Initiative 522 & GMO Labeling

Organic Consumers Association

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Monsanto just gave you one more reason.

Dear Organic Consumer,                  I-522 - Label GMO's

As if the existing threats to our health and environment weren’t enough reason to fight for labels on food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Monsanto just gave us one more.

Three days ago, bowing down to Monsanto’s well-funded lobbyists, Congress voted to allow Monsanto to grow GMO crops that could be harmful to human health and the environment – even if a federal court or a regulatory agency rules that the planting of those crops is illegal. Under this new law, sneaked in at the last moment as a rider to the federal appropriations bill, not even the federal courts will be able to stop Monsanto from introducing a slew of new, potentially poisonous GMO crops into our food supply.

It’s just one more reason to pass a statewide GMO labeling law, one with real teeth.

In November, voters in Washington State will decide on I-522, a citizens’ ballot initiative to label GMOs. The OCA has pledged $500,000 to the I-522 campaign.  If we raise half of that – $250,000 – by April 1, a generous donor will match those funds so we can fulfill our pledge. Can you help us reach our goal by April 1 with a donation today? You can donate online with a credit card or Paypal. Or you can mail a check. Or phone in your donation.

If you’ve already contributed to this campaign, thank you! Perhaps you can pass this message along to friends and family? If you haven’t donated yet, please consider a donation today. Every dollar counts toward this critical matching gift.

We’ve heard it many times, from food retailers and manufacturers, and especially from politicians, that what we need is a federal GMO labeling law. State laws would be too confusing, too difficult to enforce. But you and I both know that a law written in Washington D.C., where Monsanto lobbyists have politicians in their back pockets, will do more to protect Big Biotech and Big Food than it will to protect consumers.

I-522 is a citizens’ ballot initiative, written to protect consumers, not industry.

If you’re reading this letter, you probably supported a similar initiative last year, Prop 37, the California Right to Know GMO labeling law. And like me, you were deeply disappointed that we lost that fight.

You may be wondering, is it worth raising all this money again, for another, similar initiative? Yes. And here’s why.

  • This initiative stands an excellent chance of passing. With the FDA about to approve the first genetically engineered salmon, Washington State fishermen and consumers are fiercely determined to pass this law.
  • If we force food producers to label GMOs in Washington State, they may as well label in every other state.
  • Thanks to the groundwork we laid in California, the I-522 campaign is off to an early start and better able to anticipate the opposition’s strategy.
  • Thanks to your hammering of the food manufacturers who contributed millions to defeat Prop 37, those companies won’t likely throw more money at defeating I-522.
  • The advertising market in Washington is much smaller than the California market. Monsanto will no doubt saturate it. But because advertising there costs so much less, we will be able to reach every voter with our message, well before November. And at a far lower cost than it took to reach far fewer voters in California, where we couldn’t begin to compete until the final week of the campaign.

But the most compelling reason to support I-522 is that we must not throw away our investment in Prop 37, we must not let the momentum die, we must not give up the fight for a right so basic that it’s the law in 61 other countries.

Between today and April 1, your donation to the I-522 campaign will be worth twice as much, as long as we reach our goal of $250,000 and earn a matching gift. Every cent we raise will go directly to support the I-522 campaign. Please help us keep this fight alive with your donation today.

I’ve heard from so many people who were inspired by the work we did in California last year on this issue. I always tell them that we couldn’t have done it without our dedicated, determined, rabble-rousing supporters. You are not only the reason we do this work, you are the engine that drives this movement. Thank you.

In solidarity,
Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins

National Director, Organic Consumers Association and Organic Consumers Fund

P.S. Prop 37 would never have had the impact it had, without your support. Our $1.5 million donation to the campaign came from individual donations, from people like you. If you still believe in this fight, please donate today. Help us show Monsanto that we intend to win the GMO labeling battle!

Paid for by the Organic Consumers Fund Committee to Label GMOs in Washington State.

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Organic Consumers Association Essay

OCA Logo  Monsanto’s Patents on Life

  • By Katherine Paul, Ronnie Cummins
    Organic Consumers Association, Feb. 27, 2013

*Bellingman Blog* posted this essay from Organics Consumers Association in accordance with….Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, ‘Fair Use’… and the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this blog post does not constitute legal or technical advice.. as stated by ‘Organic Consumers Association’ at the end of their essay as well.   

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA’s Politics page and Democracy page & and their Millions Against Monsanto page.

  • Essay:

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a seed patent infringement case that pits a small farmer from Indiana, 75-year old Vernon Hugh Bowman, against biotech goliath Monsanto. Reporters from the New York Times to the Sacramento Bee dissected the legal arguments. They speculated on the odds. They opined on the impact a Monsanto loss might have, not only on genetically modified crops, but on medical research and software.

What most of them didn’t report on is the absurdity – and the danger – of allowing companies to patent living organisms in the first place, and then use those patents to attempt to monopolize world seed and food production.

The case boils down to this. Monsanto sells its patented genetically engineered (GE) “Roundup Ready” soybean seeds to farmers under a contract that prohibits the farmers from saving the next-generation seeds and replanting them. Farmers like Mr. Bowman who buy Monsanto’s GE seeds are required to buy new seeds every year. For years, Mr. Bowman played by Monsanto’s rules. Then in 2007, he bought an unmarked mix of soybeans from a grain elevator and planted them. Some of the soybeans turned out to have been grown from Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready soybean seeds. Monsanto sued Mr. Bowman, won, and the court ordered the farmer to pay the company $84,000. Mr. Bowman appealed, arguing that he unknowingly bought soybeans grown from Monsanto’s seeds, not the seeds themselves, and that therefore the law of “patent exhaustion” applies.

The press and public have fixated on the sticky legal details of the case, and the classic David vs. Goliath nature of the fight. But win or lose, Mr. Bowman’s predicament is part of a much bigger problem.

The real issue is this: Why have we surrendered control over something so basic to human survival as seeds? Why have we bought into the biotech industry’s program, which pushes a few monoculture commodity crops, when history and science have proven that seed biodiversity is essential for growing crops capable of surviving severe climate conditions, such as drought and floods?

As physicist and environmentalist Vandana Shiva explains, we have turned seed, which is the heart of a traditional diversity-rich farming system across the world, into a powerful commodity, used to monopolize the food system. According to a recent report by the Center for Food Safety and Save our Seeds, three companies – Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market. They have pressured farmers to replace diverse, nutritional seeds, seeds that are resilient because they’ve been bred by small-scale farmers to adapt to local climates and soil conditions, with monocultures of genetically engineered seeds. In the U.S. these crops are predominately corn and soybeans. According to the report, entitled “Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers,” 93 percent of soybeans and 86 percent of corn crops in the U.S. come from patented, genetically engineered seeds.

Monsanto profits handsomely from selling its patented seeds. But the real profits are in selling farmers its proprietary pesticides, like Roundup. Farmers can spray huge amounts of Roundup on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans, killing everything except the soybean plants. It’s a win-win for Monsanto. And it’s sold as a win to farmers, who have been told that by following the Monsanto method, they’ll increase their yields and make more money. Monsanto even claims that its GE crops are the answer to world hunger.

But little of what Monsanto has promised, to farmers and the world, has proven true.

Since farmers first began buying into Monsanto’s scheme in 1995, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325 percent, according to the Center for Food Safety’s report. Corn seed prices are up by 259 percent. Those increases don’t include the cost of the lawsuits Monsanto has aggressively filed against farmers the company claims have violated patent agreements. By the end of 2012, Center for Food Safety calculates that Monsanto had received over $23.5 million from patent infringement lawsuits against farmers and farm businesses.

And the rest of us? What have we gained from this aggressive monopoly of seeds and crops? Nothing. In fact, the losses continue to mount.

Monsanto promised that its GE crops would help the environment by reducing the need for pesticides. But according to the USDA, farmers used up to 26 percent more chemicals per acre on herbicide-resistant crops than on non-GE crops. And as several dozen aggressive “superweeds” have become resistant to glyphosate, the primary herbicide used on GE crops, the biotech industry is ramping up its war on weeds with a new generation of GE crops that can surviving spraying with 2,4 D, paraquat, and other super-toxic herbicides.

As for GE crops being necessary to feed the world, that promise has also been debunked. In 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that the loss of biodiversity will have a major impact on the ability of humankind to feed itself in the future.

According to “A Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs: Failed Promises, Failed Technologies:”

The fable that GMOs are feeding the world has already led to large-scale destruction of biodiversity and farmers’ livelihoods. It is threatening the very basis of our freedom to know what we eat and to choose what we eat. Our biodiversity and our seed freedom are in peril. Our food freedom, food democracy and food sovereignty are at stake.

It’s safe to say that the majority of the general public would love to see the small farmer from Indiana knock Monsanto down a peg. Last year, a Monsanto ally threatened to sue the state of Vermont if legislators passed a law requiring labels on all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Lawmakers capitulated, despite the fact that voter support was running at more than 90 percent. Later in the year, Monsanto and large food corporations spent $46 million to defeat a citizens’ initiative in California that would have required mandatory labeling of GMOs.

Monsanto may be Public Enemy Number One, but a win for Mr. Bowman is hardly a win for mankind. It’s time we ask ourselves: How long are we going to let Monsanto bully farmers and politicians into controlling the very source of life on earth? How long will we tolerate the growing monopolization and genetic engineering of seeds by an aggressive cabal of chemical and pesticide corporations who pose a deadly threat to our health, our environment and the future of our food? And when does “how long” become too late?

Katherine Paul is director of development and communications at the Organic Consumers Association.

Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including “Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers” (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).         

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