Archive for the ‘monsanto’ Category

We are Winning

  There is a famous quote from Gandhi that goes: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Well, I am here today to tell you good people that we are winning.

When the Maine State Legislature considers and the Agriculture committee passes several bills that reinforce the rights of farmers to sell their goods face-to-face with their patrons. We are winning.

When Joel Salatin, a hero of the food sovereignty movement, flies in from Virginia for the day to testify to our Legislators in favor of a state constitutional amendment establishing the people’s inalienable right to food. We are winning.

When 13 towns, and counting, in the state have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. Reinforcing the right of people to participate in traditional food-ways. We are winning.

When the average age of farmers in Maine continues to fall and farmers from around the country are moving to Maine because of the great work they see us doing to rebuild the local food infrastructure. We are winning.

When two of the largest employers in central Maine, Fedco and Johnny’s, are organic seed companies. We are winning.

When the number of food cooperatives in the state more than doubles in less than five years. We are winning.

When we succeed in shortening the food chain because of a four times increase in the number of farmers markets, the rapid growth of the Community Supported Agriculture movement, food hubs and wonderful distributors like Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative. We are winning.

When the FDA becomes so concerned about the local food rights movement in our state that they not only send Mr. Monsanto himself, Michael Taylor, to speak to farmers in Maine but they also open a third field office in a state of 1.3 million people. We are winning.

When national organizations like National Family Farm Coalition, The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Food and Water Watch and the Organic Consumers Association are so impressed with the progress we are making in Maine that they offer logistical and financial help to further our work. We are winning.

When the national headquarters for the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is in our state. We are winning.

When John Oliver spends a whole segment of Last Week Tonite excoriating the way contract chicken farmers are used and abused by the big poultry processing companies like Tyson. And his New York City audience reacts with horror. We are winning.

When Neil Young records a whole album of pro-farmer, anti-Monsanto songs, “The Monsanto Years”. We are winning.

When the deal to buy Syngenta, a deal that would have further consolidated the ownership of the world’s seed-stock into Monsanto’s hands, falls through. We are winning.

We are blessed to be living in a state with a strong agricultural tradition supported by the 11,000 members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and small, nimble non-profits like Food for Maine’s Future and Local Food Rules. A state that may well be one of the climate change winners as far as access to water and arable land goes. A state with a long, and recent, tradition of activism, self-governance, and self-sufficiency.

We are winning folks.   

Congratulations.

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Big White Envelope Redux

Finally got around to filling out my USDA 2014 Organic Survey today and had a very pleasant surprise:

2015/01/img_0091.jpg

Yep, that’s right the USDA is now keeping statistics on GMO contamination of organic crops! It may not be new, I may just have not been paying close enough attention, but I think this would have jumped out at me in past years as it did today. This addition is a good thing. It may be a gamble on their part that not enough small organic farmers can afford the very expensive testing and therefore will not be able to report contamination. But, being a glass half full kind of gal, I want to think that this will give us stats that we can use to fight the proliferation of GMO crops in our farmlands.

One more of those small stones we need to move to change the course of this industrial agriculture river.

Marching Against Monsanto, Again.

So I spoke at the March Against Monsanto today.  Thank you to Whitley and the crew for putting this together.  I arrived without my prepared remarks and had to off-the-cuff it.  It was okay but I wanted to share my beautiful, eloquent speech that noone got to hear today.

<I have come here today to speak about the food sovereignty movement.   And I will do that in a moment but first I want to tell you a story and toward the end I’ll offer you a solution to the food situation in which we find ourselves.

Back in 2006 I was standing around with some friends at one of our Mud Season Dinners.   These are events meant to demonstrate that even in the dark days of February or March there is still enough, entirely local, food to feed a crowd. At that moment we were at the height of our resistance against the animal ID law.  This is the USDA regulations that say all farmers who have livestock have to register and tattoo or tag all of their animals with a number and then do all the paperwork that entails.   So if anyone gets sick from eating meat, when that animal goes into the churning cauldron that is our current food system, the Feds can trace that animal’s life and provenance from birth to slaughter.   Naturally the anarchists, non-anarchist, libertarians and plain old left-wing activists, I was chatting with were none too pleased with this development.  One of them asked plaintively “What are we going to do?”   A good friend of mine, a farmer who feeds thousands of people every year, happened to be standing in the group.  He looked at her and said “We’re going to keep doing what we are doing…it’s just going to be illegal.”

And that is the essence of this movement.   It is; in the tradition of Suffrage, Civil Rights and Marriage Equality; essentially a human rights movement.    We got them out of our voting booths and bedrooms now let’s get them out of our kitchens.  We are; by eating fresh local food, sourced from farmers that we know; committing an act of civil disobedience. Like the Palestinians on the West Bank standing in front of their olive trees,  we are standing in front of our apple trees, protecting them from the encroachment of a hostile government.    They, the government bureaucrats, say they are protecting us from ourselves.   They say that we don’t know enough not to eat bad food.  They say that a farmer would sell tainted milk or meat or eggs or vegetables to his neighbors and friends.   They say that we would feed bad food to our own family and loved ones.    Well, let me tell you, the only bad food we are feeding anyone is the over-processed, GMO-ladden, vacant-of-nutrient foods that the big manufacturers shovel our way every day in the chain supermarkets.  If you are eating fresh nutrient-dense foods you are going to eat less, because your body is going to crave less.   And you are going to be healthier over all.  Twinkies just can’t do that.

This is what I call a “just walk away” moment.   My favorite kind of civil disobedience.   Just as Gandhi lead the salt march  to prove to the people of India, and to the British Empire, that they could make their own salt and did not need to remain enslaved to the English salt monopoly, so too we can grow our own food.   As Ron Finley of the South Central Garden in LA said so eloquently:  “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do.  Plus you get strawberries.”  and my favorite quote from him: “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

So we in the food sovereignty movement offer you the opportunity to take back control of what you eat three times a day.   Let the big guys know that they cannot intimidate us into eating rubbish that nourishes neither our bodies nor our souls.   Anyone interested in getting a food sovereignty ordinance passed in your own town can speak to me and we’ll get you started.

We need to protect our small farms and farmers.   They are the people who feed us.  They are also, historically,  the people who brought us the populist movement which lead to so much government reform in the late 1800’s.   And currently the farmers in Nebraska are one of the major reasons we are winning the fight against the XL pipeline.   Farmers are independent, hard-working, tough-minded folk who see the truth more clearly than most and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe.

So stand with small farmers and farmworkers everywhere and take back your power.   Stand up in front of your apples trees or tomato plants or by the side of your local farmer and just say NO.   No to GMOs, no to heavy-handed government oversight, no to caving into the intimidation bought and paid for by the folks that make the most money selling us crap to eat.   Join the next great civil rights movement.   The right to know what is in our food and  to eat whatever we damn well please.

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”  Wendell Berry>

NPR Discovers Kale

Beedy's Camden KaleI was standing in my kitchen the other day.   Doing dishes, listening to NPR and basking in the glow of knowing that the Supreme Court may consider the OSGATA VS. Monsanto seed patent suit.    Pubpat has asked the high court to hear the case.

Anyhow, it was a beautiful fallish morning in Maine and I was happy.   But that is not what made me almost fall on the floor laughing.    Soon after the good news on the OSGATA lawsuit on All Things Considered the host spent over eight minutes on what you might be lead to believe was a newly discovered vegetable: KALE.   It made my day.   That is a lot of national radio real estate to give over to this humble plant.   I was very impressed.

 

Personally I love kale and have for years.   I braise it with some garlic and onions from my garden and a little local sunflower oil.  I grow a great variety called Beedy’s Camden Kale developed by a woman I know, Beedy Parker, specifically for growing in our local climate.  It is well adapted to my growing season and soil.   Truly local food.  The seeds are sold by a local worker’s co-operative, Fedco, and guaranteed no GMOs!  The two stories were a great synergy for improving my general outlook on life as we slog along trying to keep it legal to grow our own, save our own seeds and breed plants that grow well where we live.

 

And the NPR audience got introduced to kale.   All in all a good day!

 

 

Control the Food

This is happening in Europe now but it is only a very short hope “across the pond” as they say.   Remember what the war criminal Henry Kissinger said:

Kissinger: “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.”

http://www.naturalnews.com/040214_seeds_European_Commission_registration.html

Virtually all plants, vegetable seeds and gardeners to eventually be registered by government    

Most heirloom seeds to be criminalized

A new law proposed by the European Commission would make it illegal to “grow, reproduce or trade” any vegetable seeds that have not been “tested, approved and accepted” by a new EU bureaucracy named the “EU Plant Variety Agency.”
It’s called the Plant Reproductive Material Law, and it attempts to put the government in charge of virtually all plants and seeds. Home gardeners who grow their own plants from non-regulated seeds would be considered criminals under this law.
“This law will immediately stop the professional development of vegetable varieties for home gardeners, organic growers, and small-scale market farmers,” said Ben Gabel, vegetable breeder and director of The Real Seed Catalogue. “Home gardeners have really different needs – for example they grow by hand, not machine, and can’t or don’t want to use such powerful chemical sprays. There’s no way to register the varieties suitable for home use as they don’t meet the strict criteria of the Plant Variety Agency, which is only concerned about approving the sort of seed used by industrial farmers.”

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/040214_seeds_European_Commission_registration.html#ixzz2U68NnkhQ

Good News, Good News, Good News, and then Bad News

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

Hurrah, several local food sovereignty bills have been voted out of the Agriculture committee of the Maine Legislature as “ought to pass.”  Here are some excerpts from the Bangor Daily News article about the work sessions:

 

“The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation voted that two key bills — LD 1282 and LD 1287 — ought to pass when they are taken up by the full Legislature.

The committee also voted “ought to pass” on several bills aimed at Maine’s poultry industry. LD 218 exempts farmers who grow and slaughter fewer than 1,000 birds annually from state inspection and licensure, as long as they sell the poultry from the farm or deliver to the consumer’s home. LD 259 would allow the owners of slaughterhouses to rent their facilities to other farmers. LD 836 establishes a legal mechanism for the operation of mobile poultry slaughtering facilities.”

 

Anti GMO rally at the State House.

Anti GMO rally at the State House.

The GMO bill is in work session today.  LD 718.  With the way the Ag committee has voted lately I am very hopeful that this bill will also get a favorable vote.

The bad news is a that the Supreme Court came out with its decision yesterday against the farmer being sued by Monsanto for planting seeds he bought, not from them but, from a local grain elevator.    Okay, okay it was not the best case to take all the way to the high court so we will have to try again.   The OSGATA/Pubpat suit is a good solid suit that we can hope will succeed when it finally makes it way to the top of the judicial pile.

 

“Although Monsanto and other agrochemical companies assert that they need the current patent system to invent better seeds, the counterargument is that splicing an already existing gene or other DNA into a plant and thereby transferring a new trait to that plant is not a novel invention. A soybean, for example, has more than 46,000 genes. Properties of these genes are the product of centuries of plant breeding and should not, many argue, become the product of a corporation. Instead, these genes should remain in the public domain.”

Here are some other links I’ve been compiling for a while:

 

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs122/1104248386985/archive/1112571595184.html

 

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/448-farm-and-food-policy/16718-focus-monsanto-protection-act-ignites-massive-activism

 

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/448-farm-and-food-policy/16689-focus-monsanto-wrote-monsanto-protection-act

 

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/16705-monsanto-teams-up-with-congress-to-shred-the-constitution

LD 718: Labeling GMOs

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[1].  They have worked hard to consolidate the global seed industry[2].   All in order to increase sales of Round Up and other chemicals for which these GMO seeds are specifically designed[3].

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.


[1] Monsanto vs. US Farmers, 2010 Update, Center for Food Safety

[2] Global Seed Industry Concentration, 2005, ETC Group

[3] 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.

Editors Note:  LD 718 passed the House of Representatives with only 4 Reps voting against it and passed in the Senate unanimously on the second vote. (June 14, 2013)