First and most important, we prefer the word “transgenic” over “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” because it better emphasizes the combining of genes from different species. The other terms make the process seem benign or beneficial.
The genes brought together through the design of a transgenic crop would not have naturally found each other in the course of normal cross-pollination or plant breeding, but use of the terms “modify” and “engineer” make the process sound reasonably and sensible, naturally valuable, and even as conventionally beneficial nutritionally and environmentally as any other food. It has been none of these, despite the flagrant assertion of the “Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence” and no independent, objective, long-term U.S. studies have ever proved the crops healthful or environmentally acceptable and not destructive—just as Monsanto’s promoted chemical dependency is also destructive to the public health and the environment.
More evidence on the chemical dangers is being presented, most recently in the spring of 2013 from a study at M.I.T. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Detailed documentation will not be part of this discussion, but a video discussion about the study with Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the lead researcher, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, is suggested in the interest of understanding the details. Additional references are in the provided bibliography and more can be found through an Internet search.
Meanwhile, the EPA has increased the tolerable amount of Monsanto's Roundup allowed in food. This is being done even though tiny quantities can have major health impacts, and the Canadian standard is 58 times lower than the prior U.S. standard. The European standard of tolerance is lower than the Canadian, but now the EPA has raised the U.S. standard by 3000%. This is all part of Monsanto’s transgenic trespass, because the chemicals are part of Monsanto's transgenic and chemically-dependent system of agriculture pursuing profit at the expense of the people and the environment. Transgenic seeds and the chemicals are two parts of an extensively damaging and erroneously-promoted agricultural system sold and accepted because the United States fosters a negligently expedient culture that has routinely tolerated long-term public costs in exchange for short-term corporate profit and in this case, short-term benefit to farmers through the reduction of tillage costs and the unfulfilled promise of reduced chemical usage. The realities now need to be made clear through the presentation of the evidence, and we want to do that in a courtroom because the presentation in other places has been either impossible or ignored and counted on to have no impact.
Monsanto claims their transgenic engineering is no different from traditional plant breeding, but that is an unvarnished, flagrant, unethical, and pusillanimous falsehood that never would have been possible to assert if it had not been greased by lobbying and freely flowing political money in the form of campaign contributions. It needs to be exposed as does the oblivious, negligent, irresponsible, and morally profligate ignorance and blindness of their political, corporate, and agricultural supporters, all responding to the political and economic power of lucre in a now corrupted political and allied commercial system dominated by corporations for their own benefit and at the expense of the public interest.
Reprehensibly and emphatically, because this point is centrally important, honorable and fully illuminating, detailed, independent, objective, long-term or even medium-term studies examining the health and environmental issues associated with transgenic crops have not been conducted in the United States, and this discredits both U.S. democracy and the capitalist ideal in the eyes of the world. No studies on the subject can be credible or sufficient unless they are long-term, multi-generational, and thorough in their detail.
This is the reason the initial studies on the transgenic potato led by Arpad Pusztai at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland from 1995 to 1998 was a multi-center study looking at the issue from several perspectives, but those organizations conducting multi-generational studies have not been sufficient in number to fully address all the questions raised by observers. The U.S. studies have lasted 90-days, all conducted by Monsanto or under their control because patent law provides them with the power to control research about their patented products.
Pusztai said his biggest surprise when he was doing his research was in seeing the poor quality of the research done by Monsanto and the other biotech companies. Clearly, they have wanted to push their products into the market as quickly as possible without learning anything that would be awkward to their agenda.
Unfortunately, 90-day studies are not long enough to reveal the most needed answers (and it does not matter if they have been peer reviewed if all the reviewing peers are loyal, funding-dependent partisans of the Monsanto agricultural system). The studies are likely to have been limited to 90 days exactly because they would not reveal anything important to know in that short a time, but the Pusztai studies were also 90-day studies, and they learned important facts. Information supporting a finding of insufficiency against Monsanto's limited research will be provided among the evidence to be offered in court to support the contentions asserted in our filed court complaint.
The promoters of transgenic agriculture could have worked to prevent the truth from being known just to avoid restriction on their revenue stream, and that would be a reasonable hypothesis for anyone to make after reviewing the recent decades of Monsanto’s agriculturally-related history. (The current Monsanto Company was created in 2002 to carry on the agricultural work of the previous company after it became part of Pharmacia, now a division of Pfizer.) The prior Monsanto Company that started the work on transgenic seed and made Roundup (Glyphosate) the world’s biggest selling herbicide also said that Agent Orange was safe and did not do anything to protect U.S. troops from it in Vietnam.
Now an estimated minimum of 400,000 U.S. veterans are victims of the failure in addition to many more Vietnamese babies who have been born with birth defects. This is only a portion of the health impacts resulting from the largest deployment in chemical warfare seen in world history; yet, no one has been taken to court over the abuse. It could be seen as a war crime, but that prosecution has not been pursued despite the continuing impacts in Vietnam and the U.S. The government is as guilty as Monsanto because it should have known about the risks before deploying the product. This is a moral issue, and yet U.S. Cold War victory and its political power has silenced discussion of the issue. This demonstrates the impunity of the powerful, and it has been used also to support Monsanto’s transgenic system of agriculture.
Because Weeds Have Become Resistant to Roundup, New Crops Are Being Promoted That Are Resistant to More Dangerous Herbicides Now the biotech company Dow, which has a cross-licensing technology sharing agreement with Monsanto has applied for approval to release 2-4, D resistant corn. Other similar transgenic crops are likely to soon follow. Monsanto has a transgenic corn variety resistant to Dicamba, a chemical cousin of 2-4,D which is one of the two herbicides in Agent Orange. Other chemicals will also be used more intensively on farm fields as part of the transgenic system of agriculture unless people act to end it.
All of these more lethal chemicals are more toxic and dangerous to health than the Glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup, the main herbicide used in connection with transgenic crops since they were first introduced on the market in 1996. Because weeds are now resistant to Glyphosate, crops have now been created to tolerate the use of the more toxic chemicals, even though the impacts of Glyphosate are bad enough and should not be underestimated. The public costs related to the use of these self-serving, profit-protecting corporate promotions is likely to be far greater than all the private profits, even all the corporate revenues, and so an important question needs to be asked: who will be required to pay for the damage and when the work to fix it be started?
If Monsanto was asked to pay the costs, they would likely sell the technology to a foreign company, declare bankruptcy, or shut down the corporation and seek other ways to escape liability. They could declare bankruptcy in response the high cost of paying for the damage they have caused. The former Monsanto Company used similar tactics in the past when liability for damage was forced on them by court action and regulatory authorities. Likely, they have a strategy in place now in the event of new trouble they have so far been able to avoid with the help of their collaborators in government and the political power they have been able to establish over the years.
A gross failure of public responsibility has been collaboratively accomplished by Monsanto and other biotech companies with the support and assistance of government officials. Because of that, we believe we are rendering a public service in attempting to bring the issues into federal court. Other nations should not be forced to address and fix the profligacy caused by U.S. corporate and governmental negligence. If justic is important, people as well as corporations and government entities should be prosecuted for their failure to serve the public interest. Their failure has been a crime against humanity as much as any act of war or genocidal atrocity, and these facts will become increasingly clear as time passes. The sooner people start to understand the cost and the price ultimately being paid for the negligence, the sooner the problem can begin to be fixed.
The sooner the problem can be addressed, the lower the total costs will be, and projections of these costs need to be made as soon as possible. The failure to make the projections is another part of the issue needing to be addressed. Even just that failure should be subjected to prosecutorial scrutiny, but that is not likely to happen in a nation where the political power of corporations is tolerated and promoted above the power of the people. The public has been used as the test animals in a massive public experiment to learn the impacts of transgenic agriculture. This is all part of the unconcionable Transgenic Trespass.
Advancing this public process of scrutinizing the failures of the past is one of our objectives. It is part of the work needed to restore international respect for U.S. democracy and Capitalism. We can see how few of the U.S. people understand what is going on. Many have trusted the corporate mainstream media to provide them everything they need to know, but they have been let down. They have been let down by many corporations, and not just the news and media corporations or the biotech corporations like Monsanto. The problem will not be addressed until the people decide to rise up against it.
The healthcare and financial corporations are also part of the problem. Most of the investors now investing in companies like Monsanto are institutional, so that points a finger at the amorality of the financial industry. Corporations have been found to work together to leverage their own advantage at the expense of the people. Accordingly, it is important to find language that does not soft-pedal the issue in making dangerous technologies seem benign. This is all part of the Transgenic Trespass against the public interest, and it needs to be stopped in whatever way is possible.
The Origins of Monsanto’s Transgenic Technology Roundup Ready crops were created when the Roundup-resistant gene was found by Monsanto in a bacterium growing in a waste dump near one of their facilities. The bacteria must have grown there in the presence of Roundup and had developed tolerance for it. In their discovery, Monsanto perceived the opportunity to sell more Roundup by injecting the discovered gene transgenicly into the food supply. They said this would be safe and cause no health issues, but now everyone can know it has not been safe. The foreign evidence is building even though patent ownership has prevented studies from being made in the United States.
No long-term studies have been made or reported in the United States, but there have been enough individual reports from farmers and consumers for those who are paying attention to begin to understand the impacts of the transgenic profligacy. Studies in other nations have added to the available information, but they all need to be duplicated and confirmed by further work in the United States. That work should have been done before any transgenic crops were allowed on the market or given a patent, but the Bush-Quayle administration was in a hurry to deregulate transgenic agriculture and allow it to grow profits. Not surprisingly, some of those profits have been deployed as campaign contributions and similar expenditure to support political objectives. In turn, Monsanto’s political influence has grown because they know how to play the established U.S. political game for their own benefit.
Just because people do not get sick tomorrow morning or tonight does not mean health has not been impaired—and the environment has not been endangered. Getting sick immediately could be better, because that might mean quick recovery with repair also quickly possible. Illnesses resulting from transgenic degradation are not like a headache that can be fixed with an aspirin.
Afflictions that only show up in future generations or upon careful and thorough autopsy are much worse. The transgenic crops are like a Trojan Horse carrying a silent danger not easily perceived or detected that will not begin its most imperiling destruction until generations in the future. When that happens our grandchildren will curse upon our grave sites for our negligence and passivity against the Monsanto threat.
As a result of flagrantly irresponsible government failure and refusal to change existing laws so they can fully regulate and independently investigate transgenic crops, the resulting transgenic food content exists in about 75% of all the processed food found in most grocery stores. This has happened in part because many short-sighted but chemically-dependent farmers liked the cost-saving idea Monsanto wanted to sell them.
The Monsanto system of agriculture lowered cultivation costs, so farmers did not want to examine the long-term danger of the system anymore than Monsanto or the government did. Morally and ethically, the behavior of all of them should have stimulated more responsible public oversight, but that did not happen either. Farmers have been just as trusting as consumers and lawmakers have been.
Now that weeds have become Roundup resistant just as insects have become resistant to Monsanto’s transgenicly insecticidal crops containing the DNA from a bacterial insecticide, some farmers are beginning to take a second look at what they have been doing, but because of their delay, the soil has become degraded as the result of many years of exposure to the Monsanto technology. Glyphosate is a strong chelator that dissipates in the soil by binding to soil minerals, making them unavailable to the crops grown in the soil. As much as 25 years are needed for the Glyphosate to break down in the soil and release the bound up minerals. This is part of the Transgenic Trespass against the environment but only a part of it. The trespass has multiple parts.
Now that Monsanto makes patented crops with multiple transgenic traits all “stacked” together with unknown and unstudied interrelated genetic consequences, and it has made crops resistant to more dangerous herbicides with all the various unstudied synergistic impacts that multiple chemicals may have on human and animal health, the threats of Transgenic Trespass have been compounded. Without credible, long-term, objective, independent studies, the health impacts of the years of transgenicly-interconnected trespassing transgressions cannot be fully and responsibly known, but health professionals have noticed the increase in obesity, allergic response, toxicity impact, and a 40% increase in digestive disorders as well as reduced animal and human fertility.
These things are beginning to get attention but not fast enough. So far, they may only be understood from anecdotal reports by farmers, veterinarians, observant citizens, doctors, and others in a position to see what is going on. Foreign studies help, but they should not take the place of U.S. studies. Failure to do the needed research in the United States is unethical negligence when the products are sold around the world for the benefit of U.S. companies like Monsanto and the U.S. balance of trade.
The Myopic Expediency of “No-Till” Agriculture and the Green Revolution So-called “No-Till” agriculture and the deceptively named Green Revolution have been promoted, at least most recently, based on Roundup Ready transgenic crops. In the United States, many farmers would have gone out of business years without the cost savings they have embraced, but many more were forced to accept the cost-saving technology in order to compete against those who had already embraced it. The policy-driven cost-price squeeze gave Monsanto a market to exploit, and apart from federal policy, that market would have been smaller.
Then over time, the price of transgenic seeds has captured for Monsanto some of the marginal cost saving with the other biotech agribusiness companies following close behind them in employing the same business model Monsanto pioneered. No government agency and very few elected officials have been prominently and vociferously concerned about the agricultural integrity, health safety, and environmental consequences of Monsanto’s agricultural method. That is what happens when profitable expediency is more important than moral integrity, public consequences, or biological respect.
The only public officials who have notably and prominently spoken out are Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) (before he was defeated in 2012 through a state redistricting scheme), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon). Kucinich was intrepid on the issue for years, and that gave Monsanto and others an incentive to try to get him out of office. Sanders and Boxer became active in 2012 in leading on the labeling of transgenic food, and Merkley joined them in 2013 in leading the effort to repeal the so-called Farmer Assurance Provison more widely known by its nickname: the Monsanto Protection Act. Merkley also joined the effort to promote transgenic food labeling.
Most elected officials have shown they would not want to do or say anything that would attract the dissatisfied attention of corporations and their allies, including their trade associations. Members of Congress are commonly intimidated by those with the will and the ability to focus large amounts of money against any office holder (or candidate) who speaks out against their interests.
As if they were corporate shareholders, elected officials have been vastly more concerned to facilitate deregulated profit than they have been about public safety and health. They can get away with this because most urban and suburban consumers have been kept in ignorance about what is going on. In this motivation, the officials are much like shareholders just because they want the campaign contributions the corporate profits can generate. In this respect campaign contributions are similar to dividends.
As long as farmers have willingly paid for Monsanto’s patented transgenic seed and the profits have rolled in, that was good enough. Nothing else has mattered. Health, safety, and environmental wisdom were ignored, marginalized, and swept aside. This is another detail in the story of Transgenic Trespass. Those concerned about the trespass were thrown under the bus for the financial benefit of politicians and the corporations that became their cash cow.
When the retired plant pathologist, Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, warned Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about the dangers of releasing more transgenic crops because of the discovery of a new fertility-impairing pathogen the crops seemed to be enabling, the members of the Congress could have called for public hearings to investigate the issue, but they did not do that. The actively concerned constituency was small enough to ignore, and no one showed concern about the dangerous and costly truth. Like Secretary Vilsack, virtually all were silent—as if that was a wise and necessary idea in serving the public interest.
Informing the public about a serious potential danger that could impact people as well as animals was not important. Maybe the birth control was welcomed, but no matter the reason, this was yet another indication showing just how dysfunctional and amoral the U.S. political system has become in putting the profitability of corporations ahead of the public welfare. The behavior shows, once again, how far the long arm of Transgenic Trespass has reached.
We now know scientists at the FDA had grave reservations about Monsanto’s transgenic crops back in 1992 when Vice President Dan Quayle arbitrarily, prematurely, and myopically declared them “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). The scientists feared allergenicity, toxicity, possible new diseases, and other risks from the release of transgenic crops, but their concerns were overruled by political decision makers interested in capturing campaign contributions, deregulating industries, and maybe creating jobs from the revenue stream. It could be called ideologically dedicated deregulation without regard for the public costs, and it could also be worthy of prosecution if the political system and its associated appointees were interested to preserving public accountability. They do not seem interested.
Responsible wisdom has been overruled out of short-sighted avarice putting the public health and the environment at risk. The charade began under Bush-Quayle and under Reagan-Bush when the decision was first made not to seek a new law to regulate and investigate transgenic agriculture, but the trespass against the public interest has continued since then as if by pro-corporate political habit and the governing inertia of every succeeding U.S. President.
Presidents have also tried to use their influence to promote policy actions in other nations against the public interest of the people of those nations. Both diplomacy and pressure have been used for this purpose, and documents exposed by Wikileaks have clearly established this reality. Nonetheless, the public response in the United States has been: Ho-Hum. That, again, happens because the concerned U.S. constitutuency is small; that is a reality as well as a moral indictment in a nation where most people are not concerned about what other people do with their food. Either that or they willing to blindly trust those who have been responsible to grow and prepare food.
Some believe the promotion of transgenic food has been part of a clandestine campaign to control population, but this theory has not been proved, and without proof, it is only a conspiracy theory—even if it has been widely discussed on the Internet. Such discussion does not result in the assignment of investigative reporters by the mainstream corporate media, even if online media might regularly cover the related issues. The traditional media have mostly all accepted Monsanto’s claim their products are safe, and as a result of this commitment, they are part of the pro-corporate cabal promoting the growth of corporately-derived wealth for the benefit of the small group now referred to as the 1% though they are mostly corporate “people” not biological people.
The Language Used to Speak about Important Issues Is Not a Minor Matter The terms, GM (or GMO) and GE make the process of transgenosis seem normal, unremarkable, and even friendly, and the chosen language promotes that. The risks and dangers are deemphasized and soft-pedaled by use of these terms. That seems to be the way Monsanto intends it. We disagree with this distortion and protest against it. Exploitive language manipulation is no better than the genetic and political manipulations, so we emphasize the alien gene combinations as well as the bought-and-paid-for political alliances permitting continued marketing of transgenic food to the unsuspecting, intentionally uninformed, and non-consenting public.
This is all part of business-as-usual in an amorally corrupted and politically dysfunctional nation. The problems cannot be fixed until the people become aroused about them and demand real change, and not just the deceitful, unfulfilled promise of change too often heard from political candidates before they have showed they will only try to make changes that are easy. They cannot risk their political capital on changes that are difficult, and they actually can only deliver change when they are strongly supported by masses of people and organizations able to sustain public pressure and public education about the issue.
Central to our lawsuit against Monsanto is the desire to end the profligate contamination of organic, biodynamic, and other non-transgenic crops and food products, including meat, eggs, and dairy from livestock fed the transgenic crops. Contaminators of the gene pool should take responsibility for what they do, and we believe that would be required in any honorable nation if the power of money and avarice had not pushed that principle aside.
Right now, farmers are required to take steps to protect their crops against contamination as if the guilt for the contamination should reside with them. They need to spend their own money and use their own land to create buffer zones against contamination, and if they do not do that, Monsanto and others consider them noncompliant in the event contamination occurs. This puts the issue backwards and it is another part of the Transgenic Trespass against the historic, long-standing property rights of people. The result is a shameful, atrocious travesty.
The situation is the same as if people were legally allowed to move into your house and take it over while you were away on vacation or at a baseball game. If they can find transgenic contamination in a farmer’s crop as the result of their investigations, they can then require the payment of royalties under the applicable “strict liability” standard in patent law.
One of our co-plaintiffs has said, “It is the same as if tobacco companies or tobacco users wanted to charge people for breathing secondhand smoke.” Contamination should be understood as a trespassing violation against the basic right to remain uncontaminated by Monsanto’s crops and food products, and it overturns centuries of common and codified law against trespass to make the victim responsible for the crime. It is like blaming the rape victim for the behavior of the rapist. For this reason, the word “trespass” in our name is just as important as the word “transgenic.” They are both important together. All Transgenic Trespass needs to be ended.
We want to take on the job of informing the public about these matters just because those who should be responsible to do that work have not done their job. No policing against transgenic trespass exists, no matter whether it is trespass against people through food or against farmers through contaminating crops. We believe everyone should want protection against transgenic risks and damage if they are concerned about their own health and the health of their future descendants throughout the remainder of human planetary history.
The American Association of Environmental Medicine and Kaiser Permanente have both advised against consuming transgenic food, but most people do not know they are eating it; in fact, most do not know what Monsanto is or what they do. If they know anything, many think it is the chemical company it used to be, and they do not know it is the world’s biggest seed company, now having acquired over 70 other seed companies and having extended its reach further through contracts and cross-licensing.
In India, Monsanto has gained control over the cottonseed market through contracts with 60 Indian seed companies. Many farmers still think the companies are selling different seed, but they actually all sell the same seed under different brand names. Call it a form of subterfuge, and many Indian farmers have been bamboozled by it. When one brand of the seed fails them, they buy another hoping it will make a difference. They do not realize it is the same seed.
We wonder what should be said about the behavior of the United States in the future annals of inter-galactic record keepers if we prove to have been so short-sighted we threw away the gifts we have been given in an expedient exchange for the short-term income of a few corporations, the expedient short-term survival of farmers, and campaign contributions for allied politicians. Instead of recognizing the need to live up to this challenge by pursuing principles of honor and integrity, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stacked an appointed committee, called the AC21 Commission, so they would come up with a favored recommendation at the end of 2012 to create a taxpayer-subsidized insurance program to protect those farmers concerned about transgenic contamination of their crops and animals.
This program would put the responsibility precisely backwards and so odiously the work of the commission and Secretary Vilsack should be condemned in editorial pages everywhere in the nation, but that will not happen because most editors can be counted on to be passive or asleep on this issue. This is another neglected element of the Trangenic Trespass against the public interest. It shows how much the corporate interests and their political allies will exploit and abuse the people when they are not paying attention and how much the media will assist with that objective. The behavior has become routine in the United States, and it turns Transgenic Trespass into a political disease perhaps warranting treatment in the pillory or the stocks.
How Can the People Be Informed on Important Issues If They Rely on the Corporate Media to Inform Them? Not only are the press and the media asleep on this issue, but most of the public is also. Nothing else would be possible when the people rely on the media to keep them informed and trust them to do that job. Worse, under the circumstances, the people have no watchdog with the teeth to address the issue for them. This is an answer to the conversation Benjamin Franklin had outside the Constitutional Convention in 1787 with an unidentified lady. She asked, “What are you doing in there?” and he answered, “We are creating a republic, if you can keep it.” Over 200 years later, the U.S. people are not keeping it.
To fulfill the requirement, the political profligacy and corruption of the system at the expense of the people should be criminally prosecuted, but it is so endemic and epidemic, it slips easily through even in the continuing resolution written to avoid the “fiscal cliff” in March 2013. People have proved so grateful to have the main budget issue addressed for six months they did not worry about the price paid for it through the long-term cost of short-term expediency. That is the persistent habit, and if people are not vigilant to protect their nation and themselves from abuse by the self-interested, maybe they are getting the government their continuing passivity deserves.
As it has been since 1992, Monsanto and its allies count on the public paying no attention, and they have been gratified. The public pays no attention because the mainstream corporate media pay no attention—just as they may have paid little attention to the recent manipulation of elections through supprssed voting, purging of valid voters, vote rigging, negative campaigning aimed to deter voting, and even reported vote counting abuses.
With the public paying limited attention, those in positions of power, like Secretary Vilsack, must think they can load the costs of farmer contamination onto the taxpayers the same way they have so far loaded the caused healthcare costs and the environmental damage of transgenic contamination onto the public both privately through the cost of insurance and healthcare and through taxes. The corporate takeover of the major national media means news coverage needed to keep citizens informed about the issues important to citizenship has been replaced or cut back by entertainment, sports, and other distractions.
This is just one way to promote the corporate interest at the expense of the public interest. The result is uninformed citizens, but few demand and insist on better. Infotainment and entertainment news is tolerated and maybe even favored based on the number of people who watch it, seem to like it, and consider it sufficient.Worse, the politics of the nation have been destructively polarized as part of the way to allow the corporations to divide and conquer. The issues important to the health and functionality of democracy have been ignored. This is not an accident or a happenstance; it has been intended and made to happen by specific, deliberate, desired actions.
The Romans used the Coliseum to distract citizens similarly, but now the Coliseum can be piped straight into everyone’s home, and they will pay for cable television to provide it to them. This is all part of the corporate trespass against the people, but many of them unwittingly or negligently allow themselves to be victimized by the way the system works against their interests. Vigilance is needed to prevent the worst, but instead people collaborate with their own distraction the same as if they had been shot with a tranquilizer dart. In fact, they have been, and it comes in the form of denatured food and even water.
After decades of drinking the urban water supply, a Harvard study allowed people to know for the first time that fluoridated water lowers IQ. The Russians have also let us know the Soviets used it to make people docile and compliant. So much for being able to trust the government to sell fluoride for its dental benefits long before transgenic food needed the public attention it did not get. Trust in government to do the right thing should be dead, but the response to this reality should not be cynicism because that is self-immobilizing. Action is needed not cynical passivity against the public interest as much as the people and corporations causing it.
Because agriculture is at the foundation of all human culture, the importance assigned to the manipulation of the public interest affecting food and agriculture should not be underemphasized, but it has been. The U.S. nation and its culture have been corrupted in the eyes of the world and by any objective standard, and because many in the U.S. think transgenic food is something planned for the future, not something they are being served now, it looks as if docile compliance is celebrated above responsible citizenship. People do not know what they need to know, because they are not accustomed to keeping themselves informed on matters they have trusted others handle for them. Few have been educated, even in college, to do the detailed research they need to do on their own behalf just to prevent others from exploiting their ignorance.
In 2007, when he was running for President in Iowa, Senator Obama said he wanted transgenic food to be labeled, but since then he has been reported to have said privately he sees no evidence of a groundswell of public demand for transgenic labeling. Perhaps, in 2013, he would point to defeat of the labeling initiatives in California and Washington state. For him, it has been convenient to ignore the issue now that he has been elected and reelected; he has joined all the others who are in bed with Monsanto and the biotech industry to partake of the campaign funding it can produce. He seems to feel no more desire to rock the biotech boat than most other members of the political class. Shame on him and shame on all the others who are part of the same pro-biotech political cabal. Better belatedly needs to be demanded.
What they have done is no different from letting people poison themselves unknowingly with dangerous chemicals the same as the bees have been poisoned to the detriment of agriculture and the pollination of food. Despite polling showing 90% or more of the U.S. people wanting transgenic food labeled (when they are not confused by extensive corporate advertising as they were in California and Washington), the U.S. Senate has twice voted by a 3 to 1 margin against it. That should tell us everything we need to know about who is in control of the government on the question at issue. The first vote was in 2012 and the second was in 2013.
Meanwhile, bees are the canaries in the agricultural mine, and political action is required to save them from destruction, but it has not yet been taken by the EPA any more than the health of people and animals has been protected by the USDA and the FDA. The threats against the bees are all part of the perils caused by Transgenic Trespass because Clothianidin insecticide is used to coat transgenic seeds to protect them from pests until they have taken root strongly enough for the internal Bt pesticide to start to work against the targeted pests and beneficial pests, too.
During sprouting and early growth, the seeds are vulnerable, and if they get attacked during that early stage of growth the transgenic Bt toxin in the plants DNA does not do any good. Meanwhile, the Clothianidin dust and residues endure in the environment and can attack the nervous system of bees the same as the targeted insects. Beneficial insects suffer along with the destructive as if that should not matter. Other pollinators, like butterflies are also destroyed by Monsanto’s agricultural system.
As studies report, Clothianidin causes bees to lose their ability to find their way back to the hive, but it is not the only transgenicly-related risk to bees. The Bt toxin in the plants’ pollen can kill bees or impact their health much the same as it kills other insects. The best available information suggests several inter-related impacts including pathogens. Further, the Glyphosate herbicides can have an impact on insect life just as on plant, animal, fish, and human life.
What we think of as a human person is really a scaffolding for bacteria to live on. We are all reported to be about 90% bacteria, and impacts on the gene pool through transgenics can have a diverse range of often unexpected impacts on these bacteria including particularly the gut bacteria that are at the core of the immune system. Glyphosate herbicide like Monsanto’s Roundup attack these bacteria the same as they attack weeds and other plants. Similarly, Monsanto’s Bt toxin injected into plant DNA has been found to damage human and animal cells even though the natural form of bacterial Bt that is allowed judiciously in organic agriculture does not have that impact. All these details are more parts of the Transgenic Trespass, and change is demanded.
Political Trespass Through the Actions of Corporations and their Allies No polling has been found to show the level of influence exercised by the major newspapers through news coverage and editorials in California on Proposition 37, but it certainly added to the power of industry’s ad blitz to have newspapers take the position they did. On Initiative 522 in Washington, the impact would have been similar when major papers took their editorials from the industry talking points, and the coverage of the story in the news pages did not get deeply enough into the issues.
Few would likely be surprised to find out that the lever of advertising revenue was used by the anti-labeling companies to get both the editorials and the news coverage they preferred. For whatever reason, major newspapers in both states partnered effectively with the corporate opposition to labeling. Just like politicians, newspapers have two constituencies, those with the money to enable advertising and the consumers of the message (voters in the case of politicians and buyers of the paper in the case of the publishers). Both often tend to go with the money.
The coverage in major Washington state newspapers was superficial. It did little more than quote sources on both sides. Apparently, reporters did not have either the time or the background to get into primary sources on the safety of transgenic food. Because the pro-labeling campaign focused on the right to know and not the need to know, the health dangers were neglected. That suggested they did not exist.
The campaign goal was to keep the message simple and avoid the more controversial details, but that did not work. In both states slightly higher urban turnout could have made the difference between losing and winning for the labeling effort, but the movement was not quite strong enough to focus sufficiently on the turnout effort. They had to offset the anti-labeling vote from the rural areas, and they could not accomplish that objective. Rural voters mostly went with the only message they were hearing.
The campaign in Washington followed the strategy in California when a change of strategy was needed. To begin with, the campaign focused too much on the urban and suburban counties without finding a way to carry its message to the smaller rural markets. As a result, the financial power of the industry effort determined the outcome.
Similarly, industry lobbying and financial power is likely to be felt in state legislatures maybe only slightly less than it is in the U.S. Congress, and in many states, including California, the agribusiness, biotech, and food industry forces may be stronger than they are at the federal level. This is because food and agriculture is a big industry in California, and pro-corporate, pro-Monsanto organizations like the Farm Bureau are also very strong there. That showed also in the “No” voting on Proposition 37 of the rural counties. In the past, they have prevented transgenic agriculture from being banned in some counties where the proposal was brought to a county vote.
The bans were successful in several California counties, and they remain in place, but no new counties have been added to the list recently. The vote on Proposition 37 could test the likelihood of additional future bans in some places. A “Yes” vote on labeling could be seen as forerunner of a “Yes” vote on banning transgenic agriculture in counties where it has not been banned yet, and the counties where it has been banned already were among the strongest counties for “Yes” on Proposition 37. Nonetheless, voting patterns varied widely even among neighboring counties with a similar voter profile.
A ballot initiative on labeling is being advanced in Oregon for 2014, and the outcome may depend on the strategy used to address the problems seen in California and Washington. Of course, no state would need to get an initiative on the ballot if the matter had been taken up by the legislature, and that has not happened because corporate money speaks louder than the interests of the voters. Voter-driven efforts are necessary wherever possible because industry lobbying and campaign contributions have closed off the opportunity for the public to have their need for labeling addressed by elected governments. This shows the reach of the Transgenic Trespass into functioning of democracy at the state level.
When the Sanders-Boxer amendment on labeling was voted down by a 3-1 margin in the U.S. Senate in 2012 both lobbying and campaign contributions by biotech companies and their trade associations were considered seminal in determining the outcome. This was no different than it has been on many other matters affecting corporate interests over recent decades. That is the way it is when corporations are more powerful politically than the nation’s less organized people. Government of, by, and for the people has been largely replaced by a form of government that is now of, by, and for and for the corporations. The dominance of corporate-style amorality has prevented that from being addressed as it should have been—long ago.
The Supreme Court has facilitated elite corporate empowerment, and that could only have happened if the court wanted it to happen. They have had the opportunity to sustain limitations on the power of money in politics, and they have chosen not to do it.
As Exhibit A to show how the power of Monsanto and the biotech industry operate behind the scenes at the staff level in the Congress, a provision of law was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives during the summer of 2012 that would give Monsanto and other biotech agribusiness corporations the power to introduce their transgenic crops without the courts or state actions being able to stop them even if an inadequacy was found in the approval process. This was known as the Farmer Assurance Provision but it was called the Monsanto Protection Act by critics, and it ended up in law because Senator Roy Blunt worked at the staff level to get it inserted into law without even a commuittee vote.
Because the courts slowed down the approval of transgenic alfalfa and transgenic sugar beets, the biotech industry has sought a way to stop the same thing from occurring in the future on other crops. The initial result was the “Monsanto rider” to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that remained for the new Congress to pick up again along with other spending issues that had not be acted on.
The rider could have been called “Sell-Out the Public Interest and Castrate the Courts Act, but instead it became widely referred to as “The Monsanto Protection Act,” and under that name, it was covered by the Daily Show on Comedy Central. When the provision was surreptiously included in the Continuing Budget Resolution passed by the Congress in March 2013, and the chairman of the Senata Appropriations Committee, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland apologized publicly for allowing it into the bill. Nonetheless, President Obama signed with Continuing Resolution without any signing statement about the Monsanto provision (Section 733). The continuing budget resolution remained in force until September 2013, and effort was made to keep it in place after that, but that was not possible given the amount of public opposition that resulted. Vigilance will be needed to make sure no way is found for the language to raise its head again. In the meantime, Secretary Vilsack would still have the power to override the courts as he did do on transgenic sugar-beets, but he would no longer be required to release a new transgenic crop onto the market regardless of court action against it. If the provisions of the "Monsanto Protection Act" were to withstand a court test they would surely get if they remained in place for long, they would have the constitutional affect of eroding the principle of judicial review that has stood as foundation stone of the U.S. governing system since Marbury v. Madison in 1803.
The provisions of the rider showed the aggressiveness of efforts to allow continued Transgenic Trespass against farmers through their fields and livestock and against consumers through the transgenic food they are fed. That is the reason we highlight the trespass issue equally with the associated judicial and political issues, and the issue of transgenic manipulation of food to increase corporate profits. Those profits enable more campaign contributions and the paying of more lobbyists to further work on the effort to divert agricultural wisdom in the pursuit of profit.
The Long-Standing Legal Tradition Governing Farm Trespass For centuries, both common and codified law has required neighboring farmers to keep contaminating dangers on their own side of the fence. Nobody wanted someone else’s randy mongrel bull jumping the fence to genetically contaminate their pure-bred cows. If that ever happened, the bull’s owner was required to pay for the damage. But now that the bull is owned by a big corporation with money for lawyers, campaign contributions, and lobbying, the rules have been reversed, and justice is the victim, along with wisdom and honorable service to the public interest. Contaminated farmers are required to pay the owner of the Monsanto bull, and if they were to sue for damages, they would end up getting sued for patent infringement as their way to chill damages suits.
Genetic contamination from plants should be treated no differently from any other trespass. The owners of transgenic crop patents should be required to control their patented inventions. If they cannot do that, they should not be given a patent, and they should be prevented from doing what they are now allowed to do through pursuit of patent infringement claims against contaminated farmers with no interest in utilizing their transgenic products.
Both “transgenic” and “trespass” are emphasized in our site name centrally important reasons. We are not just seeking to protect ourselves as farming plaintiffs and appellants; we also want to protect everyone who eats and hopes to stay healthy through consumption of fully healthful and nutritious food.
Also, we want to restore the integrity of the U.S. democratic system so that the corporate elite are not able to work with allied politicians to subverb long-standing legal principles. We hope to help people understand why these matters should be important to them—and especially to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, because available studies from other nations have shown the genetic damage growing worse over subsequent generations. These issues are not spelled out here because they are addressed in other places on this Web site, and particularly in the provided bibliography.
This Web site is provided to help everyone understand why our issues should be as important to them as they are to us. We believe the future of life on the planet is in the balance, and we plan to provide evidence on this issue in the courtroom when we have the opportunity. In a fully attentive nation concerned about its food, we would have had that opportunity by now or we would not have needed it in the first place.
We would not have needed to appeal the dismissal by Judge Buchwald in New York nor the differently reasoned dismissal by the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC. Now, we need to fight for the rights of everyone because so many people have not understood what has been happening to their food, and the courts have helped to keep everyone uninformed by making decisions that favor corporate interests over the people.
Apart from a long-standing disconnection between the people and their food supply and from nutritional diligence, no federal court judge would have been able to do as Judge Buchwald did. That would have been impossible because informed people would not have allowed it. Her action reflected a pro-biotech bias that has taken root in the nation as the result of corporate propaganda, and this suggests the corporate juggernaut has trespassed against the operation of the court system as it has also against the political system. Both have allowed the biotech industry to plow ahead with its transgenic profligacy.
If the decision by Judge Buchwald is part of a wider and more stout barrier erected against the achievement of justice for farmers wanting to grow uncontaminated non-transgenic crops as well as the need of people to know what is in their food and the collective need to pursue agricultural morality and nutritional wisdom, it could mean the persuasive power of corporate amorality has penetrated even the thinking of judges and the standards believed appropriate in the courts. Pro-biotech prejudice, without thorough research, has penetrated into many court decisions and precedents, and that makes their reversal harder. The more bad decisions exist, the more they are a runaway judicial train carrying a form of extinction most people do not yet know enough to fear. This problem needs to be fixed ASAP.
We cannot guarantee our own ability to deliver healthful food to consumers unless we can protect organic, biodynamic, and other non-transgenic food against transgenic contamination and the patent infringement lawsuits possible as a result of that contamination. We have a real dispute with Monsanto on this issue whether or not Judge Buchwald decided we should not be allowed to bring our lawsuit into her courtroom.
Judge Buchwald and the three judges of the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit have all continued a similar kind of injustice and abuse of justice permitted by judges in the past under the Jim Crow laws, except that the health and environmental issues related to transgenic agriculture are far more serious than the civil rights issue of the past. Those were important to the integrity of democracy, but the current issue works to protect the future integrity of life itself. The survival of life on the planet is at issue.
The racial discrimination issues, as important as they were, were not nearly as important as issues related to transgenic contamination of the gene pool and the compromise of the food supply. These issues are much bigger also than any simple need to be protected against crop and farm contamination and the possibility of patent infringement lawsuits after non-transgenic crops have become contaminated by transgenic crops.
Serious unexamined and ignored health and environmental safety issues are at stake. That is an integrity issue bigger than then integrity of “one-man-one-vote” democracy. For this reason, the public needs to begin to understand enough about the issues to know their ox is in the arena with us. Accordingly, we urge study of the issues, because it would not be right for anyone to join with us unless they have taken time to inform themselves fully and decided independently the importance they want to assign to the issues we are raising for their consideration and their personal health and welfare.
The Legal Error in the “Strict Liability” Standard and the Functional Error of “Coexistence” We need to emphasize the dangers resulting from Monsanto’s trespass because patent law currently allows holders of a patent on a transgenic crop to sue a contaminated farmer trying to grow uncontaminated non-transgenic crops for possessing their patented object without having paid a royalty. That threat will continue as long as Monsanto fails to provide a broader and more effective binding covenant than the Appeals Court has provided.
We need to prevent all future lawsuits against farmers growing non-transgenic crops, and if that is not provided by a broader covenant, a Declaratory Judgment is needed to fulfill the need. Beyond that, the other issues we assert against Monsanto on the abuse and misuse of the patent system must be addressed everywhere that is possible but especially in the courts, because the courts are the best place when the rest of the government is dysfunctional.
Until the problems can be fixed, it will not matter how the patented object came to be possessed. It will continue to be illegal to possess and use any patented self-propagating biological item without paying a royalty—no matter how the possession occurred. Monsanto goes after contaminated farmers as part of their need to defend their patents, whether or not justice is served. This may have been an appropriate standard before the days of patented seeds, but it is counter-intuitive, unjust, against the public interest, and thoroughly perverse in the case of uncontrollable, self-replicating biological material. Worse, the use of this “strict liability” principle to intimidate farmers and prevent damage suits over contamination is similar or worse than the use of poll taxes or literacy testing to stop black citizens from voting.
As a corollary, we believe coexistence between transgenic agriculture and non-transgenic agriculture, even if it were wise for the reasons it is promoted and safe in the sense it does not cause long-term harm the the public health and the environment, may be possible only briefly and then only at high risk to the nutritional quality of the food. Inasmuch as no such healthful and wise preconditions exist, the promotion of coexistence represents a failure of prudence both in the short-run and the long-run.
Over the long term and in perpetuity, coexistence between transgenic and non-transgenic agriculture is absolutely not possible for any longer than it will take Monsanto and their pro-biotech allies to get everyone contaminated. As British researcher Arpad Pusztai has stated, transgenic agriculture is a “one-way street” resulting ultimately in the total and continuing corruption of the gene pool. This needs to be established in court, but in the meantime the effort by Secretary Vilsack to create an insurance program subsidized by the taxpayer to give farmers a means of protection is no more than a stalking dog supporting and advancing the continuing health and environmental destruction for the benefit of only the biotech companies and the recipients of their campaign contributions at the expense of everyone else, including the farmers who buy their seeds.
Secretary Vilsack’s behavior and the behavior of his collaborators is an atrocity against the trusting and unaware taxpayers as well as the national interest, and it needs to be exposed. The behavior is no less atrocious because Vilsack is a Democrat than it would be if he were a Republican. The reasons this contention is important will be among the positions to be spelled out in court when the opportunity to bring our lawsuit before the court is won. There can be no let up in the effort to get the issues before the court, especially as long as justice, wisdom, prudence, and morality is impossible on the issue before the Congress and the government’s Executive branch .
Even the farmers growing and using transgenic crops are not benefited for long by Monsanto’s technology—no matter if they think they are. They have been sold a product because it makes farming easier and enables them to compete against others using the technology until the weeds and the insects have adapted and the fertility of their soil has been destroyed. Before long, they will be suffering worse than anyone else, even if the know enough not to eat what they grow, as most of them now do.
The insurance idea as a way to compensate people for contamination damage is a ruse to try to buy off dissent from non-transgenic farmers, so the corporate-sponsored destruction can be continued unabated. The idea assumes the farmers growing non-transgenic crops are only concerned about the cost of the damage and are not concerned about the continued integrity and quality of their agricultural practices in the public interest.
Acceptance of the insurance program as the answer to the need would mean non-transgenic farmers are only in agriculture for the money, and that is not true. Organic, biodynamic, and other non-transgenic agriculture takes work and knowledge; most people would not do that work or gain the needed additional knowledge if they did not believe it valuable and important for the health of everyone and the protection of the planet. This is as big an issue of Transgenic Trespass as any other now being raised.
The Vilsack-AC21 Commission insurance program is an even bigger Transgenic Trespass against consumers and their right to full food integrity than it is a trespass against taxpayers and premium-paying farmers. All the aspects of the issue need to be exposed as well as the people associated with them. The work to pin the tail on the USDA donkey should start right now, and the only dissent against the Vilsack insurance program from a member of the AC21 commission came from the commission member who is the executive director of one of the co-plaintiff organizations in our lawsuit.
At its core, Secretary Vilsack’s insurance initiative imputes corporate-style amorality to everyone in non-transgenic agriculture. Maybe Secretary Vilsack and his carefully selected group of non-dissenting commission members assume all other people think as amorally as they or their organizations may now automatically do. Many of the commission members expressed reservations, but only one dissented from the commission recommendation. Others may have wanted to avoid rocking the USDA’s boat for their own personal reasons. That cannot be known without seeking an interview with each member of the group.
The lone dissenter on the committee was Isaura Andaluz, executive director of our fellow plaintiff organization Cuatro Puertas of New Mexico. We are proud of the courageous stand she took in standing up against a breach of democratic integrity, and we support her for taking it. If amorality flows as easily as it seems to have routinely done amidst the corporately-dominated politics in the United States, that shows how far off the rails our democracy is—with the functional morality of U.S. community process unfortunately too close alongside it.
The behavior by Secretary Vilsack and his stacked commission is negligent, unethical, and worse in its willingness to pass over to taxpayers the costs of their agenda when they should be paid by Monsanto and its customers. There is absolutely no tolerable reason for the taxpayers to be subsidizing Monsanto. Even if no one is ever prosecuted and few even notice what has been done, the importance of the issue is not diminished. Oblivious and willful blindness about the consequences of taken actions only further demonstrates the dysfunctionality of the system.
Disinterest and negligence do not mean public servants should not be prosecuted for their failure to serve the public interest with fully diligent pursuit of knowledge and the commitment needed to render fully honorable public service. Among other details, the language in their oath of office needs to be tightened, so it is at least as strong and clear as the oaths of office used in other nations.
More about this will need to be illuminated as the public discussion about our issues proceeds; it is all part of the total picture needing to be made clear as much as possible for the benefit of the people, the public interest, and the persistence of natural wisdom in protecting the future of all life on the planet. If the political system is broken in its legislative and executive branches because of the myopic power and funding provided by corporations and their share-holding beneficiaries, then perhaps the courtroom is the only place left where principles of justice, legality, and morality might possibly be remembered, depending on the wisdom, integrity, vision, and courage of the judges appointed to the Bench.