Monsanto vs. Family Farmers

Today in New York City the oral arguments will be heard. You can read more here and here.

On January 31, family farmers will take part in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.

In many cases farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

h/t Stewart Lundy

11 comments on this post.
  1. John Gorentz:

    It’s hard to find objective information about this via web searching. For example, I found the following on purefood.org, where we’re supposed to demand the following three items.

    ” Stop intimidating small family farmers. Stop force-feeding untested and unlabeled genetically engineered foods on consumers. Stop using billions of dollars of U.S. taypayers’ money to subsidize genetically engineered crops–cotton, soybeans, corn, and canola. ”

    I could very well join the cause on items 1 and 3, but number 2 sounds a little hysterical. I doubt that any people are getting force-fed.

    So far the most interesting and informative thing I’ve found is the case of farmer Percy Schmeiser. It’s still a one-sided story, but his version sounds credible.

    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/conflict.htm (Warning: The audio will play whether you want it to or not. But Schmeiser is easy to listen to. He certainly doesn’t sound hysterical. )

  2. James T. Fisher:

    We cannot depend on government institutions or multinational corporations to “allow us” to be organic – we must take action to make it happen!

  3. mdzehnder:

    @John Gorentz; the phrasing on #2 might be slightly hysterical, but I believe all that is meant by that is that there is currently no regulation forcing organizations to disclose via labeling when a food product contains GMO ingredients (ie much cornstarch is made from GMO corn, but is not labeled as such because companies are not required to include such labeling). Thus, the only way for a consumer who wishes to avoid purchasing/consuming products containing GMO ingredients to do so is to purchase USDA certified organic products 100% of the time (as organic certification requirements exclude GMO ingredients) which many consumers cannot afford to do.

  4. John Gorentz:

    Tonight when I read the editorial in the WSJ titled, “What Mitt Really Meant : This may become a long-running interpretive series” my thoughts turned again to this article. One problem with extreme rhetoric like “force feeding” is that it takes extra work to find out what the issue really is. In this case I was interested enough to try to find out, but ordinarily I’d just roll my eyes and move on.

    Mind you, this is from a guy who has been accused of extreme rhetoric himself. I occasionally hear things like, “I used to think Gorentz was over-the-top when he was talking about Democrats, but now…”

    But in this case the rhetoric has made it very difficult to learn what’s at stake. I don’t think Monsanto should be able to intimidate farmers who happen to get Monsanto-engineered DNA via wind-blown pollen, and I am almost always in favor of requiring labels to enable consumers to make their own decisions. And even some of the legal actions Monsanto is taking seem creepy. But I’m still looking for a calm, dispassionate article that can bring me up to date on the issues.

  5. sklundy:

    mdzehnder is right.

    If we have no input, no say, no choice (other than growing our own food), what else is force/coercion?

    Choose your poison, but it’s still poison.

    When what we eat is shrouded in secrecy and only operates with public ignorance and government collusion, it’s hard to say force is hyperbolic.

    Filling all grocery stores with entirely GMO-corn foods and calling it “choice” is like filling a trough with GMO-corn & shit soup and saying that the cow can “choose” from the bounty before her!

    But the illusion of choice is very powerful. But uninformed choice is not free choice. Unfree choice is forced.

  6. John Gorentz:

    Well, suit yourself. If you don’t want other people to learn what’s at stake or care about the issue, carry on as before.

  7. John Gorentz:

    How about this for a compromise?

    Some people want the facts. Others want the extreme rhetoric. So for a compromise, how about doing both? Provide a) the whacked-out rhetoric AND b) the facts and issues behind it?

  8. sklundy:

    There are countless resources on food corruption! Food, Inc. or King Corn might be a good start. Joel Salatin’s Holy Cows & Hog Heaven, Michael Pollan’s books, Dr. Andrew Weil’s stuff, Jonathan Safron Foyer’s Eating Animals, Raw Milk Revolution, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, Barbara Kingslover’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle….

  9. sklundy:

    Public Citizen might help you: http://www.citizen.org/publications/publicationredirect.cfm?ID=5102

  10. sklundy:

    This worries me as a beekeeper. http://maryamhenein.tumblr.com/post/16471484566/the-buzz-behind-the-monsanto-beeolgics-acquisition

  11. D.W. Sabin:

    Lundy, I hope your Bees do not end up on the Department of Geneland Security’s Terror watch list.

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