Yesterday I went down to Augusta, again, to testify before the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in favor of LD 718 “An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock.” Well, that was the old name of the bill. On Monday the “and Seed Stock” was stricken from the bill because of a federal preemption on seed labeling, a fact about which I am not happy. But be that as it may (good old sausage making) here is my testimony:
Senator Jackson, Representative Dill, distinguished members of the committee. My name is Betsy Garrold and I am here today testifying on behalf of Food for Maine’s Future in support of LD 718. Food for Maine’s Future is a member-based organization of advocates and activists for small farmers, farm workers, and their patrons who are standing together against corporate monopolies. Just as the Grange set out to do when it began over a hundred and forty years ago, Food for Maine’s Future is helping Maine communities protect and preserve their interests against the interests of agribusiness corporations.
There is a “good” reason why genetically modified foods are not labeled. Although good is not exactly the right word, it is because of the FDA’s ruling/actions that GMOs are no different than any other food. This ruling contradicts the findings of the US Patent Office, which has granted numerous patents for this “novel invention”. Don’t you wish the Washington bureaucrats would get there stories straight? No corporation has benefited more from this paradox than the Monsanto Company. This monolithic company has used its patents on GMO technologies to sue US farmers and farm businesses. They have worked hard to consolidate the global seed industry. All in order to increase sales of Round Up and other chemicals for which these GMO seeds are specifically designed.
Last November, the Friday before Thanksgiving, in one of their infamous Friday afternoon news dumps, the US Department of Justice announced it had closed its two-year anti-trust investigation into Monsanto’s seed business. No charges were brought in this case. There was no press release. No public records are available of the investigation or of the findings.
Monsanto controls or has a financial interest in 80% of the corn and 93% of soybeans produced in this country. They sell the hundreds of millions of pounds of herbicides used on these crops. For millions and millions of people in this country these foods are the basis of their diet. They depend on these staple foods for survival. That, by definition, makes this monopoly an anti-trust violation.
This committee will hear many reasons today why Mainer’s deserve the right to know what is in their food, how it is grown and processed. All are valid and worthy of support. Food for Maine’s Future asks that you also consider whether the interests of corporations such as Monsanto supercede the request of the people before you today. Who and what is government truly protecting when they exempt this novel invention from a simple label?
We would like to leave you with two documents in addition to our testimony. One is a list of high-level political appointees with ties to Monsanto. The second is a chart showing Monsanto’s control over the seed industry and profits from its chemical sales since 1996. Both have citations and additional references.
And one last thought. Vandana Shiva, noted feminist, ecologist and author said, “Without seed sovereignty there is no food sovereignty.”
Thank you for your time and patience.
 Monsanto vs. US Farmers, 2010 Update, Center for Food Safety
 Global Seed Industry Concentration, 2005, ETC Group
 SEC investigates Monsanto’s Roundup Biz, Mother Jones, July 19, 2011
This testimony, written with enormous help from my friend and co-conspirator Bob St. Peter, was the hit of the afternoon. I always hope, when I testify, that the committee members will not ask any difficult questions. In fact, I hope for no questions at all, but yesterday something in this testimony really caught the committee’s imagination. I was kind of surprised because it was late, late in the afternoon and there were still about 40 people on the list to testify. They were going to be there all night but they seemed to want someone to talk about the elephant in the room. I don’t remember the exact question (I don’t mind public speaking but I do get a bit nervous) but it gave me the opportunity to say that what the real impact of this bill will be is to decrease Monsanto’s bottom line and that is why the bio-tech industry is fighting this issue so forcefully across the country. Then my representative, Brian Jones, asked if I thought this was a political issue. And I said that since the Supreme Court has said money=speech and since we hope the impact of this bill will be to make people “vote with their food dollars” that, yes, this is a political issue. There was a question about setting food policy that I don’t recall now. I will try to get a transcript of the hearings and post the really questions and my full answers.
Anyhow, more fun at the sausage factory. MOFGA organized a presser and rally before the hearing that was VERY well attended. There were easily 150 people there on a Tuesday afternoon. It turned into quite a party. They had to open up two overflow rooms for people to listen to the testimony. At one point an opponent of the bill called all the proponents there a “special interest group.” It was one of the many less than truthful pieces of testimony the opponents entered into the record during the hearing. If 90%+ of the population in Maine is a “special interest group” then I guess I just do not understand the meaning of the term.