Posts Tagged ‘Genetically modified organism’

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>


Let’s have some real news, PLEASE!!!



“Though the controlled corporate media apparatus is suppressing the story, 40 tons of GMO crops were torched, prompting an FBI investigation. There has been a complete media blackout.  It was only reported locally live on KXL Radio and echoed by the Oregonian, where the ONLY web mention exists, hard to find because the headline wording carefully avoids the most likely keywords for a search.


Here’s what happened — 40 Tons of GMO Sugar Beets were set ablaze in Eastern Oregon. FORTY TONS — the entire acreage of two full fields of crops in the ground were set ablaze over a three night period of time. That means arson.

Evidence is that 6,500 plants were destroyed by hand, one plant at a time. That, in turn, implies a lot of people were involved. Would you want to stick around once a fire was going and wait to be discovered? No, someone (many someones) probably wanted to move as quickly as possible. We are talking about a movement — and this is exactly the kind of retribution that many have warned was coming; when lawmakers and corporations refuse to honor the Constitution and instead engage in ‘legalized’ criminal acts such as enabled by the ‘Monsanto Protection Act.’

More than a decade ago, environmental saboteurs vandalized experimental crops across the country in a revolt against high-tech agriculture. Foes of genetic engineering also struck in 2000, when members of the Earth Liberation Front, with roots in Oregon, set fire to agriculture offices at Michigan State University. ELF’s position was that genetic engineering was “one of the many threats to the natural world as we know it.”


But ELF cells normally come forward immediately to claim responsibility, because to them, its all about publicity to educate the public. Since there has been no statement about the recent arson this may have simply been Oregon farmers who have said, ‘Enough!’ Another clue that this may be the case is that this comes on the heels (two weeks) of Japan’s rejection of the entire Oregon wheat crop for the year (a tremendous financial blow because over 80% of Oregon Wheat is exported) because one report said one field was contaminated with at least ONE GMO plant.”

Am I advocating these kinds of acts?  What do you think?   Am I pissed off at the lamestream media for not picking this up?  You bet I am.   Let’s have some real news, PLEASE!!!


Shame on you Nell Newman!

I serve on the board of directors of my local food co-op.    We have several times  discussed trust.   The trust that our members put in the staff and management to “pre-screen” all the food that is on our shelves.   Many, as one member recently told us, people shop there thinking that they don’t have to read labels because they assume that we have weeded out the GMOs and other stuff that is bad for you and are not stocking or selling it.   That is sadly not the case but with the revamping of the purchasing policy committee it may soon become closer to reality.

I, however, am a compulsive label reader and since I had the inside story that not everything in the store is pre-screened I often took a look at the labels of things I bought trusting, foolish me, that labels don’t lie.    Newman-O’s are one of my favorite treats and I have purchased them often.   Never did I notice that the canola oil did not say “organic canola oil.”

Well, we all know from our long fight against GMOs that no conventional canola oil in the country is GMO-free.    If you want non-GMO canola oil you have to buy organic and that is getting tougher and tougher to find because our friend Monsanto has managed to pretty thoroughly contaminate all the canola seed in the country with the genetically manipulated crap.

So here is a heads up from Cornucopia News.   Read it and weep.   And then might I recommend that you do what I plan to do:  stop buying all Newman’s Own products in protest.   Once again my purchased food options shrink.   Hell of a thing!

Cornucopia News

Have You Been Defrauded? Help Bring Organic Scammers to Justice

June 27th, 2013

Have you been duped?  Ever purchased Newman’s Own Organics or Organic Bistro Products?

Newman OHave you purchased Newman’s Own Organics or Organic Bistro food products?  If so, you may have been deceived into buying food that is not actually certified organic.

We are investigating claims that certain companies are getting away with using the word ‘organic’ in their company name, listed prominently on food packages, even if the product they’re selling isn’t certified organic and does not legally qualify as organic.

As an example, not all Newman’s Own Organics products are actually certified organic.  Newman’s Own Organics Newman-O’s cookies contain conventional canola oil and conventional cocoa.  Their ginger cookies are made with conventional ginger.

Similarly, Organic Bistro (in the process of being rebranded ‘Artisan Bistro’) sells frozen entrees made with some organic vegetables, but uses non-organic chicken and turkey (the number one ingredient by weight in some of their products).

The law is clear: in order to prominently label products “organic” on the front panel, a company must have between 95% and 100% organic ingredients (the balance being minor materials that have been checked for safety and are not available in organic form).  If some certified organic ingredients are used (a minimum of 70%), the label can (in modest size typeface) claim “made with organic vegetables,” as an example.

If you or someone you know has purchased Organic Bistro or Newman’s Own Organics products, we would like to hear from you.

We like to say that, “There is a higher power, in terms of watchdogging the integrity of organics, than the USDA.”  And that is you – the organic consumer.

So today (7/1/13) in my email is this clarification (I wrote back, thanked her for the clarification, and noted that the theme of my post was the breaking of trust and the damage to the “organic” label):

Dear Betsy,

It is important to note here that the complaint we have with Newman’s is that the word “organic” is not permitted on the front of the package if it is only 70% organic or made with some organic ingredients only. If the product is “made with organic ingredients” it means that the remaining 30% follow certain rules, including no GMOs, no irradiation, no sewer sludge and only ingredients approved by the National Organic Standards Board.

Newman’s Organics has sneaked around the issue of not being able to put the word organic on the front of the package by including it in their brand name—a dirty trick. You are not eating GMO products in Newman O’s, but you are not getting a 100% organic product, as the name of the company (Newman’s Organic’s) implies.


I hope this helps,

Melody Morrell

Melody Morrell
Associate Membership Coordinator
The Cornucopia Institute

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)

More GMO Information


Here’s some info about GMOs for the folks who will be voting, in California,  to label the food we eat.


OSGATA vs. The Evil Empire

Hurrah!  OSGATA and PUBPAT have filed their appeal of Judge Naomi Buchwald’s February decision.   She erroneously  dismissed our lawsuit against Monsanto.  A lawsuit that attempts to halt this corporate bully’s egregious over-reach in suing random farmers for patent infringements.   Suits that they file in the supposed defense of  their bogus patents.   Here’s the beginning of the OSGATA press release:

“WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 5, 2012 – Seventy-five family farmers, seed businesses, and agricultural organizations representing over 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms filed a brief  today with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington asking the appellate court to reverse a lower court’s decision from February dismissing their protective legal action against agricultural giant Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed.”

Read it all here.

I was going to write about varroa mites and deer ticks today but it is so much better to write about the real blood sucking parasites of this world, corporations like Monsanto.


Sugar Maple Telegraph Brings Great News

Holli in her garden.

If any of you are Jimmy Buffett fans you have heard about the “Coconut Telegraph“.  The connection, in any small community, that allows everyone to know everything about everybody in very short order.   When we were living in the islands we used to call it the “Papaya Telegraph”   (More papaya trees then coconuts but plenty of both.) I like to think that I am not a gossip.   I am just a good listener who gets to be privy to the local goings on.   When it is appropriate I am willing to pass along useful information.   As an example:  one of the most difficult to accomplish on the islands  was finding housing for people coming from off-island to work in Majuro.   I always seemed to know where there was an open rental or one about to become open.  One day an Australian volunteer friends came to me to ask if I knew of a place for some newbies arriving soon.  I replied that I would ask around saying  “I’m pretty well tapped into the telegraph.”   She laughed,  “You’re not just tapped into the telegraph, you ARE the telegraph.

Fast forward 20+ years and here I am home in Maine serving the same function. (I’m thinking about calling this one the “Sugar Maple Telegraph”, what do you think?)  People tell me things.  I file them away in my memory and when a person comes along who need that information I can supply it to them.  A recent example: one friend told me that she had a goat giving so much rich milk she couldn’t make cheese fast enough.   A few days later another friend told me about her preemie goat twins.  Because of birth complications the mother had rejected them, so they were being bottle fed.  And the connection was made.

This is one of the many reasons I like my job at the Co-op.  I see folks all the time and chat with them about this and that.  Ultimately information gets passed along to me that I can then pass along to someone else.  Through this blog or by other means.  Well I have a piece of news that I was told and have sat on for almost a month now, per Holli’s request,  waiting for the press release.  Yesterday it finally came.  My friend Holli Cederholm has been named the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA)  general manager in charge of technical assistance, organizational development and communications. This is exciting on so many levels.  Holli is such a bright and hard-working person I know she is going to do a wonderful job for this very important organization.   And this organization is vital to protecting our access to organic seed.  They are at the forefront of the fight against Monsanto and I just know Holli is the right person to help lead this most important crusade.