Attack of the gene giants (27/4/2004)

for more on the Millions Against Monsanto campaign: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.html

Attack of the gene giants
A Call to Action
By Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Assoc.
OASIS TV, Wednesday, April 28, 2004

LITTLE MARAIS, Minnesota--April 28, 2004--We have reached a turning point in history. Although organic farming is now the fastest growing component of world agriculture, with farmers in 110 nations now cultivating certified organic crops, there are unfortunately approximately 150 million acres of herbicide resistant or Bt-spliced genetically engineered (GE) crops (soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola) planted across the world--99% of them cultivated in only four nations: the U.S., Canada, Argentina, and China.

These "Frankencrops" are contaminating the food supply, polluting the environment, and steadily turning the world's 2.4 billion farmers and rural villagers into bioserfs. These GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also starting to pollute organic foods and crops and contaminating irreplaceable traditional and indigenous varieties of corn and other crops.

Ninety-one percent of the seeds of these Frankencrops are patented by Monsanto. Monsanto also holds the patent for the main genetically engineered animal drug, recombinant Bovine Growth hormone (rBGH sometimes known as rBST), a cruel and dangerous drug used to inject dairy cows to force them to give more milk in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil. This is why OCA is carrying out a campaign called Millions Against Monsanto.

For the past decade the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and its allies have struggled against the machinations of Monsanto and the other Gene Giants as part of the global resistance against GMOs. It is no exaggeration to say that Monsanto has become one of the most hated corporations on Earth, and that genetically engineered agriculture has spawned a massive and unprecedented global protest movement.

After a decade of steady growth, Monsanto and the Gene Giants have run into a stubborn wall of resistance. Scientific evidence is mounting that genetically engineered foods and crops pose a major threat to human health, the environment, biodiversity, and the survival of small farmers and rural communities. Bans, moratoriums, labeling laws, and safety-testing regulations are starting to come into force in dozens of nations, crippling the industry and threatening future growth. Because of global opposition, most GE crops are currently being funneled into animal feeds, or else used to make ethanol, a corn-based fuel. As a direct result of widespread resistance, global acreage of GMOs is starting to level off, and the limited number of Frankencrops or foods in the pipeline likely to be approved (Pharm or pharmaceutical crops, rice, wheat, fish, trees) are all extremely controversial.

In the wake of the Mendocino, California ban on March 2, 2004, the movement to create GE Free Zones across the United States has accelerated, as have legislative efforts to strictly regulate GMOs. Recent events include:

California: Following in the footsteps of Mendocino there are activists in at least 12 of California's 59 counties organizing to create GE-Free zones, including Humboldt, Butte, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and San Luis Obisbo. Activists from all over CA are meeting this weekend in Mendocino to plan their next moves. In other CA news, the state's top agriculture official denied a proposal that would allow the planting of rice, genetically engineered to create a drug. The proposal is likely to return for reconsideration next planting season.

North Dakota: A petition is being circulated for a ballot measure that would give the state the authority to reject Monsanto's new genetically modified wheat. Farmers are concerned introduction of the crop will result in profit losses due to decreased export demand.

Pennsylvania: More than 50 townships have passed ordinances that regulate the expansion of local factory farms, and now the state farm bureau and big agribusiness are teaming up to implement legislation that would make it illegal for communities to have this kind of local control.

Vermont: Governor Douglas has agreed to sign the "Farmer Right to Know" bill that will require labeling of genetically engineered seeds in all retail outlets.

It is true that the corrupt regulatory agencies in the U.S., Canada, or other nations may approve--against the wishes of farmers, consumers, and even major food companies--some new Frankencrops, but the cost of doing so will be tremendous, in terms of public debate and strife. It has now become obvious that without widespread industry intimidation. massive propaganda, lobbying, monopolization of seed stocks, lack of labeling laws, lack of requirements for pre-market safety-testing, and above all billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies in the U.S. for farmers growing GE corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola, Monsanto and the entire $4.25 billion agbiotech industry would collapse.

OCA's Biodemocracy Alliance campaign is a call to local and global action. By educating and organizing locally, by passing local and regional bans on GE crops and animals, we can put an end to Monsanto and the biotech industry, now, before they do further damage. OCA believes, that despite industry propaganda, the tide has turned. The people of the world are not willing to turn over their food and farm sovereignty to a handful of transnational agribusiness corporations and biotechnocrats. Instead we are moving into the age of Biodemocracy, where organic and sustainable farming, and a global system of Fair Trade, will become the norm, rather than the exception.

If we all work together we can derail the Biotech Express, possibly within the next 24 months. But the time to take action is now. OCA believes that perhaps the most important strategic tactic we have at the moment is passing local bans on Frankencrops and then linking these local areas together so as to create regional GE-Free zones, especially here in the North American Belly of the Beast. The recent historic GMO ban passed by voters March 2, 2004 in Mendocino County California has galvanized the grassroots in North America and shown us how we can organize at the grassroots and win.

Please join us at this turning point in history, and make Biodemocracy--not Biotechnolgy--the foundation of a sustainable and just future.

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Ronnie Cummins is the national director of the Organic Consumers Association and editor of BioDemocracy News, a monthly on-line newsletter devoted to genetic engineering, factory farming, and organics. He is author (with Ben Lilliston) of the book "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers." The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) promotes food safety, organic farming and sustainable agriculture practices in the U.S. and internationally, providing consumers with factual information they can use to make informed food choices.  

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