Navigation Guide and Introduction
To the Web Site and the Issues
To read the statements from a group of our co-plaintiffs and to see photographs about them, pull down the Co-Plaintiffs menu and click on each co-plaintiff to open their page. To see a full list of all the co-plaintiffs and to access their own Web sites (for all those who have Web sites), click on this Co-Plaintiffs link or click on the Co-Plaintiffs menu button instead of pulling down its drop-down menu as is done to access each plaintiff's statement.
The three primary topic buttons on the menu header (excluding the Blog and the Contact Us buttons) work the same way. All three can be clicked on or if the button is held down, a pull down menu is activated. Centrally important information is accessed by clicking on the menu buttons, and other related information is accessed through the pull-down menus associated with the chosen menu button.
Some of our co-plaintiffs, especially the organizational co-plaintiffs, are doing their own outreach through their own Web sites and their other organizational activities. We need them to do that. We need thousands of Web sites and other venues raising the issues important to us and to everyone—especially when the corporate media have joined with the government and the biotech corporate interests in ignoring, distorting, and impugning the importance of these issues. We need all available avenues to be employed, and we support the work of all co-plaintiff organizations—and all other people and organizations—to increase public interest in the facts needing to be learned and the work needing to be done. This is essential because democracy in the United States cannot survive if it is left to the government, the corporate mainstream media, and the corporate super-citizens that have become more important to the government than the nation's human citizens.
If we do not increase the number of voices and the breadth of the public discussion, we cannot succeed at expanding public concern about the issues centrally important to human health and environmental protection, and we cannot stimulate public action in the face of a recalcitrant, preoccupied, negligent, willfully ill-informed, and dysfunctional government. Because the U.S. government has repeatedly proved to be more attentive to corporate interests than to the public need, democracy has been undermined as much as objective, independent science on the issues related to biotech agriculture.
If this is not changed, citizens may need to fill the streets the same as Egyptians have done to protest against the failures and insufficiencies of their government. Of course, that will not happen if people are too docile, passive, busy, or preoccupied to want to do it. Ultimately, important health and environmental issues associated with transgenic agriculture need the attention of every citizen. Everyone need to know enough to draw their own conclusions about the arguments. That cannot happen as long as most people do not know what Monsanto does.
Many in our group are available to speak about the issues underlying our lawsuit if a speaker is needed to address a group. Please use the Contact Us button to enable us to help you find the speaker you need. You can also contact the Public Patent Foundation or any of our co-plaintiffs directly through their own Web sites, especially if you know who you would like to invite. Members of our group are spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, so there may be people close to your event.
Some in our group regularly travel nationally and even internationally to speak about the issues we are raising. By watching the posted Video and audio recordings, you may be able to identify the speaker you would be most interested in hearing. Some in our group speak on the provided documentary videography, and links to more video and audio recordings are provided on some of the co-plaintiff pages.
Protestors against Monsanto at a rally in Foley Square near the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal District Courthouse in Lower Manhattan on January 31, 2012, the day of the oral arguments before Judge Naomi R. Buchwald. The photograph is a frame from the movie, “What Do You Know About Monsanto,” and clicking on the photograph or on the name of the movie will play it. All the other photographs on this page are frames from the movie, and clicking on any of them will play the movie in a new browser window.
The Need for Court and Public Attention to the Issues Being Raised
So far, 31 co-plaintiffs have provided statements to explain why this lawsuit is important to them and to provide additional information supporting our agricultural and judicial efforts along with photographs showing themselves and what they do. More plaintiff pages can be expected if we gain the right to bring our issues to trial. In the meantime, the group provided is a cross section of the total group, but most important, we hope an understanding of who we are will encourage everyone to investigate the issues we are raising. Given the persistent and continuing threats to the public interest on health, food safety, and environmental protection, we need a day in court on the issues being raised, and we need public help in winning that opportunity. In the end, many people may need to march in the streets to support the fulfillment and recognition of that right, especially when the government and the courts are repeatedly more responsive to corporations than they are to the needs and requirements of the people and the environment we all depend on.
Under the U.S. system of justice, so far over the almost three years since our lawsuit was filed, common sense and study of the basic facts have been ignored and subverted, first imperiously and condescendingly by Judge Buchwald in the Federal District Court of Southern New York and then cleverly and deviously by Judges Dyk, Bryson, and Moore in the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit. Both courts demonstrated abject, obsequious service to Monsanto’s corporate interests, and there is no possible way to see their decisions more admirably or beneficially. We encourage everyone to read their decisions and draw their own personal conclusions about this view. The decisions are here and here.
Investigation of the reality is necessary, even essential when the corporate mainstream media and the government agencies most people rely on to serve their needs have kept them in ignorance on the issues—without regard for the health risks. Tangibly and observably, for many public officials, corporate interests have been proved more important than the public need, and that can be seen in congressional voting, priorities, obfuscation, policies they have enacted or not enacted, and in their statements or reasoning in response to inquiries and interviews. Reprehensibly, the media have supported the continuing abuse seen from many public officials. This shows how broken and dysfunctional the federal government is, and if state governments were much better, they would have taken action of their own or goaded the Congress to action.
In the past, justice for some has been blocked for centuries, but centuries are not available to obtain justice on the issues now needing attention. For that reason, we need to stand up in every way possible to oppose those who have prevented the discussion, debate, and discovery of truth that is essential to cultural and personal survival—and to the respectable admirability of a democratic culture.
One way or another, we will need to succeed faster than other pursuers of justice have in the past—and on every front possible. Already almost three years have been lost over Monsanto’s inexcusable and publicly reprehensible dismissal motion, and all the people of the nation are paying the high price for that. If Monsanto was interested in the welfare of the people, they would have done differently. Through their behavior, they have shown they are only interested in their own agenda. The executives at Monsanto must feel time is on their side in the effort to gain control over food and agriculture in the United States and in many other nations, including particularly South American, Asian and African nations. They have withdrawn from Europe, feeling their efforts there have proved fruitless in the face of public resistance. They have decided to spend their resources elsewhere, maybe particularly against transgenic food labeling in the United States.
Beyond the nearly three years since the filing of our lawsuit, we have also already been delayed for two decades or more, and everything we are doing now should have been addressed before transgenic food was released onto the market. Maybe we should have started our work in 1980 as soon as we could begin to see what was coming, but when the federal government failed to do the needed research, gathering the needed evidence, it had to be assembled from other sources, many of them in other nations. That has taken a large amount of time, and the work remains unfinished. An exorbitant but still untallied public price has been paid for the time it has taken. One part of that price is in the public ignorance promoted by the government in service to the biotech corporate profitability, and another part of that cost is in healthcare expenditures that should have been unneeded and would have been unneeded in a more responsible and honorable nation.
The healthcare expenditures have generated profits that go hand in hand with Monsanto’s profits. This profitability has funded lobbying and campaign contributions to many negligently supportive and even ignorantly obsequious political officeholders. This is all part of the government dysfunction now needing to be terminated in the public interest. It is shameful and inexcusable, and unfortunately, so far, the courts have supported and facilitated it. These are the issues people need to study on their own to decide where the truth lies.
Corporations—particularly Monsanto—and political officeholders have had stake in maintaining the continuing public and official ignorance to serve their own publicly-damaging money flow; without that ignorance, funds would would stop flowing to both the political elites and the biotech corporate elites. That is the reason 60 companies and their trade associations spent $46 million in California during October 2012 to defeat Proposition 37 by a narrow 2.8% margin that might not have been able to survive a recount if the initiated, privately-funded recount would have been able to go forward and had not been blocked by the requirements set in Fresno County by the election administrator.
In 2013, many of the same companies and their trade associations spent similarly in Washington state to defeat a similar ballot initiative. The basic question in both California and Washington state has been: how much money is required to buy voter preference for ignorance. Both states established a case study in what it takes in the United States to confuse voters and buy an election. In the end, a majority of voters were more concerned about the cost of their food than they were about their own health, and that was because they had no access to the information needed to inform them about the health impacts of trannsgenic food. The problem was not an absence of the needed information but lack of time, interest, capacity, or will to find it when others were not helping them. Even the pro-labeling campaign emphasized the right to know more than the need to know. That decision may have been necessary to keep the message simple, but costs went with it.
In response to the confusion being sown through the use of the industry funding, the Organic Consumers Association released a two page flyer addressing “13 Lies from the Opponents of GMO Labeling Laws,” but most people would have been unlikely to see it as much as they saw the flood of television advertising by the anti-labeling forces. They argued in their ads that the average family would annually pay $450 more for food as a result of labeling, and for a majority that claim proved more important than a desire for knowledge about food content.
All the citizens of Washington state would need to do is examine the source of the funding for the campaign conducted against them, but in California many people did not do that either, and it did not help that pro-labeling campaign did not have their advertising on the air during most of October when half of the voters were making up their minds and voting by absentee ballot. For a full review of the Proposition 37 campaign, voting, and vote counting in California in 2012 go to this page.
The flow of money has been more important to both the biotech corporations led by Monsanto and to the politicians in the Congress and the White House than the health of the people and the well-being of the environment. This will be exposed when we get our day in court, but that is a clear reason why many powerful people do not want to permit us that opportunity. They do not want the reality or discussion about it to be exposed. No doubt they have depended on judges to assist them in this stone-walling objective. They and their collaborators would see us as people intent to kill their money tree, and that is more important to them than the welfare of the people and the environment.
Both the corporations and the political establishment have a clear, vested interest in preventing the facts from being illuminated. That could result in an end of the public docility they have depended on and a reassertion of democratic rights. These rights may need to be reasserted before we can get our day in court. Outrage will come with the opportunity to become informed and with the public identification of those who have willfully kept the public in ignorance.
A video survey made in mid-2012 investigating the state of public knowledge about Monsanto showed only about 10% of the surveyed people knew anything about Monsanto’s seed business, even though they are now the world’s largest seed company imposing great health and environmental consequences on the people of many nations but particularly the United States. For more about the people’s level of knowledge and lack of knowledge, see the video: “What Do You Know About Monsanto.” (Again, all of the illustrations on this page of the Web site are screen shots from this movie, and they are all hot linked to the movie, so clicking on them plays the movie.)
A sign held by a participant at a Quaker vigil along Worth Street in front of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in New York City during the oral arguments before Judge Buchwald. Three weeks later on February 24, 2012 the Judge sustained Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of a “meritorious or judicable” argument by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs strongly disagreed and filed an appeal. The appeals briefs and other documents in the lawsuit can be found among the Key Legal Documents. On June 10, 2013, the Federal District Court decision was affirmed by three judges of the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit, but in doing so they asserted a completely different argument and were not as hostile against our lawsuit. At oral argument and in their decision, the judges say a public purpose needing to be served by the lawsuit, but nonetheless, they did not stand up to serve the public need in more than the most minimal way. The issues raised are discussed in more detail in the Court Decision Review.
Finding Needed Information Against the Effort by Monsanto and the Government to Maintain Public Ignorance and to Ignore the Right of Informed Consent
The part of the video “What Do You Know About Monsanto” illuminating the level of public knowledge is in Part II, starting at the 52nd minute. The first part of the film is a discussion about the issues in our lawsuit along with a review of Monsanto’s corporate history presented at a rally on January 31, 2012, the day of the oral arguments before Judge Buchwald on Monsanto’s lawsuit dismissal motion against us.
The presentation about the Monsanto’s history was organized by Occupy Big Food. It tells the story of the original Monsanto company, in business for almost a century before it became part of Pharmacia and then Pfizer, as well as the shorter, decade-old story of the new Monsanto Company spun-off in 2002 to focus on agricultural seeds and the associated chemicals. The movie documents the views of the people attending the rally as well as those of co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association, Alexis Baden-Mayer.
Even though this Web site and the content (apart from the co-plaintiff pages) is the work of one co-plaintiff, a primary purpose of the site is to present the statements and photographs provided by the co-plaintiffs for their own pages. We want people to understand who we are and what our concerns are. The site is the result of polling all of the co-plaintiffs to determine a collective point of view about what was wanted and needed. The Web site name results from a vote on the preferred name from a list of suggested choices. To learn more about why we chose the name and why the name choice is important, see the page: Why End Transgenic Trespass?
We are a large group because we believe it important to show the great range of people, companies, and groups concerned about the issues being raised. Understanding the size of the group needed to confront a company like Monsanto, especially when they are politically allied with the U.S. government, one person said, “You need a thousand plaintiffs in this lawsuit.” He was right, and if we had a thousand, Judge Buchwald and Judges Dyk, Bryson, and Moore of the Appeals Court might have found it harder to do as they have done, but then again, maybe not. Maybe the power of the Monsanto juggernaut with the support of their government allies could not be stopped even by 1000 plaintiffs.
Support from millions of citizens might be needed to do the job. Monsanto states they have 250,000 farmer customers, and all the members of the organizations in our plaintiff group are more than that, but many more are needed to stand up against the corporate-government alliance. In Nazi Germany, the people could not stand up against the power of the government-corporate alliance, and it may not be much different now in the United States when the people feel able to ignore with impunity the pursuit of the truth.
Clearly judges feel powerful when their power is backed up by the power of the rest of the government as well as the biotech and chemical agribusiness industries. There are roughly 1000 companies in the biotech industry, and they have manifested support for Monsanto’s interests through the activities of both their trade association and their astroturf organizations. Both have been active during the fall of 2013 trying to defeat Initiative Proposition I-522 in Washington state.
Adding 17 more plaintiffs to reach 100 plaintiffs might have been helpful and a bit more impressive in reaching a round number, and that was almost possible before the amended complaint was filed in June, 2011. That could have made it possible to represent the majority of the major organizations certifying organic farmers and more of those who are non-transgenic farmers without being either organic or biodynamic.
A lawsuit like ours is highly political, so even a larger group of supporting amicus participants could have made a difference. As it has been so far, our amicus supporters were countered by a brief from the biotech industry trade association BIO, the Biotech Industry Organization, and that highlighted the need to gather greatly more participation on our side of the scale to counterbalance the political weight of a thousand biotech companies.
The scales of justice were not intended to be weighted by political influences and by the weight of those with money over the numbers of those without much money, but that is the way things have worked out within the U.S. political system when the power of money counts for more than the need of the people for truth, wisdom, and justice. The power of money through media advertising, the power of money through campaign contributions, as well as the power of money in waving a big stick at elected officials is part of the reality needing to be confronted and overcome. That is made difficult when courts employ sophistry and pro-corporate prejudice to rule on the side of the money-empowered.
Without having counted closely, we believe the participating organic certification organizations in our co-plaintiff group may represent as many as a quarter or a third of all organic farmers in the United States, and all the co-plaintiff organizations have hundreds of thousands of members and contributors, including both farmers and non-farmers. They represent their farmer members in this lawsuit, but we need the support of many millions more citizens of all kinds. Hundreds of thousands do not provide enough leverage against the power of money-driven politics, and because of that we need not just the passive support of citizens manifested through polling. We need active, informed support from many people who know why the healthfulness of the food supply needs to be protected and why the environment needs to be protected.
We need the support of all people who eat or would prefer to eat organic or other non-transgenic food. Polling in the past has shown this to be about half of the total population, but it includes many who still do not understand enough about the issues we are raising. Our issues need to be widely understood, and the public interest is served by promoting intensified growth in public understanding.
To promote this objective, we provide an extensive bibliography of articles assembled since 2010. Books are not included in this bibliography, but they can be found by searching on pertinent keywords on bookseller sites, at local libraries, or on WorldCat to find a nearby library with the wanted books on the key subjects. Among the authors to look for are: Jeffrey Smith, Arden Anderson, John Robbins, Marie Monique Robin, Vandana Shiva, David C. Korten, Fred Magdoff, Al Krebs, Jim Hightower, Francis Moore Lappé, and Wenonah Hauter among others.
Only articles, video, and Internet references are included in the 2010-2011 Bibliography covering March, 2010 to the Fall of 2011 and the 2012-2013 Bibliography covering the end of 2011 to the present in a more rough, unfinished, and largely chronological form. The bibliography is designed so everything can be accessed quickly and so a short summary of the articles can be obtained from the annotation. Keyword searching can be helpful in finding particular sub-topics or particular authors.
Vandana Shiva of Co-Plaintiff Navdanya International speaking at the University of Virginia in March 2012. During her talk, she mentioned Arpad Pusztai and others who lost their jobs or had been silenced in other ways because of research reporting findings opposing Monsanto’s interests.
Struggling to Get Law and Policy Right When the Government is Dedicated to Getting It Wrong
Under established law, consumers cannot participate in a patent lawsuit like ours, so we need to represent their interests as part of our own. Past polling has shown about half of the U.S. people would prefer organic food if they could “find it and afford it,” and a larger number wants to eat non-transgenic food if they could identify it. This is the expressed hope, but the reality is: even those who buy organic food often do not eat it exclusively. If they eat out in restaurants, they usually have a hard time finding it or they cannot know what corners may have been cut as part of the process of getting it to the table. They cannot know how it may have been contaminated. Virtually no restaurant explains everything they do as part of the preparation process. They do not explain what water was used or what kinds of oil—on what meat animals were fed.
If people eat Monsanto’s products, two things happen to impair the value of organic food if organic ingredients would be included in the meal. First, intestinal bacteria can be corrupted, so they do not work properly to make use of good nutrition, and second, the Glyphosate residues from the Roundup Herbicide kill the good bacteria because it is an antibiotic and patented by Monsanto in 2010 for that purpose. In tiny quantities, Glyphosate can be damaging to the bacteria people need to be healthy and functional, and the Glyphosate favors the corrupted Roundup-Ready intestinal bacteria. If some eaten food contains Bt transgenes from Monsanto’s corn and cottonseed, that adds to the trouble.
The Bt transgenes are damaging in multiple ways of their own, and yet, they have been promoted as if they should be seen as beneficial. Instead, they are beneficial only for short-sighted farmers putting their own economic survival ahead of the nutritional and healthful quality of the food they grow. Just as Monsanto has put its own profit ahead of food safety and quality, so have their farming customers. Maybe in the past, farmers did not know the truth about this, but polling now shows they do know the facts. Otherwise, they would be willing to eat the transgenic food they grow, but polling has shown most of them are not willing to eat it. They permit others to eat it but they reject it for themselves, and that is a serious moral issue.
Diligent effort is needed to eat only organic food and avoid all transgenic content, and the latter is especially hard without the benefit of transgenic food labeling. The easiest way might be to move to another country where transgenic food is labeled and the culture is more conscientious about the food provided to people. Further—and despite an organic standard that is zero tolerant of transgenic content when it has been identified, transgenic contamination still can get into organic food without being discovered. That happens because no one is required to discover or test for it. Only the most conscientious do the testing to try to make sure no transgenic content is in the food they sell.
The organic standard is “zero tolerant” of transgenic contamination but only when its presence is known and not when its presence is unknown. This makes the standard essentially fraudulent, and yet it is the best that is available unless people want to try to find biodynamic food, which is even harder to find. In any case, the organic marketplace totals only about five percent of the total U.S. food sales, and even though it has been growing rapidly, it is only about half as big as the market segment composed of those who buy “all natural” food. The trouble is: “all natural” is an undefined term with no clear meaning. For example, no one requires the term to exclude transgenic ingredients, even though they cannot be considered natural by any common sense standard. In addition, many things are natural that are also poisonous.
Many “all natural” foods have been found to be contaminated with transgenic content, some them substantially and egregiously, and there is no legal requirement preventing inclusion of transgenic content and also other ingredients many would consider unnatural. For example, what difference does it make if an “all natural” food is packaged in a container made with BPA (bisphenol A) and creating associated health risk. “All natural” is meaningless marketing terminology that may be defined by different processors and food manufacturers in any way they choose, and because the terminology and standards are as corrupted as the food using the term, no one should be surprised about the amount of chronic disease and other health afflictions caused or facilitated as a result. That is virtually inevitable given the broad failure of food integrity.
Even at Whole Foods, the nation’s first and only certified organic grocery chain, a house-branded “natural” cereal was found by the Cornucopia Institute to contain as much transgenic content as non-transgenic content. After the finding was reported, Whole Foods reformulated the product and made it organic, but what would have happen if the discovery had not been made—and what about other corner-cutting foods.
Whole Foods also boasts about 3300 products carrying the Non-GMO Project label, but even that food may have as much as .9% transgenic contamination (just less than one percent), and if that were not allowed under the standard, food processors would find it difficult to participate in the program. They can mix batches to get the contamination below that level, but they would not easily be able to avoid all contamination. That has been made clear from company statements, but no one has made the studies to know what amount is safe.
Polling and market growth for non-transgenic food products shows the size of the group with an active, immediate reason to be the concerned about the issues raised by our lawsuit. This group of active opponents against the Monsanto agenda may be seen as a threat by the biotech industry and its political allies, and if so, Monsanto could want to increase the speed and reach of their crop contamination in every way available to them. That can be seen as their way to overcome opposition to their technology. If all food is contaminated, everyone will have to put up with it because no other choices are available. Nothing else will any longer be available, especially if Monsanto owns all seed companies.
So far, Monsanto has achieved unrestrained government assistance in the pursuit of this agricultural-dominating and food-contaminating goal without even a whimper from the Justice Department following their anti-trust investigation. The government has promoted coexistence between transgenic and non-transgenic food as if it would be possible or wise, and they have helped Monsanto expand the contamination project by allowing transgenic crops to be planted in wildlife refuges where the environment and wildlife will be contaminated and unhealthfully impacted. The government helps get wild game contaminated as much as domestic meat animals. Most animals have been found to prefer non-transgenic feed if they have a choice, but if they do not have a choice, they eat whatever is available. Wild game would probably need to do the same thing if the only feed available in their area is transgenic.
Secretary Vilsack has said he thinks of transgenic agriculture and organic agriculture as if they were his two children. He says he wants the best for both of them, and his best effort at accomplishing that has been a proposed taxpayer-subsidized insurance program to protect farmers growing non-transgenic crops. Apart from this perverse, objectionable, and shamefully unworthy idea, all of the benefits of Monsanto’s system of agriculture have flowed in the other direction, and they still will under the insurance program because farmers will be required to pay premiums to the insurance companies and taxpayers will pay the difference between the paid premium revenues and the full cost of the program. The premiums will not be enough to cover the costs of the coverage, so taxpayers will be required to pay the balance—as if subsidizing Monsanto’s profit flow (and that of the other biotech agribusiness companies) should be a just and desirable project for the government to promote. This no more than a way to shift liability from Monsanto to the taxpayers and to the farmers growing non-transgenic crops. In that, it is a wealth transfer scam the same as other crop insurance offered because policy has been managed to keep the price of food low.
If Secretary Vilsack and his political allies were fair-minded, they would require the polluter and transgenic trespasser to pay for the contamination they have caused, but instead, they want to require those who fear contamination to buy insurance. This is a backwards and corrupt way to protect against crop damage, and it is also a way to facilitate continued contamination of the food and feed supply. It is corrupt not only in getting the morality exactly backward but in also promoting continued contamination without restraint, despite the health and environmental costs. The program directly helps continue Monsanto spreading willful contamination of the gene pool, the environment, and the food with a taxpayer subsidy to help with this perverse project. This is what the U.S. government has come to.
Instead of doing as should be done in an honest, honorable, and moral nation, Secretary Vilsack and his allies want to put the burden on those who have been polluted by Monsanto destructive activities. Both the farmers growing non-transgenic crops and the taxpaying consumer are abused by the Vilsack scheme, and President Obama needs to be seen just as guilty as Secretary Vilsack. The abuses of previous Presidential administrations have been relatively benign by comparison. At least they had a bigger excuse for their ignorance, but the more the truth is known, the more ignorance about it in the government is reprehensibly willful. Vilsack has allowed one of his “children” to be a pathological exploiter of even their own customers while the other is impaired or maybe even destroyed economically and nutritionally as the result of pusillanimous, dishonorable, and even reprehensibly hostile tolerance of Monsanto’s agenda. The net result is a USDA program to promote evermore ill health for people and livestock in the United States and in many other nations where Monsanto’s products are grown or sold.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department anti-trust investigation of Monsanto ended quietly without even a public explanation clarifying the reason for taking no action. Following the words of Henry Kissinger who said, “if you control food, you control the people,” the Monsanto objective can only be: to use their asserted patent rights to increase control over farmers, consumers, and the food marketplace. Demonstrably, the U.S. government does not want to stop that project; officials have been a partner in helping to advance it—for their own advantage.
Many political officials have been and continue to be dedicated to helping Monsanto advance its controlling objective, and they have received political contributions in exchange for their assistance. The crops released by the Obama-Biden administration have helped move the goal forward as much or more than the exploitively devious and amoral behavior of previous administrations, particularly Reagan-Bush and Bush-Quayle, the original deregulators allowing transgenic crops to go forward without any restraint or objective examination. Nonetheless, the transgenic crops released by the Obama-Biden administration, so far, especially alfalfa, pose a more dangerous contamination risk than the annual crops released previously (corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, and canola). Part of the problem now is the advancement of crops tolerant of more dangerous herbicides. These new transgenic crops have been developed because weeds have become resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, so the companies want to provide seed tolerant of the more poisonous herbicides, including 2,4-D, and ingredient in Agent Orange.
Among the most recently released crops are: sugar beets (which can and will contaminate chard, table beets and other crops in the same family, especially when much of the seed growing is done in close proximity in the Willamette Valley of Oregon), the above mentioned alfalfa (which is the nation’s fourth largest crop by acreage cultivated), and Kentucky bluegrass, a major pasture forage. Both forage crops will increase the meat-animal contamination, and beyond that is an enzyme “enriched” self-digesting corn designed to facilitate alcohol fuel production. From all, the contamination is both transgenic and herbicidal, and the worst of the transgenic contamination might prove to be the pesticidal.
Not all the new transgenic crops are Monsanto products, but Monsanto profits from them through the licensing of their technology and cross licensing with other biotech agribusiness companies. The self-digesting corn poses a cross-pollination risk to other corn, including other transgenic corn, and they can all cross-contaminate corn-related forage. The more food is contaminated by Monsanto’s patented transgenes and the transgenes of other biotech companies, the more they can pursue control over food and farmers through assertion of their patent rights. In addition, a version of transgenic sweet corn is being sold for human consumption. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network has found it being sold in stores and at farmer’s markets in both the United States and Canada.
Out of shared concern for these issues, Alexis Baden-Mayer, the political director of the Organic Consumers Association appears in three of the provided videos to help explain the centrally important issues. These are on the Longer Videos page.
Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, speaking about the dangers of transgenic food in the film “What Do You Krow About Monsanto.” She was interviewed for the film in the garden outside the Florida Avenue Friends Meeting House in Washington, DC on a day when a forum was conducted on government complicity in failing to protect the public interest in safe food.
The Challenge and Effort of Confronting Allied Corporate and Government Power
Included in our group of co-plaintiffs are not just organic farmers, although they have been emphasized because our lead plaintiff is the prominent defender of the organic ideal and the seed growers involved with it. The choice of a lead plaintiff with “Organic” as the first word in their name may make some think no others are involved, but our group includes biodynamic and other non-transgenic farmers and also seed companies selling heirloom and other conventionally non-transgenic seeds.
All of the co-plaintiffs are concerned about the destruction caused by Monsanto’s agricultural system for the future safety and nutritional quality of food and for the future of life on the planet. In the face of the threats now existing and growing, the biodynamic standard is a more rigorous standard than the organic standard, and that is the reason fewer farmers pursue it. It is a bigger challenge, and it is more costly in time and money. For example, it requires testing to provide assurance that no transgenic content exists in a biodynamic product. The organic standard does not require that even though it is zero tolerant of transgenic content the producer is aware of; the trouble is: organic producers are not required to know about any contamination that may exist. Under the organic standard, best efforts are good enough, and if testing was more rigorously required, the costs of the food would rise. Even though Monsanto should be required to pay for the testing and for the damage, that cannot happen as long as Monsanto can sue any contaminated farmer for patent infringement. That prevents farmers from reporting of the contamination. They move it anonymously the best they can and try to remain under the radar of Monsanto’s “security consultants.”
Monsanto has caused the contamination problem, so they should pay for fixing it. A lesser standard than the organic standard is now being promoted because it is more liberal. It is called “Certified Naturally Grown,” but it is so much less rigorous it is no more clear or reliable than the words “all natural” on a food product label. Given the dangers now existing, we need more rigorous standards than those now commonly used. Less rigorous standards are not enough to provide the protection needed. This is especially important given the negligence of the government, including too often state governments as well as the federal government. Protecting the public welfare from the dangers of transgenic contamination is difficult, so it has been allowed to slip—and especially so when politicians have financial stake in doing that.
These are the issues at the heart of our controversy with Monsanto. They pose a continuing threat against our ability to raise the safe, healthful, and nutritious food we view as essential to life. We are not just defending ourselves against abusive, self-aggrandizing, irresponsible, and profligate behavior by a wealthy and amoral corporation supported by a similarly amoral and negligent political culture. Our goal from the outset has been to serve the public interest by bringing forward our court complaint, and we are grateful to everyone helping us to do that.
We aim to serve the public in the agricultural work we do and have long been dedicated to doing that, so the protection of our ability to do it though our lawsuit is an extension of the service we want to render, have rendered, and believe in rendering. We are addressing the ills of an amoral political and commercial culture where some are so arrogant they believe they are smarter than God and others have been co-opted through the power of campaign funding and extensive, relentless lobbying. Both have been helped by a collaborative judicial culture.
In this environment where corporations and the corporately empowered are the political super-citizens with power over non-corporate “people,” only the voters are left without lobbyists to protect their interests, and because of that, democracy has been undermined and trashed, now also with the help of two court decisions. Many examples of irresponsible, amoral behavior by both Monsanto and public officials can be cited, and in the pages of this Web site, especially on the annotated bibliography pages, they are. Many more need to be called out explicitly and directly prior to every upcoming Election Day. Changes need to be made on Election Day as part of the needed political house-cleaning. The work needed to make transgenic, chemically-impaired food a major political issue has not been done, and it needs to be done ASAP.
The political officials with a concern about the dangers of transgenic food are a small group. They include: Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Barbara Boxer of California, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and they used to include Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio before he was defeated in 2012. Without doubt, the focus of Congressman Kucinich on this issue was a factor in redesigning his district, so he would not be able to win it anymore. The congresswoman who replaced him in the new gerrymandered district, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, has showed herself willing to work with Monsanto and introduce legislation on their behalf. She has played along with Monsanto the same as Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. State governors in states with a major concern over transgenic food have shown themselves to be weak when asked to take a stance on the transgenic food issues. They have shown fear in the face of Monsanto’s organized political power and the power of their allies, like the Farm Bureau. This was seen in both Vermont and Connecticut when transgenic food labeling bills were first introduced.
Very little of the needed change has been seen yet, though Connecticut and Maine have made a start on transgenic food labeling by enacting bills of their own. On May 23, 2013, the U.S. Senate voted on a Sanders (I-VT) amendment to the Farm Bill allowing states to require the labeling of transgenic food. This was an important measure to prevent corporate lawsuits against states for passing labeling bills to protect their own citizens. These lawsuits are costly to the states, and they could be like the lawsuit on bovine growth hormone (rBGH) all over again. Vermont is fearful about that. In that decision by the Circuit Court, Vermont was denied the right to have milk labeled if it was produced using rBGH. That was found to be a violation of Monsanto’s commercial speech rights, and Vermont was required to pay Monsanto’s court costs.
If the rendered decisions on labeling showed judicial reasoning like the reasoning in the rBGH case, the judge or judges would protect corporations at the expense of the people just like the two decisions have done so far in our lawsuit. Only 27 Senators voted for the Sanders proposal (with 71 voting Nay). The Yea votes included 24 Democrats, two Independents (Sanders and King of Maine), and one Republican (Murkowski of Alaska. Great concern exists in Alaska over the possibility transgenic salmon could escape into the ocean).
Most Republicans might be expected to vote pro-Monsanto because they are the more pro-corporate party, and maybe some Democrats from heavily Republican, pro-corporate, pro-agribusiness states can be understood if they voted Nay, but that leaves many others, including those from a purple state like Virginia. Their Nay votes must be seen as either pro-corporate pandering, bidding for campaign contributions, fear of the Farm Bureau in a heavily agricultural state, or as votes against the democratic right of states to protect their own citizens as they see fit. Some have said they voted “No” because they believe transgenic food labeling should be a federal prerogative, but that argument is empty as long as the federal government is not going to do anything because of the political power of Monsanto and the other biotech corporations. The argument is no more than an excuse for doing nothing or a ruse designed to cover a pro-Monsanto vote.
All but three of the Democratic Nay voters would have been needed to pass the Sanders amendment on a strict party line vote with the help of only the one Republican (from Alaska) and the two Independents. Those Nay-voting Democrats were: Baldwin, Baucus, Brown, Carper, Casey, Coons, Cowan, Donnelly, Durbin, Franken, Gillebrand, Hagen, Harkin, Heitkamp, Johnson, Kaine, Klobuchar, Landrieu, Levin, McCaskill, Menendez, Nelson, Pryor, Shaheen, Stabenow, Udall, Warner, and Warren. Many of these votes could be credited to Farm Bureau lobbying or the asserted strength of the Farm Bureau in the states where the senators come from, but other lobbyists would have been active as well.
The most powerful lobbying groups probably were the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the other food trade associations like the Snack Foods Association. The Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Council for Biotechnology Information have been active. The list of 61 companies contributing to the fight against transgenic food labeling in California during 2012 and the similar group funding the opposition to labeling in Washington state during the 2013 election season would likely have been the same group lobbying against the Sanders Amendment and other similar bills to promote federal labeling. Monsanto may be the most active and powerful company among the opponents of labeling based on the amounts of money they have spent, but they do have allies, and even if they are only a small group of companies, they have dominating amounts of money. Without doubt, they found consultants with the knowledge of the amount of money needed to defeat the two initiatives, and then with that knowledge as the budget, they would have figure out how to raise from the interested companies.
The U.S. Senate votes show the political work needing to be done by the pro-labeling forces in 22 states: Wisconsin, Montana, Ohio, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey (Lautenberg was not voting because of illness), Florida, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Colorado. Political passivity on the issue of labeling is still too strong in too many places, and activism is needed before Nay votes can be changed into Yea votes.
When politicians think most people do not care or are passive, they go with the people they have heard from and those they think have either the most votes or the most money to contribute to the funding of their electoral campaigns. The votes shown against the Sanders bill would represent the power of not only Monsanto and their agribusiness and biotech allies (The Farm Bureau is more an agribusiness corporation and an insurance company than they are a farm organization.), but also support from farming allies in heartland states. That could prevent the issue from getting bipartisan support as labeling did in Connecticut and Maine. In Maine, support from the Tea Party played a significant role. The Tea Party element of the Republican party worked in collaboration with liberal Democrats. That might not happen as easily in other states.
Change may not happen on the issues we are raising until activist political movements are built in many states like those seen during 2013 in Connecticut and Maine. Pro-biotech adversaries are powerful in many states, but the strength is based more on money than on constituencies, and their power must be confronted by people taking action. The trouble is: when people eat a diet of transgenic food or transgenicly fed meat, poultry, and dairy food, they may be less nourished and thus less motivated in taking action on anything. Studies have shown that the health of the intestinal bacteria has impact on mental processes, and one of the symptoms associated by doctors with patients eating transgenic food is “brain fog.” If one corporate goal is: keeping the public passive, they could want to promote more brain fog and other afflictions helping to keep voters passive, docile, and disinterested in political policy affecting their own welfare. No charges are leveled about this, but the logic is noted.
Votes change when political constituencies become large and visible—and people are paying attention, but Monsanto and its allies have an interest in preventing them from becoming large and visible. That’s the challenge now facing the nation as it tries to maintain a democracy against the domination and manipulation of political processes by corporations. The 27 Yea votes in the Senate made a start, but twice as many are needed, and if the votes to reach a majority were found, a Republican filibuster might follow. Overcoming that would need 60 votes and thus some Republican support, and it could be harder after the 2014 election, given the usual highly Republican turnout for off-year elections when no Presidential candidate is at the top of the ticket. Polling has shown 89% of Republicans want transgenic food labeling, but this has had less impact on Republican politicians than the 93% of Democrats who want to know the content of their food. Polling has had extremely limited ability to stand up against corporate power because the politicians know the pro-labeling opinion is not active or organized.
The equivalence of a filibuster in the House of Representatives is the unwillingness of the Speaker to bring anything up for a vote unless it can be passed with entirely Republican votes. He has shown he does not want to allow anything onto the floor if a bipartisan vote is needed to pass it. This is called the Hastert Rule, but the Obama White House has not been any better than Speaker Boehner on the issues related to transgenic food and agriculture. Corporate support in the White House has been as strong as it is in the Republican-controlled House. President Obama said he supported transgenic food labeling when he was campaigning in Iowa in 2007, but he has not delivered on his stated promise of support. He has stonewalled tens of thousands of names on White House issue petitions and over a million more petition signatures sent to the FDA. He has reneged on the White House commitment to address the issue when a threshold number of signers submit a petition.
Originally, the threshold on the White House “We the People” Web page was 25,000 signatures, but then they changed the threshold to 100,000 signatures, and they required all the signatures to be gathered in 30 days. That eliminated the effect of all the signatures previously gathered, and it suggested the goal posts could be moved again. On the White House Web site, the rules stated in their FAQ say:
“Yes, the threshold will change. This is the first time the White House has attempted a project like this. As more people use this tool to tell the White House about the issues that matter to them, we may find that we need to adjust the signature thresholds for petitions to appear publicly on the site or for petitions to receive a response from the White House. New signature thresholds will only be applied to petitions created after the changes are made.”
The last statement sounds reasonable enough, but it has not been applied to the petition on transgenic food labeling. That shows the willingness to stonewall any issue they do not want to address, and in turn citizen interest in making use of the White House Web site is chilled. Further, the change in the rules favors the most organized with the largest constituencies. Because of that, the “We the People” page on the White House Web site should be changed to: “We the Already Empowered and Most Well Established Constituencies—Small Minorities Need Not Apply, Regardless the Merits of Their Ideas.” The program reinforces a democratic model that favors large constituencies and majority interests and marginalizes minorities. The smaller the minority, the more they remain powerless under the operating rules of the project.
Maybe the President feels his hands are tied by corporate power on transgenic food labeling in much the same way they were tied on the kind of healthcare program he could advocate. The Obamacare program was required to obtain the needed congressional votes and the same would be true on transgenic food labeling. No matter what he thinks personally, President Obama does not want to expend personal political capital on a matter he cannot win. He made an effort on gun legislation, and he was stalled by the power of the industry lobby. The National Rifle Association is a lobby much like the Farm Bureau. It signs up members to give leverage to its positions, but the industry controls the message and the allocation of both lobbying time and funding. It also controls the allocation of supportive campaign funding.
Maybe President Obama is personally pro-Monsanto and his promise in Iowa in 2007 was only empty political pandering to a liberal Democratic constituency because of the then upcoming Iowa caucuses. His appointees and policy decisions suggest he is a strong, personal supporter of biotech agriculture, and that undermines the credibility of the position taken when he was talking to Iowa caucus voters in 2007. The statement in 2007 is the only pro-labeling statement made, and all other subsequent behavior has pointed the other direction
Similarly, members of the U.S. Senate with a reputation for promoting needed change turned out to have voted for the corporate interests on transgenic food labeling. Constituents in their states need to ask them why they voted as the did. When the question was raised with Senator Kaine in Virginia by Michael Clark of “Meet the Farmer TV,” Kaine said he wanted to protect the federal prerogative because he did not want to see fifty separate state policies. The trouble is: the federal government has not acted, so the states need to act on their own if they want to move the issue forward. The people know they will have no leverage on the issue before the federal government, so they have focused on the states. In California and Washington state, they have shown they have almost a majority despite the power of industry advertising and the likely industry ability to influence the editorial policy of major corporate, mainstream newspapers through the power of advertising expenditures.
State actions reflect citizens who do not want to wait any longer for the federal government to do its job on a matter polling has demanded be done, so those who argue as Senator Kaine did are tacitly serving the corporate interest, not the public interest. They need to be called out for that and asked why they are not providing federal leadership. At best, Senator Kaine can only be seen as standing on a principle that effectively votes against ever achieving transgenic food labeling. Under the current political realities, federal action will only be taken after action in the states finally forces it, and that will not likely happen until more than half the states pass labeling laws though passage in the states with well more than half of the national voter population might be enough. This would focus the campaign on the major battleground states
Meanwhile, nothing prevents the states from harmonizing the provisions of the bills they are passing, and they have been doing that. Not only that, but the federal government could step in anytime it wanted to provide leadership in harmonizing the provisions in the public interest. Smoke blown by Senators on this issue is neither helpful in the public interest nor honorable as a matter of basic public integrity.
This is not a minor issue, because a rising groundswell on food labeling is needed to stimulate change in public perspective on the more troubling and less understood health and environmental issues being raised by our lawsuit. Even if we win the opportunity to bring our issues before the court, we will not be able to overcome the power of the opposition and their allies unless we have millions of people behind us, and that will not happen until more people understand the issues and have reached their own conclusions about them. At the outset, transgenic food labeling is a common sense issue, but that does not drive people to organize others to actively demand it. Before that can happen, people need to understand why the issue should be important to them. The right to know only gets the campaign a limited distance as long as many people do not yet understand why they should need to know about the transgenic content in their food.
Initially, labeling has been only about the right to know about man-made, genetically-manipulated content in food. That has been driven by an uniformed fear suggesting the possibility of health issues resulting from eating transgenic food, but this fear is not enough as long as the industry is continuously using its megaphone to suggest the food is safe and no reason exists to fear it. When the health and environmental issues are not addressed by the pro-labeling forces, the forum on the issue is left to the industry campaign, and when they can argue without response that transgenic food is safe, they are then free to worry people about the price increases they project as the result of labeling.
Understanding the dangers is not as easy as making a common sense decision about the right to know, and addressing the “need to know” part of the messaging has been complicating for an already weakly funded campaign. As a result, the health issues have been neglected. Investigation of the health issues is more complex and time-consuming than deciding about the right to know—or even about the right of informed consent concerning the food being eaten, but experience in two states shows that more is needed before victory in the labeling campaign can be assured. Nearly $20 million has been spent to promote labeling in California and Washington by many people who do not have as much money as the industry opposition has. They spent nearly $70 million. Defeat is demoralizing even when it was very close, and maybe it is demoralizing especially because the defeat was so close (2.8% and 2.18%). Now, people will be asked to dig deep again to keep the campaign moving ahead in more places, and they will do that despite the industry effort to increase the demoralization. People will fund the labeling effort because more and more people are learning the reasons why it is important to themselves, their families, and to everyone else.
Marty Mesh, Executive Director of Co-Plaintiff Florida Organic Growers speaking on the film, “What Do You Know About Monsanto” about the endangering amorality of a system allowing Monsanto to damage farmers, consumers, and the environment while using their adhesion contracts to transfer all liability to their customers without accepting any responsibility for the destruction they cause. Monsanto claims there is no evidence showing transgenic food is unsafe, but to the extent that is true, it is because they use their patent power and their political power to prevent the studies from being made and the evidence from being gathered. A responsible government would be gathering the needed information on behalf of the people, but the U.S. government serves corporate needs ahead of the needs of the people. That has been seen often in relation to transgenic food and agriculture, and it is part of the way the pro-corporate U.S. political system works to discredit itself in the eyes of the people in many other nations.
Overcoming the Power of the Courts as Partisan Defenders of the Corporately-Dominated Political Establishment
With judicial facilitation, high level effort is likely being made to prevent us from getting our day in court. Prominent people would want the public to remain ignorant about the issues we are raising. That would be one reason for introducing a dismissal motion instead of welcoming the chance to find the truth and help everyone be clear about it. Controlling, self-interested, autocratic totalitarians organize their forces to accomplish their agenda by preventing constructive opportunities serving the interests of the larger community, and in this case, their supporters do not need to be corrupted to render assistance; they do it naturally because they agree with the controlling pro-corporate, pro-biotech ideology. That would be the reason why the Bush-Quayle administration and the Reagan-Bush administration wanted to help promote deregulation and resist regulation in favor of Monsanto’s ability to increase shareholder wealth and political funding without any prudence.
For Monsanto and its allies, the goal of building more wealth for the already wealthy and working the political system for their own benefit has been more important than ensuring the health and welfare of the citizens. Both resulting policy and corporate political priority demonstrate this reality. Producing income for the biotech enterprise has been important as the way to grow more political contributions for the facilitators of the project. For a reason, advantage goes to collaborators with money and the power to produce more money without regard for public costs.
Maybe some among Monsanto’s advocates and supporters would like to reduce the total number of participating citizens in the United States and elsewhere, especially if most of them are Democrats they view as being a drain on the economy. Many will recall when Governor Romney stated his view about a large group of Democratic voters at one of his campaign fund-raisers in 2012. If people view many people as voting only to get a handout for themselves, they would be likely to want to find a way to eliminate, marginalize, or keep ignorant that group of people.
The same people would want to build wealth for themselves while preventing those they oppose from growing more wealth. That would be the logical result with people who view money as power and the absence of money as weakness. The same people are less likely to care what they do to get money. Likely, they would not care about the numbers of people they abuse in the process. These attitudes cannot help to build a functional democracy; they destroy it, but those supporting Monsanto may not care about that either. They are about the objective of advancing their own interests; they are not interested in building a culture able to serve the needs of everyone. If the people behind Monsanto wanted to serve the public need, they would have been more diligent in scrutinizing the destruction caused. They are more dedicated to advancing their own interests ahead of the interests of other people, and it shows both in what they do and the way they have done it.
Even news coverage about the arguments we are making could help us publicize the issues for the benefit of the people, and those wanting to prevent that seem to be working overtime to try to get us to crawl back under the porch like beaten dogs. They would be using their influence to prevent news coverage about our arguments. That seemed to be the objective seen in the language used against us by Judge Buchwald, and Monsanto has shown a similar attitude when they want to prevent anyone from seeking the truth about transgenic food and agriculture.
When Judge Buchwald’s judicial tactics did not succeed in administering against us a harshly directive, tutorial, condescending message, the judges of the Appeals Court in Washington might have tried to persuade us with something more clever. Maybe they hoped their decision would not be understood. If so, that would have been no less manipulative, disrespectful, and dishonorable in the face of the public need than the decision by Judge Buchwald. Under the exhibited tactics, they were no less neglectful or marginalizing of basic human and constitutional rights, but that is what empowered people do when they think they are in a position to get away with it. This is the way power begets more power and delivers both sanctions against those opposing them and rewards to those who help them with their wealth building mission.
None of the judges seen in either of our two court appearances would likely believe they had anything to gain personally for themselves or their families and friends from the arguments we are making. More likely, they would see benefit for everyone in what Monsanto is doing. The underlying attitudes of the judges would not be easy to learn unless judges were required to make their prejudices known as part of full disclosure, but much can be interpreted from the way they wrote their decisions and also from what they said in open court at oral arguments.
Right in the pages of her court decision, Judge Buchwald was verbally abusive in condemning us for bringing our lawsuit to court. When she told us our contentions are not to be tolerated, she was setting herself up as the arbitrator on questions she clearly had not yet studied deeply enough to understand. Most likely, she did not feel the need to take the time to write a decision that could be respected by people on our side of the issue. She did not show a need to be respected by us as plaintiffs in the lawsuit either. Her purposes were served best by impugning us, or she would not have done as she did. Quite believably, she could have sat down to her decision-writing with a set of pro-Monsanto prejudices she wanted to find a way to justify and and sustain, and the judges of the Appeals Court could have done similarly but with a different tactical approach to their objective. Perhaps, all the judges needed to come out on the farm and walk in the shoes of farmers for a few days or a year to fix the shortcomings in their understandings or to know enough to think constructively and beneficially about the asserted food and farming issues in the public interest. The interest to master the relevant facts or even the pertinent legal precedents was not apparent in either court.
When Judge Buchwald directed us to be comforted by Monsanto’s certifiably and unquestionably phony promise on “inadvertent,” “trace” contamination, she condescended toward us in the same way white Southerners notoriously and superciliously condescended toward “uppity” black people, but black people were repeatedly able to get their day in court. Even Dred Scott got his day in court in 1853 and before that in state court. Even if it took a century of legal effort before Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP finally got to Brown v. the Board of Education, black petitioners were allowed their day in court. Greater impunity has been shown against us on the issue of legal standing to present an argument than was shown toward Dred Scott, Homer Plessy and many others; that puts us in a caste lower than black citizens before the Civil War. Maybe more democracy and less arbitrary, pro-corporate, autocratic, totalitarian sense of controlling entitlement existed back then.
Out of broad service to the public need for food safety, health, and environmental protection—and as an extension of our years of continuous commitment to real food integrity—we are fighting against those who would undermine both the public health and environmental wisdom to serve their own exploitive interests. We are also fighting against those in the Judiciary and elsewhere who are dedicated to helping them advance their exploitation. As a nation, the United States has an agricultural, environmental, and public health legacy to protect against those who have been myopically and recklessly destroying it. The politically and judicially empowered are among those eligible for indictment under this standard. Included are government officials of both major political parties and supporting members of the press and media. We are also fighting against those who have been obliviously ignorant and disrespectful about the essential food and health legacy necessary to human survival. We are fighting against those willing to allow a corporation like Monsanto to do whatever it wants to enlarge their own profits.
If Monsanto succeeds at contaminating the gene pool and tightening its patent-empowered control over both the food supply and the biological heritage, all alternative agricultural ideals not dependent on chemicals and transgenic technology could be destroyed and put out of business. That issue alone deserves a day in court, and we should have better standing than many others to bring it there. No other group has a more direct and immediate claim to assert our contentions unless it would be a very similar group. No larger constituency exists than the one we represent, and the denial of our judicial rights is nothing short of pro-corporate, totalitarian tyranny. It is totalitarian when it is universally controlling, repudiating basic human rights without any reprieve or alternative venue. This is why it is important to learn what the Supreme Court thinks on the matter. They need to make clear whether they want to be part of the problem or part of the solution to the problem.
The idea that we should need to wait until actual contamination occurs before we can have judicial standing is repugnant. It is like saying an assault and battery does not exist unless there is a visible bullet hole or a major knife wound to point to as evidence. In fact, the law considers some kinds of touching to be the equivalent of battery. Farmers should not be required to expose themselves to a patent infringement lawsuits before they have standing to bring a lawsuit in circumstances like those we face. That is perversely counter-intuitive and anti-democratically offensive. In addition, it defies common sense. That is what both of the lower court decisions do: they defy both logic and basic common sense. That is why the Supreme Court is needed to straighten the matter out—if they are not equally defensive about the pro-corporate status quo.
Those who have been directly contaminated are in a weaker position because they would still be subject to a countersuit for patent infringement if it could be shown that they possessed more than one percent of transgenic contamination. That is a liability we have not wanted to ask anyone to shoulder, and it should not be required. We cannot be sure Monsanto would not attempt to drive them into bankruptcy, even penury.
Ours is the first culture in history to put man-made chemicals and now man-made, destructive transgenes on and in our food before we eat it, and we could also be the last to do that. The issue is that serious, so who else should have greater standing than we have been given so far to present our arguments about it in a place where Monsanto can also present their arguments. In that place, the truth can finally be determined as has been needed for more than two decades—before transgenic food was put on the market or given patent-related advantage over farmers.
Among other issues, people and other animals need the food millions of years of biological evolution has enabled their digestive system to recognize and handle. Novel new proteins such as those Monsanto has created do not meet this standard, and in addition, their transgenes inflame tissue and corrupt the probiotic bacteria people need to stay healthy. This is the measure of the present atrocity, but the political abuse perpetrating it has been sustained by two courts and four judges. The actions taken by the judges is a further atrocity, and it needs to be called out for exactly what it is. No punches should be pulled in reading the riot act against the behavior the courts have so far exhibited. Citizens deference toward the courts needs to be earned; it is not an entitlement, and it should not ever become one. The truth is too important.
The intestines are at the heart of the immune system, and the state of health or ill-health in the intestines also affects brain function as has been noted and cannot be over-emphasized. Articles on these issues can be found in the provided bibliography and also by doing the appropriate keyword searches on the Internet. A report on the study on the brain issue released by UCLA in the spring of 2013 is here. This is especially important in light of the 40% increase in digestive afflictions since Monsanto’s transgenic crops have been on the market. This does not establish causation, but the correlation suggests it strongly enough to form a hypothesis for further examination. Action is demanded on it.
Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology examines the issue of intestinal and digestive health in his movie, “Genetic Roulette—The Gamble of Our Lives.” Testimony is provided by medical doctors whose patients overcame their afflictions when transgenic food was eliminated from their diet. The interconnection between the brain and intestinal ecology is a part of the total equation only now beginning to be understood. More research is needed, and it cannot be advanced soon enough if it were initiated today. The level of need warrants immediate action without further delay, but delay has been continuous for at least two decades in the United States, and the political system deserves indictment for that failure. Citizen have a right to expect better, but they have not received it—and they still are not likely to.
Beth Everett of Co-Plaintiff Richard Everett Farm speaking about the continuous and costly effort by Monsanto to prevent the labeling of transgenic food. If they are proud of what they do, she asks, why would they not want to have their food labeled. Their products are in about 80% of all processed food in the United States; yet, despite the observed health impacts, the U.S. people have not been allowed to know what they are eating. Now, in two states and in response to fears Monsanto and their allies have flogged, people have voted to remain ignorant about the dangers of transgenic food. They have shown they are more worried about food cost than they are about their own health. This raises a question about the ability of people to know and think effectively on their own behalf. Revealed is the need to put more emphasis on the nature of the dangers. Arguments about the public right to know clearly have not been enough to overcome the preference for ignorance among some people. Neither the right to know or the need for the right to informed consent has proven to be enough to influence the majority. Both of these rights were over-powered by the First Amendment right of corporations to promote public ignorance in their own self-serving interest.
Finding the Truth and Establishing the Necessary Record Against Willful Profligacy
Monsanto’s crops have been found to cause allergies, cause infertility, introduce dangerous toxins into crops, food, people, and animals, damage internal organs including the kidneys, liver, pancreas, testes, and digestive tract, promote disease and cause or facilitate many other physical ailments. Finally, they have compromised the nutritional quality of the provided food by reducing mineral content and impairing plant health. Vitamin content is compromised when plant health is sacrificed. The chemicals used with the transgenic crops add to and intensify the health damage while also causing serious environmental damage, especially to the soil and to beneficial insects. This ought to be enough to raise questions, but the power of Monsanto’s money has been able to suppress the political and the judicial will to do that.
The United States was so blind and oblivious in response (or non-response) to the multi-center, taxpayer-funded study of food-borne transgenic Bt toxin coordinated from the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland between 1995 and 1998 and publicized internationally as the result of hearings before the British parliament, the U.S. Supreme Court proceeded in 2001 to allow utility patents on transgenic crops without any further U.S. investigation about the merits of the study’s findings. The court’s decision was taken by a 6-2 majority with Justice O’Connor recusing herself because of a potential conflict of interest. Like a team of horses with blinders on, the court focused on the intent of Congress regarding utility patents, not on the public welfare, and the Congress did nothing to reexamine issue in the public interest either. This would be as good an exhibit of government dysfunction as any other recently available. If the error was committed by everyday people, it would be called “missing the point.” If an error of similar size and cost would have been committed by a citizen or company, the perps would be in jail for life.
The only benefit from transgenic agriculture apart from corporate and shareholder profits, employment for lobbyists, and campaign contributions for politicians (if that is a benefit and not a serious cost resulting from political subversion) is a short-term and externally costly lowering of farming costs for chemically-dependent farmers. Chemical dependency in farming is much the same as any other drug dependency for addicts, and that reality should be recognized for what it is. It has not been recognized because the use of drugs and poisonous chemicals is taken as a good idea in the United States. Without embarrassment or shame about the health and environmental impacts, the idea is even sold to others around the world. About 300,000 people die every year from agricultural chemicals, but this has not seemed to matter in the U.S. Likely, it is viewed as collateral damage much the same as the killing of civilians as casualties of war or the missiles fired from drones.
Monsanto’s system of agriculture is an expedient and costly short-cut around the need to develop the farming skills required to work in harmony with nature while also learning from nature and benefiting from that learning. Because the U.S. government has not done its job for the U.S. people, our lawsuit is necessary. If the government had not been co-opted by the shameful corporate profligacy of Monsanto and other corporations with a similarly irresponsible profit-pursuing agenda, no lawsuit like ours would have been needed. This is what happens in a nation where the political power of corporations is made more important than the needs of the people and the natural environment.
Without question, politicians and the judges they appoint have collaborated in perpetrating abuse against the public interest and the public need, but the Judiciary is not as monolithic as the other two governmental branches. Judges can still be found who want to serve the public interest ahead of the dominant corporate interests. In that lies some hope, but we have not been gratified to find it yet. Now, the Supreme Court will be determinative—short of the need to file another lawsuit or a Constitutional Convention to redesign the government from the bottom up.
As a nation, the United States cannot afford and the people of the world cannot afford the amount of time it took Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP to finally win the civil rights struggle for the black citizens a century after the end of the Civil War. We need to move faster than that, and the only way for that to happen is for people everywhere to become informed on the issues as soon as possible and to become active as soon as possible in making themselves heard. No one should take our word for anything; they should study the issues on their own and make up their own minds about the truth they have been able to find. The voices of the people in other nations need to be heard, too, because they are affected by policies and decisions resulting in the United States. This is needed because U.S. policy-makers need to show more respect for the unwanted impact their behavior has elsewhere around the world. In the meantime, some assume benefit for everyone from biotech farming, but that is a mistake and a scientific failure. Science has been pushed aside in the United States to allow politics and commerce to rule over it.
If the Congress and the White House had served the public need in the United States and in other nations, a law would have been passed decades ago to regulate biotech agriculture, making sure independent, objective, long-term testing was required—and accomplished—before any transgenic crops were publicly released. That has not happened because the so-called Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence has enabled sophistry contending transgenic food is the same as non-transgenic food, but as the available record shows, this doctrine was a perpetrated mistake from the start.
Now that multiple studies have revealed the truth, the Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence has become an unvarnished fraud established under the willful, self-serving, pro-corporate arrogance of those continuing to assert it as if by regal entitlement. This is the attitude manifested easily and flagrantly through the role of former corporate employees given positions of power in the government. The parade of studies mostly in other nations started with the multi-center study coordinated by Arpad Pusztai from the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland from 1995 to 1998 before he was fired and an unsuccessful attempt was made to discredit him. Back then, the British government or at least the behavior of Prime Minister Blair followed the same pro-corporate, pro-Monsanto pattern seen in the United States.
The Pusztai-led study examined the safety of a pesticidal potato engineered with Bt toxin to kill aphids and nematodes, and when Pusztai said he would not eat the potatoes as a result of seeing the study’s findings, a negative reaction was triggered from Prime Minister Blair. Other supporting studies have continued to emerge, and yet both the mistake and the long-perpetrated fraud have continued to maintain control in the United States. This reality shows the corruption of U.S. democracy as the result of corporate power in a political system driven inexorably and subversively by money and not by truth, wisdom or justice. The world-wide public need for all three has been continuously ignored.
Those members of the Congress who have been responsive to the pro-corporate position as a result of received campaign contributions or because they are responsive to corporate lobbying, need to be required to defend their reasoning as a matter of public accountability. That is needed before changes can be made to improve the functioning of the governing system. Voters are the only people who might still make the change happen, but it will take a big effort. No system designed to serve the insiders ahead of everyone else gives up power voluntarily, but in the United States, the people need help from the media before they can be kept informed about everything they do not know and need to know. When the media are controlled by corporations in support of other empowered corporations against the public interest, the people will be left out as they have been. When the economic elite think they know everything needed to create the needed trickle-down, the people will only get a subservient role, and the U.S. Constitution has enabled this to happen, especially when the people are passive and lack the will to resist.
Because of the power of patent control under the U.S. legal system, studies advanced in other nations have not been replicated in the United States, and that is a blot on U.S. national integrity. If integrity was important to political leaders, corporations, and diligent citizens, the United States would have wanted to conduct conscientious studies before others in other nations would need to do the job the United States has failed to do. Honorable independent, objective study to investigate corporate claims about the value of products created in a United States should not be optional. In some cases, the funding of the foreign studies has been assisted by U.S. citizens understanding the importance of the issues needing to be addressed, but that does not take the place of responsible, beneficial studies made in the United States.
In the absence of a commitment to truth by the U.S. government and the corporations it has enabled, the U.S. people are left with a pro-corporate, reprehensibly totalitarian governing system pretending democracy is still alive on the politics of food and agriculture. This is not just a matter of pathetic, pusillanimous partisan dysfunction. Prudent policy has been trashed in favor of deregulated corporate, self-serving aggrandizement, and the partisan polarization and its accompanying dysfunction has helped to empower it at the expense of the public need.
Whereas the people and governments of other nations have been prudent and cautious, the government of the United States has been willing to allow the nation’s people and the people of other nations to be guinea pigs in a massive biological experiment to find out what would happen when the foxes are allowed to manage the chicken house—with collaborative governmental assistance and facilitation. If the corporations are the foxes, government officials are the weasels, and nothing like the team they have made together has ever been seen before in human history. Fascism has been benign by comparison. This is what the formerly admirable U.S. democratic ideal has turned into as the result of money-fostered subversion, and the whistle needs to blown to bring the atrocity to an end before the destruction becomes worse than it already is.
Such as horrifically tragic story of reprehensible biological negligence and sophistry, starting with the Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence, has not been seen even as part of the work of Joseph Mengele or the worst historic autocracies. This is because of the long reach of the current abuses. Nothing Mengele did affected as many people as the Monsanto project, and that makes an enormous difference. No one in history has ever had the power to adversely affect so many people. Even the Second World War did not affect as many. That is not just because the world population is greatly larger now; it is because of the projected long-term genetic consequences of Monsanto’s transgenic project. More research is needed to establish greater knowledge about this, but if current understandings are confirmed, the United States will stand before the world in shame because of its failure to do the required research before Monsanto’s products were declared “Generally Recognized as Safe” in 1992.
Past abuses by others have been timid and relatively minor by comparison. When all the details are understood and the future damage is projected based on the existing knowledge, this is the conclusion made possible by research Monsanto would have blocked if they could have. They have used their patent rights and contract power to block the needed research in the United States, and no one in a position of governing or judicial authority has stood up to them as they should have. Instead, the response has been passive and assistive. That’s what happens when corporate money dominates politics, and objective, independent, long-term investigation is not done. This is the U.S. national shame.
These are the issues we need to bring before a court in the effort to establish the truth and identify the topics still requiring additional research, and it is little wonder that some people do not want to allow the presentation of such a massively condemnatory set of facts, but the presentation of them would not and should not happen without giving Monsanto full opportunity to prove them wrong, using all the study data they have paid to acquire over the past three decades since they started the development of their transgenic crops soon after the Supreme Court’s 1980 decision in Diamond v. Chakrabarty. That opened the starting gate. Now the matter of greater importance in examining Monsanto’s evidence will be exposure of all the flaws and failures in their research data as well as the political decisions supporting them.
Chuck Noble has worked to inform farmers, government officials, and many others about the grave dangers associated with the public release of Monsanto’s transgenic alfalfa. Plant pathologists have predicted the contamination of all the nation’s alfalfa could be accomplished in as little as five years following the general release of the transgenic alfalfa by Monsanto and Forage Genetics. If there ever was an unneeded farm crop, this one is it. Transgenic alfalfa is a play to promote contamination of the nation’s most important forage crop and the nation’s fourth largest commodity crop, behind corn, soy, and wheat. Only 7% of the nation’s alfalfa has ever needed the use of herbicide to overcome weeds, and that much herbicide use would probably not have been needed if the soil had been healthy. When alfalfa is sown in healthy soil, it is robustly able to overpower weeds on its own without chemical help. The use of herbicide is likely to be needed with alfalfa only because the soil has been compromised by excessive mono-cropping and the associated use of herbicide actively eliminating crop access to essential minerals in the soil.
The Central and Serious Importance of the Issues Being Raised
The people of the United States have fought wars over less important issues than those we are raising, and President Putin of Russia was reported in May, 2013 to have said a war might be needed to protect bees from extermination under Monsanto’s system of agriculture and the chemicals enabling it. Transgenic crops and their associated pesticides were identified in the news story as the culprit. Bayer’s Clothianidin is primarily used by Monsanto to coat its seeds and protect them during early growth before the genetically internal Bt pesticide starts to work.
The news item about President Putin’s statement was not widely reported or circulated, and the attributions were not sufficient to enable confirmation of the details. Thus, follow up is needed to find out more about the Russian position, but the story was initially credible based on known facts about well-known attitudes and research findings in Russia. Additional supporting information is awaited, but it will shock many people to know a war might be started over the extinction of an insect, even if it is essential to the pollination of about 30% of the food supply.
Reportedly, Putin wanted to discuss the bee issue together with the related pesticides and transgenics with Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting they held in Moscow to try to reach an accord about the civil war in Syria, but Kerry refused the request the same way Monsanto has refused to welcome full public debate in a courtroom or elsewhere about the value of their transgenic technology. Kerry stonewalled the same way President Obama and the FDA have evaded the arguments raised with them by over a million White House and FDA petitioners.
If officials in the Obama administration wanted to make sure the truth is established, and if they were fully confident of their position, they would want to accept all opportunities to illuminate the science, and they would urge Monsanto to accept the same challenge in the public interest. They would not seek to overrule science through political policy domination, collaborating judicial support, and aggressive, governmentally-facilitated market control over major commodity crops. As long as Monsanto maintains commodity market domination with government help and without being subjected to independent, objective, reliable investigation about the healthful safety of the crops or a law requiring food labeling, people want to know what both Monsanto and their allies in the government want to hide and why they are hiding it. Particularly, they want a clear statement explaining the behavior of the government, including all three of its branches.
The question must be put pointedly to the White House, the FDA, the USDA, the EPA, and the Congress more even than it is to Monsanto. If the story about the Kerry-Putin meeting in Moscow is an accurate portrayal of the event and the thinking in Russia, President Putin kept Secretary Kerry waiting for three hours out of irritation that Kerry would not agree to the added agenda item, but after that, Putin relented and went ahead with discussion about Syria. Now the question is: what could be the legitimate public-interest reason for Kerry’s refusal.
Maybe President Putin wanted to extract the amount of time the bee discussion would have taken before going ahead with the other part of the planned agenda. That would have showed that Kerry had the time needed to add the topic to the discussion. A report by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment was cited as providing the justification for Putin’s alarm, but a multi-generational feeding study sponsored by the Russian Academy of Sciences has also been in the news. That study has been criticized, but that does not mean the criticisms have been accurate. Duplication of the study is needed to determine the truth, and that should have followed in the United States if the honesty existed to want to know the truth in response to all questions. When independent research did not follow, the question was: Why Not?! One reason is: legislation is needed to end the ability of the patent holder to block the needed research, but that only raises another question!
Meanwhile, Bayer’s neonicotinoid pesticide, Clothianidin, remains persistent in nature for a long time, and it is centrally blamed for the bee deaths along with other neonicotinoid pesticides. Monsanto’s Bt seeds are vulnerable during early growth before the impact of the Bt gene emerges, and for that reason the additional pesticidal protection is believed to be needed. The Bt toxin transgenicly inserted into corn and cotton is also believed by some researchers to play a role in the bee deaths. These findings were asserted particularly as the result of a study in Poland released during 2012. If the mental function of bees is impaired the same as the mental function of people as the result of disruption of gut bacteria, the disorientation resulting in colony collapse disorder may be explained. On this issue, too, more research is needed, but one of the major private research companies working on the role of viruses in undermining bee health, the Israeli company called Beelogics, was bought by Monsanto. Since then, limited information about their work has been reported. The acquisition of Beelogics by Monsanto was headlined by the Huffington Post as: “The Fox (Monsanto) Buys the Chicken Coop (Beeologics).
Poland banned Monsanto’s Bt Corn (Mon 810) based on the impact they found it was having on bee populations, and the cited destruction could be synergistic between the Bt toxin in the pollen and the environmentally-persistent Clothianidan used to coat the seeds. European nations take bees seriously because they know they are needed to pollinate about 70 of roughly 100 commonly consumed foods, many of them important to balanced nutrition, but in the United States people are much less connected to their food sources, and as a result of that, they are much less concerned about bees. If they were concerned, they would have forced the EPA to take action on their behalf and on behalf of bees. They have not done that, and because they have not, the EPA has continued to do as Monsanto, Bayer, and their corporate allies want done.
The United States has been less respectful of natural biological systems and more arrogant in believing profit-pursuing corporations can be smarter than God in developing alternatives to the food nature has provided, but no one should be opposed to science as long as it is prudent, careful, and fully responsible. Problems arise when biotech agribusiness corporations are allowed to be imprudent and careless, even reckless and arrogantly destructive—as if life is less important than profit and companies should be allowed to flagrantly abuse science.
The the long-term, multi-generational transgenic soy feeding study sponsored by the Russian Academy of Sciences and carried out by Dr. Irina Ermakova could be part of the reason President Putin wanted to discuss the future of bees and the future of transgenic agriculture with Secretary Kerry. Mortality rates in the study were high compared to the control group and they got worse over successive generations. The animals also developed genetic defects by the third generation—like hair growing in their mouths, among other issues.
The criticisms of the study were later answered, but more studies on this subject are still needed to make sure the protocols are fully reliable and repeatable and that the findings are accurate. If research is inadequate on either side of the issue, the inadequacies need to be addressed, but it is also important to know if critics have an interest to protect. Too many faulty findings have been tolerated because of the dependency of U.S. academic researchers on corporate funding for their research. That has been almost as important as the dependency of politicians on corporate money to fund their campaigns, and the dependency of farmers on a cost-saving technology regardless of the resulting destruction. Much has been overlooked as a result of multi-lateral dependency causing corporate Capitalism to dominate and control the democratic ideal.
If we are able to win a day in court, as we should in an honorable nation where justice and legal rights are important and not impugned or manipulated as if to make a cruel joke out of our complaint, we will be able to put our contentions to a logical test in an open-minded forum, where Monsanto can also have the chance to assert their arguments for the nation and the world to assess. They could call their partisans in the government and their employed researchers at the land-grant universities as witnesses, and the evidence could be fully scrutinized from all sides as it should be. The result could be full review and evaluation of the facts as the government should have done long ago.
This might not prove possible in Judge Buchwald’s courtroom given the attitudes revealed in her dismissal decision, but it might be possible somewhere. Judge Buchwald did not show the curiosity, diligence, interest, or commitment to dig deeply into the issues raised, and for that reason, she may readily accede to Monsanto’s planned and announced intention to request the trial be moved to St. Louis where the judges have been historically friendly to company interests and supportive of their objectives. Monsanto has also planned to file another dismissal motion, and either Judge Buchwald or the judge in St. Louis could bend over on their knees to be friendly toward that motion, too.
On the other hand, a move to St. Louis could help to facilitate discovery by our attorneys at Monsanto’s corporate headquarters, and materials found through discovery could prove to be an important part of the presented evidence. If the case would be moved to St. Louis, the judge who would hear the lawsuit would be chosen through random selection by the court, but no matter who the judge is and what happens in the courtroom, the case would come back to the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit on Appeal, and it would very likely be appealed again to the Supreme Court after that. Five more years could be required, adding to the four required already, but delay is likely to be the objective.
In December 2013, we cannot know if the Supreme Court will be interested in reviewing the Appeals Court decision, but they might, given the bizarre divergency between the two lower court decisions in reaching the same conclusion. The legal mess that has been created does not set a clear precedent for the future, so the Supreme Court may want to fix it. Based on the precedents governing the legal standing of plaintiffs, as we understand them, the justices could disagree with both Appeals Court judges and with Judge Buchwald, and they could have other issues with the decision. Much also could depend on how much the Justices understand about the agricultural, biological, health, and environmental issues and the presented facts in the complaint and want to examine these facts as part of fixing the problems created by the lower courts.
Inasmuch as both of the lower courts did not pay attention to the facts in the complaint and made their decisions without regard for them, the Supreme Court could want to provide directives about that, but they could also want to lend support to Monsanto, as they have on other cases in the past. If they want to be defensive of decisions made in the past by the Supreme Court and stick to that logic, the decision could go one way, and if they are open to new insights and a new view of justice, the decision could go in a different direction. The odds are not easy to call. All we know at the outset is that the Roberts court has written many decisions favorable to the interests of business and to the concerns brought to them by the National Chamber of Commerce. So far, under the Roberts leadership the court has been highly pro-business.
We seek a full presentation of evidence from both sides in a courtroom because no similar examination of the evidence has proved possible for three decades before the Congress and before any agency of the Executive branch of the government. Both could have been holding hearings on the issues if they did not want to ignore the raised concerns in preference for Monsanto’s corporate interests and in order to maintain the stream of campaign contributions as if this result should be more important than the truth. No other ruling rationale seems plausible to explain the perceived government behavior. Just as campaign contributions seem likely to have influenced the way the Patent Office has operated in the past, maybe especially on the effort to have Monsanto’s patents rescinded as the result of the challenge there by the Public Patent Foundation, it would beg reasonable credulity to deny their probable importance to other government actions. If this were not true, two courts now would have more than flimsy, shallow, sophistic, and insufficiently studied reasoning to support their action. In one of the decisions, emotion and hostility was more evident than reasoning, and that cannot provide respectable justification for dismissal of the lawsuit.
Interest in rebuffing our contentions is defended by Monsanto’s internal research as well as their contracted research done often by the land-grant agricultural universities to support the corporate objective, and that puts the accuracy and validity of that research into question. As a result of our lawsuit, that matter will be on trial as much as any other issue. Full scrutiny of the prior research is necessary before the public interest can be protected from similar abuse in the future. The record needs to be established before change can happen. This work must be done one study at a time by qualified and unbiased analysts. Meanwhile, stories are told about failures of objectivity in many places, and examination of the studies has backed that up. The failure to obtain a full assessment of past research has depended too often on people only wanting to read the summary or the conclusion of the studies. That kind of cursory examination does not lead to questions about study method.
Further, the president of one of the land-grant research universities, South Dakota State University, sits on the Monsanto Board of Directors, earning more money from that service than he does from his day job at the university. A researcher at that university was fired by his departmental chairman, reportedly because he failed to protect Monsanto’s interests in study findings he reported. As a matter of personal integrity, he refused to conform his findings to the Monsanto interest, and that, according to the reports, resulted in his dismissal from his university job. A 2013 update on the story is in the Madville Times. Links to other related stories are included in the story.
After the dismissal, the researcher, Michael Catanqui, did not want to make an issue about the firing. He wanted to find a way to pursue his career elsewhere. He did not see it in his interest to promote a confrontation over the issue, but he was backed up by others in his academic field and by defenders of established academic protocol when they reviewed the stance he took on the study in question. The Chronicle of Higher Education report on the matter is here.
The basic human rights interest in safe, healthful, and nutritious food and wise agricultural practices cannot be addressed until thorough, independent, objective research can be relied on and believed without compromise or interceding sophistry and pro-corporate manipulation. Because of that, we are confronting autocratic pro-corporate governmental totalitarianism at least as threatening to the future of life as any other observed over the course of prior history. The matter is that significant, and others are invited to examine the facts to see if they agree.
It is flagrantly embarrassing and beyond ironic that the leader of Russia and a former Soviet KGB intelligence agent during the Cold War should be the one calling the United States to account on the U.S. negligence about the death of bees. How could it be that such a Russian leader has become the defender of the public health, wise nutrition, and the basic right to food when U.S. government agencies willingly serve the corporate interest as if the public interest and the environment did not matter. Now the United States has been disgraced, and that will be shown when the opportunity to a day in court is made possible. That would be the reason why many people want to deny us the opportunity.
Since joining the lawsuit against Monsanto in 2011, Common Good Farm has been afflicted by drought that is told about in a documentary film accessible from their page on this Web site. Evrett Lunquist was also prominently sued in his role as an organic inspector by a farmer after confidential records were negligently and erroneously made public by the USDA. The suing farmer did not win his case, but the lawsuit was costly in time and money. A motion to obtain legal fees from the plaintiff has been pending. Up-to-date information on the story is here: http://www.lunquistlegalfund.org
The Tragic, Destructive Complicity of the U.S. Government is Compounded by Hypocrisy and Negligence
The corporately-subservient U.S. governmental behavior makes people and the environment as blindly disposable as the alien petrochemical and other waste (including drugs and of course, most notoriously, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides) routinely dumped into the waterways and oceans by the prolifically expedient and toxicity-generating engine that is the U.S. corporately-dependent culture—not that other cultures are not now doing worse. This toxic legacy is left for the marine creatures (including fresh water aquatic life) to process and dispose of—or die.
Because of this behavior, the United States lives as if there were no tomorrow and planetary stewardship did not matter. The myopic perspective of the U.S government facilitates this destructive cultural attitude. With a short bi-annual or quadrennial electoral horizon and dependency on corporations often with an even shorter and more myopic, 90-day time horizon, the problem is not likely to get better any time soon, especially if the courts continue to sustain it just as blindly. Government facilitation of Monsanto’s destructive excesses is one of the worst examples showing how abuse of patent law and patent practice provides perverse incentives and reinforcements against the public welfare.
Most people in the United States would have trouble thinking of their nation as totalitarian, but that is what it is when corporate power within the U.S. government is durably beyond the reach of voting citizens to change or even question. When no right of informed consent is allowed to exist and when people are not allowed to know what is in their food or the reasons it impairs their health, totalitarian control can be the only possible words to describe it. This is true no matter if some people have been persuaded to vote for it. Most of the governed people have always supported totalitarian systems. The only disappointment is that the majority of the U.S. people have been passive and oblivious about the issue.
Preferably, the U.S. people would have a vaccination against such a serious, anti-democratic affliction, but based on what has been seen, the U.S. people are probably no better than the German people were when the National Socialists came to power. Back then, they had a highly pro-corporate dependency, and they did not recognize it as the new feudalism any better the U.S. people have. If the people no longer have a way to constrain or overturn the role of corporations in the governing system without massing in the streets or maybe resorting to violence (if they thought that could accomplish anything against overwhelming state power), democracy has become a hollow illusion on the issues being raised.
Burning incense would likely show no less impact on the problem. After the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision, Al Gore said: no alternative exists in the United States between a Supreme Court decision and armed revolution. That was not quite true, but it was close enough to illustrate an important flaw in the ability of the people to take action when the people they rely on have been negligent, malfeasant, or worse.
Democracy has, in fact, been subverted on many fundamental issues where corporate interests and power have become more dominating than anything the people have the capacity to accomplish or maybe even propose in opposition to established corporate power. The people can still change the people they elect to public office, but that has no meaning if voters remain without ability to empower those candidates and elected office holders to stand up against corporate interests. If corporate money will be spent liberally to defeat candidates opposing the corporate agenda the same way 61 corporations spent a total of $66 million in California and Washington state to defeat ballot initiatives on labeling.
Under the power of large and wealthy companies, with Monsanto as poster child, democracy has become an empty vessel, no longer an admirable, working reality on many issues where corporate interests are overpowering against the needs of the people. This is as important a human rights issue as any existing anywhere in the world, and it is bigger than many U.S. officials and others in the United States point to in failures by other governments. Governmental actions in 2013 in a range of Middle East and North African nations are examples of what other nations have exhibited. Few would say the U. S. government has treated its own people worse than Bashar al-Assad in Syria has treated the people of Syria, but because U.S. citizens are not being shot at and killed by military weapons, the comparative damage is not noticed. The attack against the public welfare in the U.S. made possible by Monsanto’s technology is like a slow-motion attack that happens so slowly people do not notice where it is coming from, and because the impacts are not as easily visible as military assault, people do not connect the dots.
The truth about this assertion needs to be illuminated and the role of multiple Presidential administrations made plain in the process, but this, again, would be a flagrant reason why the empowered would want to deny us our day in court. The Supreme Court could very well want to support that denial for the same reason the other two courts have. The table has been set for the Supreme Court to do that—if that is their inclination and ideological proclivity. They would only need to affirm the lower courts’ decisions. Inertia would favor that course, even if the pursuit of truth, wisdom, justice, and integrity would not and even if the world-wide moral standing of the United States will suffer massively.
The United States needs to look squarely at the human rights logs in its own eyes before focusing attention on the motes in the eyes of others in other nations. Without that, the U.S. government should be accused of pointing at the offenses of others to direct attention away from their own more serious human rights offenses. Human rights issues abroad do need attention, but the United States would be in a better moral position to address them if its own record was not overwhelmingly compromised through an issue fundamental to health, environmental protection, and the preservation of life in the United States and other nations. Probably, there is hardly a citizen alive in the United States whose health and longevity has not been affected in some way by Monsanto’s agricultural activities. Even people try as hard as they can, they probably cannot escape all of the impacts forced upon them without informed consent or even the ability to known what the impacts are.
These will be illuminated in court, and they could have been illuminated already if the media had chosen to cover the implications of our lawsuit. Instead they have collaborated with Monsanto in a mutual back-scratching corporate circle made worse by the government’s continuing facilitation. The Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision made it worse, but it was already bad enough well before that.
U.S. hypocrisy about the importance of democracy has existed for more than a half century ago as the United States sanctimoniously promoted democracy in other nations without addressing its own civil rights issue or ending its own alliances of convenience with dictators in many places, but the current issue raised by Monsanto’s transgenic technology is far worse and more dangerous than any issues in the past. The civil rights failure resulting in the mobilization of many people a half century ago directly affected about 10% of the U.S. people, about 20 million people at the time. The current issue impacts billions, including the people in all nations where Monsanto’s transgenic crops are grown, sold, and eaten. The abuse wrought by transgenics and their associated chemicals extends to some countries where the crops have been grown illegally and without regard for the damage they can do. For example, transgenic crops were grown illegally in China before they were allowed, and maybe they were allowed finally because that was the most expedient policy response to the illegal planting.
As closely as Monsanto monitors the sale of its seeds and the people who use them, a sale of seed to Chinese farmers seems unlikely without Monsanto’s dealers knowing where the seeds would be used. The dealer might have sought permission from Monsanto before they made the sale. Perhaps, the Chinese did as farmers did in Mexico, planting transgenic corn that would have been imported as livestock feed or for human consumption. In Mexico, corn imported from the United States as the result of NAFTA’s trade-liberalizing incentives was bound to be planted by someone, and that was how traditional landrace varieties of Mexican corn became contaminated. Maybe Monsanto hoped for that and tried to make it happen. That could have been their way to break down public opposition to the growing of transgenic corn in Mexico. If that was the strategy, it did not work. In 2013, a Mexican court banned the planting of transgenic corn in the nation. The corn heritage in Mexico may prove to be stronger than Monsanto, but it will not be for lack of effort to work with Mexican politicians the same as in the U.S.
Accordingly to the imagined reasoning attributed to Monsanto, once the traditional varieties would be widely contaminated, the need to protect them from contamination would have been eliminated. After that, prospectively, the need to protect the traditional corn would no longer be seen as a human rights issue. That issue would have been removed from consideration. Monsanto has operated in Mexico and many other nations the same as it has in the United States, using its money to develop an inside relationship with government officials. That insider relationship is then used to foster the policies the company seeks. This method has been seen in India, the European Union, and elsewhere. In Brussels, the approach worked more powerfully than it could in any E.U. member nations where public attitudes overruled influenced leaders.
Even though progress has been made on civil rights in the United States, the work is not finished, but it would have been if the necessary personal and collective disciplines to protect human rights had been established. That has not yet happened, and therefore the needed disciplines cannot impact the other remaining human rights issues either. Much still remains to be made right, including the flagrant tendency to impose harsher criminal sentences on black citizens than on white. Justice is wanting in the United States, and when it is wanting on one issue, it will likely be wanting on many more in the same way. Some of these additional issues affect relations with the people of other nations.
This reality would be admitted if the habit of honesty had not been compromised. When failings are glossed over on one human rights issue others will be neglected as easily, maybe more easily, even if people commonly see the failures of others more clearly than they see their own. When morality is marginalized in one area, it will be also in others by a general dulling of moral sensibility and the growth of the passivity fostered by increasing cynicism. Cynicism causes the compromise of morality to be taken for granted, and that has happened in the U.S.
The issues we are raising are bigger than any other human rights abuses anywhere in the world because they can affect everyone and their descendants for generations into the future. As long as the transgenic ingredients in food are not labeled and people have trouble knowing how to avoid them, the consequences will continue to be far-reaching and shameful. This is a matter of fundamental cultural integrity and trustworthy honor. The irresponsible, myopic arrogance of both companies and public officials would be beyond moral comprehension if it were not so clearly money-driven and rationalized away because it is part of the now cynically accepted way the U.S. political system works. The fact that it is widely accepted does not make it any less atrocious or more justifiable, but it is accepted nonetheless. That is the U.S. shame.
If this were not the painful U.S. reality, 27 Democratic Senators voting Nay on transgenic food labeling—some of them after a history of standing up on other human rights issues—would not have compromised themselves as they did. Perhaps, they have thought they could hide amongst a large 3-1 majority just because they have seen no major constituency for labeling in their state, but they could not stand credibly for a controlling federal legislative preference if it is empty and meaningless in a political environment where no federal action is going to be taken.
David Zuckerman, co-owner and operator with his wife, Rachel Nevitt, of Vermont co-plaintiff Full Moon Farm, a certified organic community-supported farm (CSA) speaking on the day of the oral arguments before Judge Buchwald, January 31, 2012, about the disconnection between the U.S. people and the sources of their food; he is a former Vermont state representative and Agriculture Committee chairman, elected in 2012 to the Vermont state senate. In 2014, he may be able to help Vermont join the states requiring the labeling of transgenic food. The lower house of the state legislature passed the bill during the 2013 session, and now the matter needs to be picked up by the state senate in January 2014. Following the protocol set in Connecticut and Maine, five states are needed to join the effort before the requirement will go into effect. This strategy was used, so that all five could share the cost of a lawsuit if Monsanto decides to bring a lawsuit like they did on Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). On that issue, the Circuit Court ruled the labeling of milk with rBGH was a violation of Monsanto’s commercial speech rights, and Vermont was required to pay Monsanto’s court costs. This ruling would be used as an asserted precedent if the states require transgenic food labeling. The hormone was also a biotech product.
The Price and Process of Promoted Citizen Ignorance
The U.S. government would have required independent, objective third-party research examining the value of Monsanto’s technology decades ago if political money was not plainly and incontestably more important than morality in the United States. Because the need to address this issue has been ignored and evaded, most of the honorable research work on transgenic agriculture has needed to be done in other nations where greater commitment to public integrity, prudence, credibility, and moral responsibility still can be found. This necessity should be an embarrassment to every citizen of the United States, because it highlights the U.S. abdication of responsibility.
As long as many people do not understand the issues being raised by our lawsuit and also do not understand their ox is in the arena with us, those who do understand need to wave the warning flag as furiously and incessantly as possible. As Robyn O’Brien, the flag waver on the dangers of allergy caused by transgenic food, has said, “All hands need to be on deck.” That is necessary because the U.S. people and the people of the world cannot trust the U.S. government to do what should have been done more than two decades ago. Because of a series of Supreme Court decisions empowering money in the U.S. political system, the government is money-driven to the detriment of the people. Now, only the U.S. people can take action to fix the government’s responsiveness to the power of corporate money—unless the people of other nations organize themselves through the United Nations to work an intervention against the U.S. human rights abuse as they have in other nations.
Honorable public service has required prudence and integrity with people possessing a conflict of interest recusing themselves, but very little of this discipline has been observed. This ought to mean members of Congress should recuse themselves from decisions on matters of interest to companies that have given more than a minimal contribution to their election campaign. It would mean President Obama should turn over authority to make decisions related to Monsanto to someone without a money interest resulting from campaign contributions. If Justice Breyer recused himself on one Monsanto lawsuit (Geertson Seed v. Monsanto) because his brother made the lower court decision in the case, others in government should also recuse themselves when they have an even more direct interest resulting from the receipt of campaign contributions.
Arguably, Justice Thomas should have recused himself from all court decisions related to Monsanto’s interests because of his prior work as a Monsanto attorney. This is a question of appearances and public confidence in the judgment of the court, but Justice Thomas has done worse when he spoke at fund-raiser for the Federalist Society despite a rule that judges should not participate in political fund-raising events or fund-raising events of organizations with a political agenda. Chief Justice Roberts has said these rules should apply to Supreme Court justices, so they should be enforced. Justice Thomas has also failed to report income from his wife’s work on partisan political causes on his disclosure forms, and not only has he not recused himself from decisions involving Monsanto, he wrote the pro-biotech 2001 decision in J.E.M Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. where Monsanto was the leading beneficiary. Following this decision, the new Monsanto company was spun off from its parent companies (Pharmacia and Pfizer) to establish a focus on the seed market and on the associated agricultural chemicals.
The recusal rules for Supreme Court justices are liberal, but they should not be; they should be the same as they are for any other judge. If respect for the Judiciary would be as important as it should be, the integrity of the observed behavior by the members of the court should be above question. U.S. integrity is further called into question when these issues are not subject to major and scrupulous scrutiny.
Some officials have hidden behind their inability to sort out the opposing contentions enough to find the truth, and if they are accustomed to splitting the difference on controversial issues instead of finding the truth in the public interest, that would be negligently pusillanimous, no matter if the expediently escapist attitude is found in the attitudes of elected politicians, appointed officials, or judges. Those with the ability and the resources to learn the truth cannot be admired if they show greater expediency in wanting to hide from it when that serves their purposes. Abuses in the past have caused people to step down, but in recent years, the nation’s people seem resigned to the kind of behavior Justice Thomas has exhibited. This could be a result of the growth of corporate style amorality and the growth of the cynicism supporting it.
Public institutions, including courts, that should have been dedicated to serving the public have instead served corporate profits, and that is shameful no matter where it is seen. Both Democrats and Republicans have failed to serve the public need, and the U.S. Patent Office is among the most negligent and insufficient of the governmental institutions, right alongside the USDA, the FDA, the EPA, and the Congress. Abuse of the public interest at the U.S. Patent Office is especially egregious when many other nations look to the U.S. for guidance in operating their own patent system, but part of the problem arises from the failure of the Congress to provide the funding the Patent Office needs to properly do its job and pay quality inspectors at the level of career professionalism they need to serve in their job for the long term. U.S. Patent Inspectors should be as highly professional as they are in other nations, but they will not be seen unless they are paid at a level needed to promote highly professional behavior. Perhaps the Congress has budgeted less for them as part of a strategy to increase their corporate subservience.
Our attorneys, Daniel Ravicher and Sabrina Hassan at the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) are dedicated to the public service objective of correcting errors and abuses in the patent system. This is the dedicated mission of their foundation, and without them and those supporting them, our lawsuit would be impossible. We would not have the resources to pursue a major lawsuit against Monsanto without help from a public interest legal organization, so we are thankful for their help and for their understanding of the issues needing to be brought before a court. People, companies, and organizations like those in our plaintiff group need this help in a nation where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few and the system has been rigged to keep it that way. When just one family, the Waltons of Walmart, have as much wealth as the bottom 40% of the nation’s people, almost 150 million people, justice and real democracy is made more difficult to achieve.
We are embarrassed as citizens to have encountered judges unprepared to understand the importance of these issues or the precedents important to the standing needed to bring our lawsuit to court. We are embarrassed by both lower court decisions and by the failure of both courts to carefully study the important facts at issue. We believe all patriotic citizens would feel the same way if they understood the issues and had not been lulled into docile passivity. If the needed work had been done by judges and citizens—and many others, it would not have been possible for either lower court to rule as they have. They could only have done as they did if they wanted to serve a pre-existing prejudice.
The decisions by both courts have been shameful in the service to Monsanto’s pro-biotech agenda at the expense of the people, the environment, and all living creatures. They have favored the continued transfer of wealth and political control from the people to the corporations, and as a result both courts have been agents serving to abet the destruction of the U.S. democratic ideal enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. As a nation, we have not lived up to that document, but we should be trying. Instead, the U.S. government has gone backwards intentionally and to the detriment of the nation in the eyes of the people of many other nations.
When policy and the economy has been arranged to keep food cheap for agribusiness and consumers and keep land expensive, farmers cannot possibly have the money they would need to pay for an extended lawsuit like ours, and neither can the organizations they support and need to help them stand up against corporate power. Special fund-raising would be needed to enable it, but when most of the wealth in the nation has been cornered by the corporately-connected elite, the ability of others to raise funds is severely constrained. Despite the amount of money farmers may handle in the course of a year and despite the amount of work they do, many of them take home little more than they would earn working a factory job. This is the reality despite all the criticism often heard against the payment of farm subsidies. Those subsidies have helped many farmers survive the troubles caused by policy, but over recent years under mostly Republican control, farm subsides have been subverted to become a way of transferring funds to favored rural constituencies. That, in turn, becomes a way to ask for political contributions in much the same way as is done with corporations. This is all part of the money-driven subversion of the U.S. democratic ideal.
We are fighting against the same corporate wealth-transfer system enabling wealth to be concentrated in the hands of a few at the expense of the many and also permitting (and promoting) decisions like Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission and the Buckley v. Valeo decades earlier. If it is not massively and overwhelmingly anti-democratic to equate money with First Amendment speech rights just because money is needed to disseminate information, it would be hard to know how to recognize an issue that is any more anti-democratic.
Monsanto runs the same kind wealth-transfer and wealth-empowerment project at the expense of farmers and everyone who eats as has become now customary in the United States, and the courts have helped to empower them in doing as they do. Behavior like theirs has become the modern defining image of Capitalism, but it is not a responsible or moral economic model. It is not what an admirable capitalist ideal should look like. The United States has lost standing in the world because it has lost the ability to keep both its economic and political system respected and exemplary. Until that can be fixed, the United States and its political culture will remain in a supine posture of amoral decline with others laboring to set a better example and leave the United States as an example of yesterday’s failure. This is what the U.S. has come to.
Instead of creating benefit for everyone and being proud about that as part of a strong connection with the democratic ideal, the established economic arrangements milk the majority and keep them uninformed for the benefit of a small minority, destroying both democracy and the common natural genetic heritage in the process. Politicians who campaign on the need for change become bags of vacuous, disingenuous wind until they are vigorous in their commitment to address this issue. Without that only the people remain to take action—wherever they can find the time and resources needed under a system rigged to prevent them from ever having the needed time or resources.
If most of the nation’s people were not disconnected from farming and the sources of their food, they would have wanted redress on this decades ago as soon as the issue first was discussed. Before action can be taken now, a revised sense about the meaning of food integrity would need to be established. The practice now of calling chemically grown food “conventional” is an atrocious usurpation when organic food was the convention for millennia, until the chemical industry and their allies stole the term for their own use and subverted its meaning.
Even the first organically-certified grocery chain, Whole Foods, is part of the problem on this use of deceptive terminology. They have been just as expedient and shameful as all the rest. If they cared to do more than exploit a weak and limited organic market for their own benefit, they would do better. As it stands now, Monsanto and its agribusiness allies, including other members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association have subverted the ideal of basic food integrity by calling one of their astroturf organizations “The Center for Food Integrity.” Monsanto has been at the center of that reprehensible project along with others, including the Farm Bureau. None of it would have happened apart from public ignorance about what has been going on and from the disconnection governing awareness about dominant food and farming reality.
The real meaning of food integrity needs to be taken back from the usurpers, and the word “conventional” should be replaced with the truth. It is food raised by chemically-dependent farming methods, and it should be called “chemically-raised” if people have any interest or commitment to help lower they healthcare costs that have been escalating extravagantly. As long as deceptive terminology is used without protest and resistance, national integrity is compromised and made manipulatively dishonest against the ability of the people to understand the reality about their food. The labeling of transgenic food is not the only change needing to be made. Protest against other deceitful and fraudulent communication is also needed just as much, maybe more. Change cannot happen until action is taken to inform people on the need.
Max Goldberg, a dedicated blogger about organic food, wrote in December 2013 about so-called “conventional” potatoes:
“One food that I fondly remember eating, and loving, at family dinners was potatoes. And it wasn’t just the insides of the potatoes. I particularly loved eating the skins. Yet, little did I or my parents know just how toxic they were. When many people think of the most important foods to be eating organic, potatoes do not immediately come to mind as quickly as apples, grapes, or spinach do. But they should and here’s why:
“THE PROBLEMS WITH CONVENTIONAL POTATOES
1) According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, 37 different pesticides have been found on conventional potatoes. And out of these 37:
seven are known or probably carcinogens; 12 are suspected hormone disruptors; 9 are neurotoxins; 6 are developmental or reproductive toxins
The chemical that is found on 76% of all conventional potatoes is chlorpropham, an herbicide that is used to stop the growth of weeds and to inhibit potato sprouting.
Not only is this chemical toxic to honey bees, but according to the Extension Toxicology Network, chronic exposure of laboratory animals to chlorpropham has caused ‘retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen, and death.’
2) As a root vegetable, potatoes absorb all of the pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides that are sprayed above the ground and then eventually make their way into the soil. With potatoes, however, the chemical treatment is quite extensive: During growing season – They get treated with fungicides; Before harvesting – They get sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines;
After being dug up – They get sprayed again to prevent them from sprouting.
3) Quite often, the most important information about a food is what growers or ‘insiders’ have to say about it. Jeff Moyer, farm director at the Rodale Institute and former chair of the National Organic Standards Board, has been quoted as saying ‘I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.’”
This is another part of the corrupting corporate economically-driven amorality that is destroying the healthful quality of food essential to the survival of the culture and of civilization. Farming and food are the foundation stones of both. Whenever people, companies, and government officials are willing to grow for others so-called food they would not eat themselves, they reveal a culture in moral decline. The government has been corrupted morally because the culture has been corrupted, but now they are part of a vicious circle corrupting each other and taking it for granted. This is the place where change needs to start. If integrity does not exist in agriculture, it will likely not exist anywhere else either. Better is needed before the United States can once again be admired and respected for its morality. Change cannot happen too soon.
In his own prior legal practice, PubPat’s founder, patent attorney Daniel Ravicher, saw the way corporations had co-opted the patent system and were using it to serve their own objectives with the facilitation of government officials and at the expense of the public interest, so he created a foundation to defend against this abuse—even if the problem is bigger than one foundation can fully address. Fortunately, others have provided funding to support the PubPat mission, but it would be better and more gratifying if none of this work or funding was necessary. When resources need to be spent to create an honorable and moral culture, they cannot be made available to address other needs. On this, the United States has been moving in the wrong direction for decades. When moral corruption and subversion of integrity are tolerated throughout the culture, as they have been, U.S. honor and credibility are trashed as if they did not matter and would not be missed.
In June 2013 the Supreme Court unanimously terminated the patenting of human genes as the result of a PubPat-initiated lawsuit. The case was the Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics (also known as the Association for Molecular Pathology v. the U.S.P.T.O. before the Patent Office was removed as a defendant). In arguing it, the ACLU joined them, as did the U.S. Justice Department during the appeal, but this is only the beginning of a larger corrective effort against the ability of corporations to exploit the Commons for their own self-aggrandizement. Much more is required. Even the recently enacted America Invents Act creates more problems than it may have tried to solve, and those now need to be addressed together with the still unsolved problems that were preexisting. This is what happens when the Congress listens only to those with money and marginalizes other views and needs, including the views of the most well-informed but poorly endowed.
The continuing need for patent reform cries out loudly, and it can start in the courts only if the judges are not as myopic and oblivious about the issues as the public officials who appoint them, fund the operation of their courts, and create the observed troubles in the first place. The America Invents Act needed reform as soon as it was passed, because it served corporate interests more than the public interest right from the moment it was enacted. Among other impacts, corporate interests were served when the cost of filing a patent and the systemic complexity of it were both increased. Provisions of the law gave instant advantage to corporations with the money and the legal staff needed to protect their interests. Unfortunately, this is not the only U.S. legislation with this deficiency, but it is a notorious, pathetic, tragic, and egregious example.
More about the issues with the America Invents Act can be found here in a talk given at the University of Virginia Law School by the former chief judge of the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit, Paul R. Michel. Needed is the basic public integrity to prevent negligence, profligacy, recklessness, and collaborative, corrosive abuse of institutions intended to serve the public. In many areas, no legislation can be passed anymore unless the corporate interests sign off on it or present their own draft of it for the Congress to consider and enact. This has been true on everything related to agriculture for most of a half a century or more, and along with the empowerment of corporate agribusiness has come the revolving door between government and corporate jobs. That facilitates and guarantees the corruption of government policy.
If judges and other public officials, as a matter of moral habit, match and support the myopic abuses of exploitive corporations, oath of office in the United States has become meaningless, and democracy has died even as its vacuous, dysfunctional, and empty corpse is propped up to look as if it is still alive. Only formerly honorable marble and limestone monuments may remain to commemorate the short idealistic history of the formerly-respected and once promising U.S. democratic ideal. Better should have been possible if people were not cynical and asleep.
Blame for the current problem needs to fall almost equally on both major political parties, but it also falls ultimately on all citizens who have allowed the political system to degenerate into a system of pro-corporate totalitarian socialism or socialism for the benefit of corporations at the expense of the people. Even under Communism in the past and present, service to the people has been claimed and even sometimes delivered, but now in the United States on subject of food, the people have been led astray continuously for the benefit of corporations.
The U.S. political system has been corrupted through the incessant pursuit of money at the expense of morality and integrity. In a democracy, at some point, the citizens should be able to assume authority over anything failing to serve their needs. When that ability has been usurped, democracy itself has been usurped, and that is the circumstance now. If the people no longer have the power to make or demand needed changes, the democratic ideal has collapsed. If citizens, as the result of passivity, cynicism, indifference, and self-interest, fail to know they are protecting only the shell of what used to be an admirable ideal, they have become part of the problem. If the U.S. people still had more than a superficial and ghostly image of real political power and were able, educated, and interested to claim that power, they would require better than has been required; better would have happened. Maybe it is too late; that would be fact if people show no concern about citizenship anymore.
If amoral expediencies had not long been tolerated as much by citizens as by government officials and corporations, and if the nation had not been corrupted by legally-allowed corporate amorality with both government and public acquiescence and facilitation, the United States would not be in moral decline. That is the origin of the anti-democratic, pro-corporate U.S. totalitarian socialism now needing to be expelled—if expulsion is still possible. The challenge is the same as if a corporately empowered and corrupt new dictator had crossed the U.S. Rubicon. In relation to the current circumstance, the Supreme Court and the U.S. people will now be able to show what they are made of and what they are concerned about. They are all that is left for the moment. If Plan B is needed, the damage and destruction will be worse in the meantime.