, and, it was free.
+15 # Eliza D 2012-04-12 20:33
Thanks Vardoz. I have sent the FDA my family's petition demanding GMO labeling-so that's 394+4, and have e-mailed my pathetic senators, who waste taxpayer money by sending out mailers about bad teachers, what to do after a terror attack and other such trash. Yes, corporations ARE trying to kill us-how to share resources among 7+ billion? Fewer serfs, more resources for the 1%. We must continue to arm ourselves and others with information and fight, fight, fight!
+9 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-04-12 20:39
+1 # Grinder Monkey 2012-04-12 20:43
What Monsanto did pales compared to what Fukushima can do.
+13 # BenECoyote 2012-04-12 23:11
I disagree, GMO's pose a far greater and more immediate threat to the human species than fukushima. If the terminator gene hops species then it is so long food supply. It's not just toxic food, GMO's could potentially kill off the worlds entire grain supply. If seeds won't sprout, food can't grow, and Monsanto plants are designed so their seeds won't sprout. That way you have to buy seed from them. Luckily their genetic pollution hasn't spread that gene yet, but their infected pollen is drifting around out there, and it is only a matter of time before the terminator gene infects the food supply wiping out staple grain crops on a global scale. Fukushima is a huge disaster, and one that sadly American seems eager to repeat on our home soil, but one nuke plant is not capable of the same sort of destruction of a multinational corporation bent on controlling the world's food supply.
+21 # BenECoyote 2012-04-12 23:00
I just got back from the Vermont Statehouse, where i testified on the floor to the subcommittee to bring Vermont's GMO Labeling bill to the floor. There were at least 300 concerned citizens that came out to this public hearing, and around 70-80 people spoke. Every single person said stand up to the bully, pass the law, and if Monsanto wants to fight it in court, then we'll fight'em. Not a single person stood up to say they support Monsanto. Not a single farmer stood up to say they need monsanto, or that labeling would hurt them. Every single person that spoke was concerned with the health risks and or the environmental risks and or the freedom to make an informed choice for themselves. It was completely amazing, seeing citizen democracy at work. Hopefully Vermont can be a trailblazer in the fight for food security.
+3 # infohiway 2012-04-13 02:43
Sheer evil through and through.
+2 # Eliza D 2012-04-14 10:08
Way to go, Ben! You are so right-as horrible as Fukushima is, GMOs are worse for the reasons you state. If this initiative in California does not work, we can all look forward to the end of availability of non-GMO seeds in the US. Then we will ALL be the captives of Monsanto, Cargill,, who will hold the rights to all food seed. In other states we need a group who will organize a lobbying trip to our statehouses. What group organized yours, Ben E?
0 # gina 2012-04-16 00:03

I'm not in favor of Monsanto and genetically modified crops, but the reality is this country is on the verge of not having crops of food due to the colony collapse of the bees that naturally pollinate the crops. It is so bad they truck bee hives around the country to pollinate the remaining crops. At some point, if we don't have an alternative (such as Monsanto seeds) we may very well starve to death. We also have less than 2% of the population actively farming. Nobody is even growing food. We import everything. America needs to get back to people farming, naturally or else we will be eating genetically modified foods and suffer the consequences.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.