and a Summary of Our Issues by Donald Wright Patterson, Jr., 83rd Co-Plaintiff
Contextual Background behind our Reasons for Filing a Lawsuit and behind our Public Interest Objectives in Launching a Web Site OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto was filed originally in March 2011 with 60 plaintiffs, then amended following an exchange of correspondence with Monsanto’s attorneys and refiled with 23 more plaintiffs on June 1, 2011. The exchange of letters started when our lead attorney, Daniel Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation wrote to tell the Monsanto attorneys the lawsuit could go away if Monsanto would provide a binding legal covenant in place of their certifiably vague, ambiguous, and unenforceable Web site “promise” not to sue farmers over undefined “inadvertent,” “trace” amounts of contamination.
That “promise” is viewed as a worthless and weaselly public relations gimmick and a disingenuous scam. It is designed to appear to the uninitiated as if it were a functional commitment when it is really useless and empty because of its use of intentionally undefined language. The language tricks the public into believing Monsanto is being reasonable and generous when they can define the terms as they want and do as they want. This is still true even after the Appeals Court determined Monsanto had effectively given a tiny covenant binding on them for contamination between zero and one percent. They can choose to prosecute or not prosecute anyone possessing contamination greater than one percent.
Even if the rule of estoppel justified the finding of a binding covenant, it did not provide any reasonable or clear basis for defining what the limits or the terms of the covenant should be. Accordingly, the court set the terms minimally and favorably to Monsanto, and as a result, the decision became a way for Monsanto to evade the challenge posed by our complaint while at the same time appearing to provide what we originally seemed to be asking for. The decision was turned into a trap for both plaintiff and defendant, but only one percent was imposed on Monsanto. The other 99% was imposed on the plaintiffs. Maybe the judges were laughing about their cleverness. We have viewed Monsanto’s unreliable and merely propagandistic “promise” as an intentional deception and veiled threat, but in 2011, we wanted to see if they would be willing discuss the wording of an honest and honorable pledge. They were not. In response, they said their language was good enough, and by that, they made clear they did not want anything that would be enforceable or explicit in its meaning. Clearly, they wanted to be able to withdraw it at any time they might choose, change it at will, and interpret it in any way they would want. This outcome of the exchange of correspondence was explained in our amended complaint filed on June 1, 2011.
Eight months later on January 31, 2012, Judge Naomi R. Buchwald of the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on a Monsanto motion to dismiss our lawsuit on the grounds that no “meritorious or judicable dispute” existed between us and Monsanto. The motion had been filed in July, and we can only speculate about the reasons for such a long delay in responding to the dismissal motion. Maybe the judge was busy with a large load of other cases, but maybe she wanted to help delay as long as possible the legal process and our opportunity to have a day in court. Given the attitudes revealed in her decision on the dismissal motion, hostile views have been easily apprehended.
We can know from the decision on the dismissal motion issued by Judge Buchwald on February 24, 2012 that she was favorably inclined toward Monsanto, because she told us in her decision we should feel comforted by the Monsanto promise not to sue, and she also impugned us for bringing a case that had no merit—in her opinion. She told us our contentions were not acceptable and should not be tolerated.
In response, we believe the judge’s attitude is not appropriate. If she wants to be respected by plaintiffs in her courtroom, she needs to show respect for the earnest concerns of those plaintiffs even when she feels she must rule against them. Condescending tutorial language is not acceptable in a democratic nation where judges are the servants of the people. Judges are not slavemasters over the people, but Judge Buchwald behaved as if that was her assigned role. Maybe that would be the style of judges in a dictatorship, but it should not be in the United States.
The delay in the scheduling of the oral arguments on the dismissal motion could not have resulted because months of preparatory work had been needed even though some preparation would have been preferred. At the oral arguments, Judge Buchwald showed—and even said—she had not yet researched the relevant precedents. She did seem to have read the complaint but maybe no more than that.
Possibly, more amicus briefs could have been desirable to fill in more background information about biology and the nature of farming than an urban-dwelling judge might have been exposed to, but the judge did not exhibit humility regarding limitations in understanding of the issues being raised. That would have been respected and admired, but instead she acted as if she knew everything, and we were the ignorant party in the relationship.
In the end for whatever reason, Judge Buchwald clearly did not study or consider the uncontroverted facts in our filed complaint, and that made it seem as if she preferred to insert her own facts in preference to ours. Maybe she felt the facts were unnecessary to consider because she felt comfortable dismissing the case without recourse to the facts. She also showed no indication of having looked at our asserted precedents. Instead, she seemed to find and use precedents fitting the decision she wanted to issue.
The neglect of pertinent facts and precedent constitute legal error in the view of our attorneys and in the view was supported by a national group of law professors in filing an amicus brief with the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit. Arguments on both of these points were stated inthe appeal brief filed in July 2012 in support of the appeal.
If Judge Buchwald was not going to do the necessary homework to make effective use of the opportunity the oral arguments provided her, and she also was willing to come to the oral arguments with an uninformed, preexisting bias, we cannot know why she wanted to permit the oral arguments, but she said she always allows them whenever they are requested. Maybe it would have been better if they were not offered. If they were not imbued with essential integrity and honorable respect but are only permitted as a perfunctory formality the same as might have been conducted with a sack of wheat sitting in the judge's chair, the opportunity did not generate a basis for appreciation. The accommodation would need to be sincere and earnestly employed before it could be appreciated.
The behavior did not inspire respect for the majesty of the law and neither did the former Solicitor General of the United States, Seth Waxman, who led the Monsanto legal team. He spoke condescendingly before the court with his hands in his pockets as if he were conducting a law school seminar. His tutorial demeanor should have been apparent to everyone in the courtroom including the judge, but maybe it was accepted as normal or the style he wanted to convey as a means of stating an attitude about the lawsuit. Or maybe the exhibited manners were conveying Monsanto’s disdain toward our lawsuit. Maybe they hoped or asked for the manifestation of that air.
Whatever the reasoning, Waxman spoke as if he wanted his courtroom demeanor to reinforce the Monsanto contention that the lawsuit had no merit. He showed through his body language a lack of respect, and perhaps that was also further intended as a put-down. Maybe Monsanto hired the leading trial lawyer in the nation just so that could be the conveyed message. Maybe they felt they needed to use that approach when the weight of the legal arguments was not on the other side. It could be their way of throwing their weight around, but attorneys would be more respected if they did not and would not accommodate that kind of motivation.
From our point of view the revealed attitudes were out of touch with reality the same way a king might be out of touch with the realities confronted by the serfs of his kingdom. In fact, farmers everywhere are fearful about Monsanto, and this is especially true of those choosing to farm non-transgenic crops. They have wanted for almost two decades to avoid anything that would put them on Monsanto’s radar. In the face of this reality, Waxman’s courtroom statements sounded like the gratuitous charitable whisperings of an elephant as he danced among a packed roomful of rabbits without the ability to run anywhere.
Even a visit from one of Monsanto’s investigators is going to take time away from farming work, and we know farmers who have been visited by Monsanto’s security contractors. They have been given a leather jackets for their cooperation, and they have wanted to cooperate as part of their way to maintain a low profile. Helping farmers to overcome this fear is one of the objectives of our lawsuit, and we believe Monsanto intends to instill fear in farmers.
We believe Monsanto misuses their patents as a means of intimidation intended to get farmers to cave in and capitulate to their assertion of power. Many have done that just because they do not want to be targeted for a patent infringement prosecution if their crops would become contaminated. They know Monsanto is king and that they have the backing of the U.S. government, so they do not want risk their livelihood through the need to fight with them.
Three weeks after the oral arguments on the dismissal motion on February 24, 2012, the Judge Buchwald dismissed our lawsuit with a relatively short and imperious 25-page decision. In it, she accepted without supporting evidence undocumented oral assertions made by Monsanto’s lead attorney at oral argument. From these statements, the Appeals Court later construed establishment of a binding covenant.
Now, at the end of 2013, we are 73 appellants appealing to the Supreme Court against the dismissal by Judge Buchwald as well as the affirming decison by three judges of the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit. Ten of the original plaintiffs have dropped out of the group, possibly out of a fear they might be required to pay Monsanto’s legal costs if the Appeals Court decision would have proved to be adverse and Monsanto demanded payment of their legal costs.
Maybe this group of co-plaintiffs have feared the possibility of retaliation by Monsanto in some way. Farmers know their cropss could be contaminated clandestinely, and they worry about their vulnerability. We do not know why our co-plaintiffs declined to continue to participate in the lawsuit because they were not asked to explain their reasons. Any plaintiff can choose to drop out at any time, and they do not need to explain anything to anyone.
Some might have less hope or confidence that justice will be able to prevail in the end, and maybe some were not prepared for the delays entailed with the need to spend a year or two or more just contesting over the right to a day in court. Whatever the thinking, there is no reason to believe they are any less committed to the original objectives of the lawsuit than the rest of us.
In the course of two courtroom appearances and two decisions, many things have been observed to justify doubts about the ability of justice and wisdom to persevere, and maybe the judges’ decisions caused some to lose faith in that possibility. Many farmers believe they are on their own with hardly anyone to rely on apart from themselves. Their sense of vulnerability has increased since the introduction of Monsanto’s transgenic system of agriculture.
As we see it in summary, the judge gave only cursory attention to both the centrally important facts and the most pertinent precedents when she wrote her own tutorially directive, condescendingly imperious, and flagrantly dismissive dismissal decision. This view is stated to present the truth as it is seen. That is considered a patriotic obligation and a testimony in support of the essential truths we are asserting in our lawsuit. The obligation to truth cannot be fulfilled without pinning the tale on the donkey in the place where it belongs. No deference should override that.
Many people in the farm community, including those growing Monsanto’s transgenic crops have been caused to no longer expect justice in a court contest against Monsanto. They have watched as the cases have been moved to the federal court in St. Louis where the judges have routinely supported Monsanto’s contentions. Monsanto has so much confidence in the federal judges in St. Louis, they even require their customers to accept under their adhesion contract the resolution of all disputes in the St. Louis federal court. Maybe those contractual provisions are viewed gratefully as a full-employment provision for the benefit of the St. Louis court.
Among the other reasons farmers have lost faith in the legal system is the permitted harassment, investigation, and prosecution of farmers for patent infringement after their crops have been contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic crops. Reportedly, Monsanto investigates about 500 cases every year for what they refer to as “seed piracy.” Almost all of these cases are settled out of court by farmers who feel they cannot afford the time or the money to go to court against a powerful company— even if they believe Monsanto's facts are in error.
We cannot know how many of the cases may be unjustifiable or even the names of the people involved. That information is not made public. Only information about cases that go to trial is made public, but we do know of cases where the defendants felt they could have contested successfully against Monsanto if it had not been too costly in time, money, and personal stress to do so.
When the cases are settled, the people involved are gagged against speaking about the details of their story and they are prevented from ever in the future participating in a lawsuit against Monsanto. These are standard, required terms in the settlement agreement. The whole process is part of an ongoing effort imposing intimidation over farmers and destroying trust within the rural community as part of a process of asserting virtually feudal-style domination over the corporately subjugated serfdom.
Because testimony or “snitching” from neighbors is relied on by Monsanto to help them know which farmers to investigate, the fabric of rural communities has been torn asunder. Replacing it is a climate of mistrust and antagonism between farmers employing divergent and opposing agricultural methods. Monsanto has been reported to have entered farmers’ premises clandestinely to gather crop samples as evidence of infringement, and some states have passed laws allowing this behavior or setting up a framework enabling it with state officials provided to accompany the investigators on their visits. Monsanto has lobbied to win these laws.
Perhaps Monsanto hoped more of our co-plaintiffs would be intimidated by the uncertain prospects of filing an appeal, and both the language and the attitude shown in Judge Buchwald’s dismissal decision appeared designed to send us home with our tails between our legs, but if that was the goal, she did not succeed. She only strengthened our resolve to persevere, and another case, Bowman v. Monsanto, went before the Supreme Court in early 2012 that was directly pertinent to the infringement issue. It involved an argument about the doctrine of “patent exhaustion” but one that is greatly different and less persuasive than the one we have asserted.
The court decided unanimously patent exhaustion should not apply in the case of seeds that are by their nature self-reproducing. The decision was not surprising given the fact that Bowman was trying to make use of Monsanto’s technology and thought he had found a novel way to do it without paying a royalty. The court’s decision was common sense under the applicable circumstances, but the case did raise a question needing an affirmative response by the courts. The only surprise was that the Supreme Court decided to take the case and write its own decision on it. Perhaps, the Justices felt the decision on the issue needed to be definitive, and perhaps they felt the lower courts had not fully addressed the need.
Meanwhile, the main issue in our lawsuit centers around the principle of “strict liability” governing patent infringement of any kind with no exceptions; the doctrine on patent exhaustion enters our discussion in relation to contaminated farmers who have no interest or desire to make use of Monsanto’s technology. We believe the principle should not apply in our case. The “strict liability” principle says possession of the patented object without having paid a royalty must trigger patent infringement liability regardless of how the possession occurred or what the intent is. We believe this principle needs to be changed as it affects biological contamination capable of spreading itself through natural processes.
Again, under “strict liability,” it does not matter how the patented object came to be possessed. The fact of possession is enough, and there are no exceptions for accidental or inadvertent contamination. This principle hangs constantly over the head of all farmers who do not want to grow Monsanto’s patented crops but might have their own crops contaminated by them and therefore could be subjected to a patent infringement lawsuit if Monsanto would so choose.
Because of her reputation as a fearless, fair, and diligent judge, we expected better from Judge Buchwald on our issues, but having read her decision, we are outraged by her directive tutoring (as if she knows more than we do about the realities faced by farmers). We are also outraged by her attitude toward the issues we raise, and her condemnation of us for filing a lawsuit we believe is essential to the health of people, livestock, and the future of all life on the planet. We cannot believe the judge correctly and fully understood the issues at stake.
We will likely continue to feel as we do about Judge Buchwald’s decision even if the Appeals Court and the U.S. Supreme Court uphold her decision. As of June 10, 2013, the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit did sustain the dismissal even though they applied entirely different logic in doing so. A discussion of both decisions is in the review of the court decisions.
The Buchwald decision reads in some parts more like a letter to a wayward child. Our response as stated in our attorneys’ appeal briefs can also be read to understand the errors and failures we find in the judge’s decision. These documents are the filed appeal to the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit and also the response to the Monsanto response to our appeal brief. The hearing on our appeal was held before the three judge panel of the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit is on January 10, 2013. The judges appointed to hear the appeal were: Judge Timothy B. Dyk, age 75 and appointed by President Clinton in 2000, Judge William C. Bryson, age 67 and appointed by President Clinton in 1994, and Judge Kimberly A. Moore, age 44 and appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006. As an aside, Judge Moore is the youngest of all current federal judges.
Judge Buchwald is also a Clinton appointee, and that was a reason greater hope had been placed in the prospective wisdom of her decision, but in this instance we have not fared any better than Arpad Pusztai did in 1998 when President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair alledgedly spoke about him prior to Blair’s directive to have him fired from his job at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Seth Waxman was the Solicitor General under President Clinton, and if he saw the issues as we see them, he might not have taken the case when Monsanto asked him to take it. He is a legal gun for hire, and everyone deserves representation, but some deserve high quality legal services more than others. Some of the most deserving do not get what they deserve, and some of the least deserving often get much more than they deserve. This is true in both representation and in decisions issued by the courts. Justice is not assured, and in our case it may not be likely given the history and the financial power of the opponent in a system where money commonly speaks louder and more powerfully than truth.
The decision by the three Appeals Court judges was issued on June 10, 2013, five months after the oral arguments. Even though we were grateful for a partial victory in vindicating of our belief in the merit of our case, the decision was not nearly as much as we would need to see to address our need for a Declaratory Judgment and a full hearing on the merits of our asserted issues. Therefore, we will petition the Supreme Court to hear our contentions, and that petition will be filed in September 2013.
Based on the small number of cases the Supreme Court accepts, the odds of this appeal being accepted for review are low, but they are not zero. The high court could be interested in clarifying the rules governing legal standing in a case like ours, especially when the two lower court decisions have been highly unsatisfactory by any reasonable standard or command of the facts and precedents.
We would have rather received a better decision from the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit or from Judge Buchwald in New York, but these things happen as they will whether or not the public interest is well served by the outcome. One way or another we need to find a way to persist. Failure to do that would be morally unacceptable and irresponsible. The clock is ticking on the damage being done to the public health, to animal health, and to the environment. That circumstance needs to be addressed.
If the appeal to the Supreme Court is won, the lawsuit would return to the courtroom of Judge Buchwald at the Federal District Court of Southern New York where Monsanto plans to file another dismissal motion on different grounds. If that fails, they plan to file a motion to have the case transferred to the federal court in St. Louis, or they could decide to file for the change of venue first, and then file the second motion to dismiss after that either in New York or in St. Louis. If the lawsuit moves to St. Louis, and Monsanto gains their desired and often seen home court advantage, it could be like the advantage the lions enjoyed against the Christians in the Roman Coliseum or in the lions den of the Persian King Darius, but our attorney is named Daniel!
In sum, this Web site provides information about us, the reasons why we believe our lawsuit is important to everyone, and the issues underlying to our arguments. Our core objective is to end the threat of patent infringement lawsuits when farmers become contaminated by the patented Monsanto transgenic seeds that we believe should never have been granted a patent. We argue the invalidity of the Monsanto seed patents in our complaint, and this argument will be asserted in much more complete detail once we win the opportunity to put our case before the court.
In the meantime, the damage to the public health and the environment continues and must be exposed. It must be opposed in the public interest and as a matter of honorable, honest, moral, and responsible stewardship over the biological resources given to us by God or Mother Nature. We lament the dishonorable and disrespectful public disconnection from these natural resources and the food they make possible, and we believe this disconnection results in the patent abuses and the biological abuses we are addressing. If people were more concerned than they are about the nutritional and healthful value of what they eat, we believe the nation and the world would never have come to the situation where they are.
We think Monsanto would never have been allowed to obtain utility patents on any seeds if so many people had not become disconnected from natural reality. When people disrespect nature and do not feel connected to it, they may become arrogant about it; when that happens ignorant men come to believe they can improve on it. That could only have happened in our opinion because six Justices supported the idea back when the decision on J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International was written by Justice Thomas in 2001. The decision lacked a perception of the implications, and the same would have been true at the time of the Diamond v. Chakrabarty decision 21 years earlier in 1980.
This is not a Luddite argument as Monsanto and its allies have often contended. It is an argument for better science than has yet been seen and greater prudence as well. Learning important things about the way nature works is valuable necessary. Conversely, acting on limited knowledge to enable companies to profit prematurely and at high public cost is an atrocity we seek to illuminate in court.
If many people in the United States did not possess little understanding of biology and agriculture, judges at all levels, including the Justices of the Supreme Court, might be expected to know more than they have exhibited. In the absence of knowledge and natural respect in the United States, we have arrogance, hubris, and amoral expediency instead. From that, has been seen an easy assertion claiming the biological fabrications of men can be better than the works of God evolved over millions of years and under constraints corporations and their political allies have yet to understand or respect.
This shortcoming of perception, respect, and gratitude now needs to corrected as quickly as possible. It also needs to be corrected in one way or another in the courtroom of Judge Buchwald unless she changes the venue, sending the case to the judges in St. Louis. If that happens, it will be in the face of a large group of members of one of our plaintiff organizations, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, within the region served by the court and all the others from many states and provinces of Canada. None of the plaintiffs are from eastern Missouri, but two are from western Missouri. Other plaintiff organizations have many members in the region covered by the Southern District of New York. This, too, justifies the choice to file the lawsuit in New York.
If Judge Buchwald were to allow the case to be moved to St. Louis it would be for two reasons: • She thinks it is more important to serve the interests of the defendant than it is to serve the Plaintiffs, and/or, • She is not interested in adjudicating our lawsuit, giving it the thorough attention it deserves, and she wants to get it out of her courtroom in any way that may be available to her.
According to the testimony of others who have appeared in her courtroom, Judge Buchwald has a bias against human rights and civil rights cases, and our case is a human rights case above all else. The human rights of all citizens of the United States and the world are at stake. It is about the right of the people to eat safe, healthful, and nutritious food, and about the right of farmers to be unimpaired in their ability and freedom to grow it. There is no more important human rights issue than this. If people are not healthy or are physically impaired as the result of the food they eat, little else matters.
The objective of this summary of objectives is to outline our contentions, not to prove them with full documentation. The presentation of evidence will come in the courtroom, but much on the documented concerns can be learned by reading articles in the offered annotated bibliography and more recent bibliography or from reading other provided materials on our Web site—perhaps especially by reading our court complaint.
The filed complaint is the basic document undergirding our lawsuit, so we urge all those who are concerned about the future of life on the planet to read it. Just reading that and the annotated bibliographies can go a long way toward providing the information people need to know about the range of issues needing attention. The bibliography represents a portion of the many articles and research materials available to be studied by all citizens.
Transgenic Technology, Negligent Trespass, and the Issues to be Raised in Court Monsanto’s livelihood-destructive, health-impairing, and environment-damaging contamination can be delivered by wind, rain, insects, birds, animals, soil microorganisms or compromised seed. Once the contamination is part of the gene pool, it is self-replicating with unclear and still largely uninvestigated future consequences.
Independent, objective, long-term studies are needed, but the need for them has been ignored because of the way the U.S. political system serves the needs of corporations ahead of the public interest. Under the system allowed by law in the United States, the patent owner can control and prevent research they do not want, and even if they do allow some research or contract for it, they can prohibit the results of it from being published if their interests are not served.
Much is still unknown within the science of genetics, and for that reason companies should not be allowed to play with it at will, redesigning food for their own profit-producing purposes and doing all their own safety testing with virtually no government or other independent oversight as is the case in the United States. Provable commitment to sound and admirable science has long been missing from the pursuit of transgenic profits. That needs to be rectified, but it has been ignored and evaded with government help.
This ignorance of the reality has been promoted through the invocation of the so-called Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence claiming transgenic food is the same as non-transgenic, but that is an atrocious misunderstanding of the genetic reality at best. Actually, it is a dangerous fiction, and the promoted Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence is an ideological political product, not the result of sound science.
The results of mixing genes from different species cannot be known in advance. It is not like putting a coat on a person or hitching a cart to a horse. That is why thorough and careful long-term investigation and health analysis is needed. It matters what other plant traits are turned off and turned on as result of injecting transgenes into the crops, and it matters where the injected gene is introduced, but the Monsanto methods provide no ability to control the way the genome of a plant is affected.
Monsanto’s technology inserts the alien gene at random without anyone being able to know how the interactions among other genes in the plant or the gene pool are impacted either long-term or short-term. The impacts of Monsanto’s transgenic technology is a crap shot but the dice being used have maybe millions of different possible combinations. Once the interrelations between the genes are disrupted by the introduction of the alien gene, there is no telling what the resulting impacts will be.
This is what the scientists at the FDA feared in 1992, but they were overruled by the politicians in the Bush-Quayle administration because they wanted to promote deregulation without regard for the health and environmental costs or even the impacts of their own negligence and misfeasance. The FDA scientists warned of toxins, allergens, new diseases, impaired nutrition, but they were treated like Chicken Little despite the fact that time has proved them right on every count. All Presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, since Bush I have been as guilty, and they all need to be prosecuted for their role.
They will not be prosecuted because the Congress is equally guilty, and so are many in the bureaucracy and the courts. The people are also guilty of citizenship negligence and blindness, because they are disconnected from the sources of their food and do not want to take the time needed to pay attention.
Inasmuch as Monsanto has been allowed to do their own safety testing, prudence has not been required, not even after the Supreme Court required an environmental impact study (EIS) before transgenic alfalfa could be released into the market. The study was made, but it used cut-and-pasted information from company studies or studies they contracted for. The resulting EIS was a sham. All of the studies have been too short in duration to provide much useful and necessary information about the health impacts, but this is what happens when the law permits the patent owner to control all the research into the impacts of their patented products.
When Jeffrey Smith was working on his book, Seeds of Deception, he asked British Researcher Arpad Pusztai what was the biggest surprise he encountered in the course of his work, and Pusztai said: The poor quality of the research done by the biotech companies. Pusztai’s story is important to tell, and a 40 minute video is on the video page of this site: Arpad Pusztai and an Aphid-Killing Transgenic Potato.A much longer video presentation by Pusztai and his fellow researcher and wife Susan Bardocz is available from www.bio-ag.com
Both the use of the gene gun to randomly inject the transgenes into the crop DNA and the use of a promoter virus in the process raise questions that have not been answered in the United States because of the power of the patent owner to control and prohibit independent, objective, assuredly unbiased research. Revealed in the course of the Monsanto story is the political travesty against science resulting from rampant disrespect for scientists. This has been the rule among political officials who demonstrably believe politicians should be free to overrule scientific concerns if it serves their political interests.
In exchange for their regulatory laxity, politicians of both political parties have received campaign contributions, and once in office these politicians have appointed employees of Monsanto and other biotech companies to positions with power over the public authorization, release, and safety assessment of biotech food. This is not acceptable, and it would not be possible if the political culture was not corrupted against the public interest through the power of corporate and corporately-derived money.
Imputed experts first at the OECD, then at the FAO and the WHO, were found willing to accept the “doctrine of substantial equivalence” between transgenic crops and conventionally bred crops, and that opened the door for the unregulated release of transgenic crops, but the problem is not just with the use of transgenic seeds; it is with the entire short-sighted and unsustainable system of chemically-dependent “no-till” agriculture that goes along with the use of the seeds and the associated techologies.
Most of the corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, and sugar beets grown in the United States are grown under this soil-destructive and fertility-damaging agricultural system, but these are not the only possible transgenic crops resulting from Monsanto’s activities. Their transgenic crops can contaminate other crops in the same plant families as their crops through cross-pollination and other genetic kinds of contamination. Weeds, insects, and soil microorganisms can carry the contamination and impart it to different crops.
Transgenic sugar beets can contaminate chard, table beets, and more. Transgenic corn can contaminate other forage grasses in the same family, such as eastern gama grass, and canola (rapeseed—brassica napus) can contaminate a wide variety of plants in its plant family. Any transgenic crop can contaminate soil culture where it is grown and thus contaminate other crops subsequently grown in the same soil.
The process through which the transgenes may be removed from the gene pool or soil is not clear, and the breakdown of the associated nutrient-robbing glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide in the soil can take as much as 25 years. The chelated minerals are not released back into the soil until the chelate breaks down. The cost of the needed repair could now be literally astronomical, and for that reason the use of Monsanto’s technology needs to be ended.
Transgenic varieties of alfalfa, bluegrass, bentgrass, squash, flax, potato, tomato, and more have been offered on the market with more transgenic crops in the pipeline pending approval and market introduction. A new fast-track approval process has been initiated at the USDA to move these crop approvals speedily along. Transgenic bentgrass has been found to cross-pollinate with several varieties of weed, and transgenic canola has escaped into the wild to become a widely-spreading weed. Similarly, transgenic alfalfa is now expected to become a weed requiring extraordinary methods, including highly toxic chemicals to control and exterminate.
These are issues to be illuminated in our courtroom arguments as soon as that stage of the lawsuit is reached. Because of Judge Buchwald’s case dismissal decision, that could take two or three years from the date of her decision in February 2012 if the higher courts decide to overturn her decision and the differently-reasoned affirmation by the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit. Action by the Supreme Court to correct the errors of the past could open the way for a trial on the merits of our complaint, but if that does not happen, a new lawsuit will be needed. The issues are too important to be dropped just because one lawsuit was stonewalled by the courts.
Judge Buchwald effectively allowed Monsanto more time to continue contaminating crops, and total contamination has seemed to be their goal, because that could cause opposition to their control over agriculture to go away permanently. Once total contamination of all of agriculture would have become an accomplished reality with no reprieve, no other system of agriculture could exist. Theirs is a one-way street, as the Arpad Pusztai pointed out many years ago. Organic agriculture cannot persist against it indefinitely, and the weakness of the organic rules on transgenic contamination promote its collapse sooner rather than later. The organic laxity is not robust against Monsanto’s depredation.
Everything containing Monsanto’s patented genes could be controlled by them at least until the patents run out. However, they prevent the patents from running out by making small changes and submitting a new patent application as the old ones are about to expire. This behavior will also be addressed as part of our lawsuit. They have gained duplicative patent protection contrary to patent law, and we will seek a decision from the court to end illegal duplicative patenting that is abusive to the public interest.
On this, the public interest has been poorly served by the decisions of two courts, so now we will be able to see how the highest court in the United States views the issues being raised.The issues to be raised are spelled out in materials included on this Web site, particularly on the Home page, and they are also spelled out in the court complaint and the subsequent briefs. The science underlying our issues can be explored in more depth by referring to articles included in the bibliography, so this presentation is limited only to summary highlights.
Suffice it to say that the use of Roundup and its active ingredient, Glyphosate, is one part of the problem—because it is a powerful and aggressive chelator that binds with the minerals in the soil making them unavailable to the plants growing in the soil. These minerals are important to the immune health of the plants and well as to the immune health of animals and people eating the plants.
The use of Roundup has also engendered the evolution of Roundup-resistant super-weeds difficult and costly to eradicate. Because of these weeds, Monsanto and Dow are introducing crops that are resistant to even more toxic and dangerous herbicides. The bottom line: chemical and transgenic agriculture delivers an amorally expedient short-term benefit for farmers and profits for biotech agribusiness companies in exchange for extremely high long-term environmental, agronomic, aquatic, and air quality costs. That is the trade-off.
For example, Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide can evaporate and rise into rain clouds to be delivered everywhere. When it is sprayed, especially when it is sprayed from airplanes, not all of the chemical lands where it is intended. Health impacts result from this, but in the United States they have not been tallied even though they have been reported anecdotally by doctors, veterinarians, patients, and others.
Full assessment of the public health and environmental costs need to be examined and calculated, but this much is known: since Monsanto’s transgenic technology was publicly introduced almost 20 years ago, the amount of chronic disease in the United States has doubled, and now as the result of recent studies all of these chronic afflictions can be traced to a Monsanto-related health impact. Some of it relates to nutritional impacts on people and animals from Monsanto’s technology.
Included among the affected or promoted afflictions are infertility, organ damage, impaired immune function, endocrine disruption, obesity, bowel inflammation, birth defects, and more. Medical doctors have seen a 40% increase in digestive disorders since transgenic crops have been introduced, and plant pathologist Don Huber has noted a 900% increase in Alzheimer’s disease.
The increased need for fertility clinics to address infertility has opened up a new medical profit center, and increased obesity has also been directly traced to Monsanto’s system of agriculture. One diabetes related impact is simple to explain: when the minerals needed for health have been removed from the soil through the increased use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, and the food is then deprived of the minerals needed to be healthful, people eat more food as they automatically seek the nutrients they lack. This is elemental cause and effect.
Much more research is needed on all the above-discussed subjects, but it has been prevented because of the collaboration between corporations and political officials of both parties. Meanwhile, a real-time biological experiment is being conducted with the U.S. people and others in many nations as the lab rats. Domestic animals are also non-consenting and abused guinea pigs in the experiment, but the commitment is not made to understand what is going on through required epidemiological studies.
In our opinion, the currently unrestrained corporate desire to control agriculture through ownership of seed patents and to profit through the sale of the high-priced seeds—and the associated chemicals—does not justify the risks imposed on farmers and their land, consumers, the environment, and the future of life on the planet. We vigorously oppose government officials of both political parties who have promoted Monsanto’s biotech objective and the destructive idea of transgenic agriculture, as if it had been proven wise, prudent, honorable, intelligent, and scientifically sustainable.
We believe government officials, including now several U.S. Presidents as well as members of the Congress, have proven themselves unqualified to know the significance of what they have done and are doing—or to understand the potential and actual dangers they have unleashed. Unfortunately, most of the voters who elected them are similarly unqualified and oblivious, even though a basic understanding of eighth grade biology should be enough to give everyone pause or start them on an investigation.
No independent, objective, long-term analysis has proven Monsanto’s seed technology safe, wise, or nutritious. Almost all of the U.S. studies have been made by the company or under their sponsorship and control. As involuntary and generally ill-informed consumers of the dangers Monsanto has unleashed, every citizen is part of the only long-term study ever started, and we may not begin to know the results of this cavalier biotech experiment until massive genetic impacts on our great grandchildren are known. That is why long-term, multi-generational studies are important to do before transgenic crops are released.
In the absence of the needed studies, years in the future, those who still possess the capacity will be able to observe, with the benefit of hindsight, the multi-generational human impacts of the experiment the Monsanto Company, biotech agribusiness, and elected officials in the U.S government have been running on everyone who does not grow all their own food in isolated, tested, and guaranteed safe conditions—most likely in a greenhouse using filtered and cleaned air and water. But even there, transgenic contamination is possible through a lapse of detailed attention. Those eating transgenic food may not be prepared to evaluate the impacts, because one of the impacts doctors have noted is brain fog.
The State of Public Knowledge and the Politics of Transgenics Past polling has shown about two in every three U.S. citizens do not have knowledge or an opinion about whether transgenic food is good for them or bad, and the other third of the people have been shown to be about equally divided between those who think transgenic food is good and those who think it is bad. This polling is out of date now, as it is a couple of years old, but recent polling has suggested all but about 7% of the U.S. people want transgenic food labeled—once they are asked the question in a way that makes the choice understandable. That poll result has been fairly consistent despite the ability of industry to spend a total of about $66 million to frighten people in California and Washington state against labeling.
The California vote lost by 2.8% in the end and the Washington state vote looks like the margin could be less than 2%, but a loss is a loss even if a great many people were helped to become better educated on the issue. Until the question is raised many do not think transgenic food is being sold yet; they think it is still in the future. Many have also never heard of Monsanto, and many who do know about it do not know anything about its seed business. This has been the state of public knowledge despite the fact that Monsanto is now the world’s biggest seed company.
A poll in 2012 showed all but 8% of Democrats, 10% of Independents, and 11% of Republicans wanted transgenic food labeled, but until recently, these numbers have not meant many people were alert or active on the issue. No matter what people think about the danger or value of transgenic food, most of them want to be informed once widespread ignorance on the issue is overcome and the issue is explained.
A late 2013 poll by Food Democracy Now in New Hampshire showed results about the same as the national polling. The poll was taken because of a bill on labeling in the state legislature. Because of heavy industry lobbying, the bill was voted down in committee on a party line vote. Democrats voted “Yes,” and Republicans voted “No.” That showed Republicans more responsive to industry than to the demands of voters. The process in New Hampshire is not complete. Floor votes are still awaited; the committee vote does not prevent those.
Until more can be known from independent and objective U.S. research after laws are changed to make that possible, we can observe animal impacts (if we have that access), read about the studies by researchers in other nations, and maybe try to observe the impact of transgenic food on our own health if we do not do everything possible to avoid it. The weight of world-wide evidence and the advice of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, among others, including many doctors, has suggested peoples should indeed do everything possible to avoid transgenic food, and that includes the meat from animals fed transgenic grain (that is virtually all of the commercially available meat that is not organic or grass-fed).
Most people find avoidance of transgenic food difficult when more than 75% of the processed food in most grocery stores has unlabeled transgenic ingredients. Many people also think they cannot afford more costly food, even though they may eat in restaurants and buy prepared food more than they would if they were truly concerned about food cost. Eating the cheapest food is a false economy. Food should be bought according to the most nutritional content per dollar. When people eat the cheapest food and especially if it is transgenic, they do not get all the nutrients they need, so they eat more as they try to find the nutrients they lack. If they ate nutrient-rich food, they could eat less and save money. They could also avoid getting fatter than is healthful.
Articles about these issues are included in the bibliography, and more information will be provided as soon as it is available. This contribution to the public information need is made because the corporate media in the United States and even the public media have mostly accepted as “conventional wisdom” the views aggressively promoted by biotech corporations and the government.
NPR’s Marketplace program, for example, has regularly aired pro-Monsanto segments without providing counter-balancing views. This appears to happen because Monsanto is one of the program’s corporate sponsors. Meanwhile, conventional pro-Monsanto attitudes have been backed up by company research and industry-sponsored and approved research. Maybe the Marketplace producers are pro-Monsanto without caving in to company pressures. Many people want to believe in the value of transgenic food, and that attitude has long supported the Monsanto transgenic project in the U.S.
In 1992, on behalf of the pro-corporate deregulating preferences of President George H.W. Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle declared transgenic food “generally recognized as safe,” even though the scientists at the FDA have been found to have opposed this political finding. Science was overruled and ignored by politicians with the power to discard scientific counsel they did not want to accept.
The views of the FDA scientists are now known as a result of discovery in another lawsuit, but they were not made public at the time of the Quayle declaration. Instead the people were kept in ignorance out of favoritism for the Monsanto agenda and the agenda of other biotech agribusiness companies. The interests of the biotech agribusiness companies were favored ahead of the desires of the people, or the politicians thought the concerns of the public were wrong, and they wanted to force people to accept transgenic food without regard for any stated public interest in avoiding it. This is an indication of the publicly disrespectful state of U.S. democracy.
If elected leaders had been honest, they would have conducted the public discussion needed to convince people about the value of transgenic food—if that would have been possible to accomplish. Instead, the decision was made to foist it on the people without their knowledge, and that project has been going forward ever since then without any remorse yet being seen. Better needs to be hoped for. Under the highly irresponsible U.S. system allowing the patent holder to control all of the investigations into the safety and healthfulness of their products, no independent research can be done without their permission and control. This atrocious and negligent circumstance cannot be emphasized too much. It is a flagrant abuse of the U.S. governing ideal to allow the people no recourse and no way to protect themselves.
The point needs to be hammered until the public addresses the need for change. If their elected officials were going to do anything about this, they would have done it long ago. When research is permitted by Monsanto, no findings can be released without their approval, and that continues to prevent the people from knowing what they need to know.
As would be expected, companies do not want to release anything that can hurt their income or their interests, so they have not done that. The courts have helped them continue the abuse by defending their commercial speech rights. This is a presumed right not to inform the people about matters they consider unhealthful even after proof of adverse contention has been established. This determination shows the corporate interests in the United States have become more important than the public interest.
In addition, the power of biotech agribusiness money in the agricultural research system means many institutions accommodate and sustain this control without contest or protest. These institutions have become dependent on corporate funding to support their need for research contracts. They have become amenable to producing findings the sponsoring corporations will like, and the president of South Dakota State University adds to the lucative arrangements by serving part-time on the Monsanto board of directors. The board job pays more ($400,000) than the president’s day job ($300,000), according to news reports at the time of the board appointment. The link provides an example.
Sometimes individual protests by involved academic scientists can be heard confidentially, but many will not speak out publicly for fear of losing their jobs. Some have been told they will lose their jobs if they speak out against Monsanto’s interests. Most have been gagged by their employers acting under the terms of the signed contracts.
Fortunately now, some have reached the age of retirement, and that has provided increased freedom to speak out, but before retirement, they must do as the contracts with their employers require them to do. Dr. Don Huber, emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University, is one who has been speaking out since his retirement.
Others have stated privately they will be speaking out after they retire, but the problem has not been caused by only Monsanto. Other agribusinesses were similarly active before Monsanto started to involve themselve with agricultural seeds. Monsanto followed a pattern that was long set by others at the agricultural research schools located mostly at the land-grant universities. Objective, independent research has been compromised at these schools for decades as corporately subservient research has taken its place. Companies commonly buy the findings they want to obtain, so studies are designed to deliver the desired results. The truth has been obscured.
Most cannot speak out publicly without endangering their future employability in their chosen profession, and even if someone wanted to fund research that was adverse to the corporate interests, some researchers would not want to take the assignment for fear they would taint themselves by doing it. They would know that these sources do not provide a continuing flow of funds as the corporations do, so they do not want to do anything that might offend the corporated sponsors and their allies. The research system is driven by a corporate cabal, and Monsanto has been at the head of it over recent decades.
Even though some researchers and professors will lament privately the death of academic freedom in agricultural research, they usually do not feel they have a way to do anything about it. Some scientists and staff investigators have been fired for speaking out against the interests of transgenic agribusiness, including particularly Monsanto, but the real reasons for the firings are usually hidden under some other excuse with the reality left unstated. That makes the decisions hard to contest. Mostly, as a result, they are not contested. The affected people just do what they need to find a new job somewhere else.
Once a problem has occurred, the victims do not want to rock the boat any more than the universities do. They do not want to risk getting a reputation for being the kind of person no one wants on their team. They do not want to lose the chance of a job in other places, so they are as interested as the perpetrators to silence discussion about the story. Few are interested in doing anything that could hurt their career and render them unemployable, but the net result is the compromise of their science and scientists.
Most of the reports are sub rosa until the people reach retirement age and begin to talk about what they have experienced—or write a memoir. In many prominent cases, institutional dependency on corporate research money results in the issuance of instructions to faculty and staff telling them to avoid speaking publicly even about the existence of views opposing transgenic agriculture.
U.S. law and established practice collaborates with the control exercised over academic freedom just as it allows Monsanto and other biotech companies do their own safety testing—in total conflict of interest and in opposition to the public interest. Because of the corporate desire to bring products quickly to market, this testing has been cursory. Monsanto's studies have lasted no more than 90 days, and 90 days is not enough to reveal everything needed about multi-generational genetic impacts. With the shorter studies, dissection is needed to see the changes to internal organs, and that can be evaded if the purpose of the studies is to find no harm. Some studies have been terminated when they started to produce adverse findings opposing the corporate interest.
Political leaders in both parties have allowed this negligent and irresponsible arrangement to persist unconstrained now for almost two decades with respect to Monsanto’s transgenic seeds and longer than that in relation to the research agendas of other agribusiness companies. The behavior is likely to continue as long as companies like Monsanto have money to fund research institutions, pay lobbyists, and give campaign contributions to incumbent office holders or those opponents challenging them in either primaries or General Elections.
Laws have been needed to require full independent and objective, long-term testing of transgenic food for years before it is allowed onto the market, but that does not advance as long as decisions are governed by adherance to the convenient fiction called “Substantial Equivalence.” Quality research would be needed if the labeling of transgenic food did not soon cause the market for the food to evaporate, but even if the market would dry up, studies are needed to fully understand the dangers and damage already caused by the crops in the market over the past 15 years.
The problems already created need to be cleaned up by someone, and someone or some organization needs to go to court to require the clean-up, but no lawsuit with this objective has so far been announced. That cannot move forward until many people finally understand why the change is needed.
The size of the problem must be assessed as part of the work needing to be done. Studies are needed to help know the size of the trouble and to plan the ways required to address it. They cannot be advanced without funding and legislation that will not happen as long as many people, including officials in Washington and farmers prefer to put their heads in the sand and blindly support the Monsanto program.
How and Why the Current System Works Against the Public Interest To enforce control over farmers who might possess the Monsanto genes without paying a royalty, the company reportedly maintains a staff of 75 people with an annual budget of $10 million plus unspecified and intimidating numbers of “security consultants” dedicated to pursuing farmers over alleged breach of contract and patent infringement violations, matters that they refer to as “seed piracy.” The damage non-transgenic, organic, and biodynamic farmers face from the potential and actual risk of patent infringement prosecution pours salt in the wounds inflicted through crop contamination—and from the resulting inability to sell crops in their intended quality-protecting non-transgenic markets.
These dangers are real and have been documented in publicized cases—as well as others privately communicated without the benefit of publicity (settled under gag order), but they are not the only dangers. Often the contaminated crops are moved into the so-called “conventional” or chemically-dependent food market where the public can be none the wiser about the impact of chemical-laden transgenic food, especially as long as no law requiring the labeling of transgenic food exists. This is what happens when corporations with a stake in transgenic agriculture have great power over government policy.
Because of government negligence, no one yet knows if even a small amount of transgenic contamination is safe; those studies have not been made. We know the research done by the group coordinated by Arpad Pusztai from the Rowett Institute in Scotland showed damage from feeding transgenic Bt potatoes as part of a balanced diet, but that research was suspended after Pusztai said he would not eat the then offered transgenic food containing pesticidal genes. He was fired from his job, and his research data was taken from him until the British Parliament had it returned 6 months later when they began an investigation.
According to Pusztai’s story, President Clinton alledgedly called Prime Minister Blair, and Blair called the director of the Rowett Institute, directing him to terminate the research investigating the transgenic potato, fire Pusztai, and discredit him. For the full story in Pusztai’s own telling of it, see the previously cited 40-minute movie on the Video page of this Web site.
The public dangers to consumers, animals, and the environment are worse but more hidden than the private dangers and costs to non-transgenic farmers and food producers who cannot knowingly permit any contamination without losing income and their organic or biodynamic certification. Typically, when organic or other non-transgenic farmers learn their crops have been contaminated, they do not publicize the fact because they know they could be sued for patent infringement if their story were to become known. They quietly move their crops into a market where they can be accepted, usually a market for chemically-raised crops. Then they do what they must to recover from the transgenic damage to their soil.
If a contamination threshold is enforced, as it is in the European market, they may mix the crop with an uncontaminated crop to get the contamination below the accepted limit. The European limit is 0.9% (almost 1%). This limit is also accepted in the United States under the Non-GMO Project’s labeling program, even though no one has done the needed research to find out what level is safe.
Most farmers with a contaminated crop try to fly under the Monsanto radar, hoping to avoid attracting attention to what has happened. In some cases, contaminated crops have been moved into the organic market without either the buyer or the seller becoming aware of it. If farmers are not aware of the contamination, they are not liable under the National Organic Program, and this creates an incentive for some farmers to remain ignorant and to avoid testing. This loophole in the National Organic Program needs to be repaired, and some have tried to fix it, but they have not been successful even though some members of the National Organic Standards Board have joined the effort to increase attention to the issue.
Only the most prudent, careful, and honorable farmers do whatever they can to protect their crops from contamination and test them to make sure no contamination has accidentally occurred. Nonetheless, all organic farmers are at risk; if a customer tests their products, they will lose their market and their certification. The testing is costly, and it is possible that only a part of a crop will have become contaminated. Even with diligent testing the contaminated part could have been missed. The uncontaminated part might be the one tested. Contaminated and uncontaminated kernels can be found on the same ear of corn, for example. Seed and pollen drift can occur in only one part of a field.
In the case of Percy Schmeiser in Saskatchewan as publicized in the films “The Future of Food” by Deborah Koons Garcia of Lilyfilms, and “David Versus Monsanto” by Bertram Verhaag of Denkmal Films, only the part of the crop close to the road was contaminated. A neighbor’s transgenic seed had blown off a truck and that contaminated Schmeiser’s crop in one part of a field. That was enough to cause Monsanto to bring a lawsuit against Schmeiser for possessing their genes without having paid a royalty. As was his standard practice, Schmeiser saved his seed for replanting, and though cross-pollination that spread the transgenic traits more widely. Perhaps he did not test the seed to make sure none was transgenic, but doing that requires more testing than is economically feasible even if Schmeiser did the best he could to segregate out the contaminated part of his canola field.
Our co-plaintiff Chuck Noble grows non-transgenic alfalfa in South Dakota and sells to customers who do not want to feed transgenic alfalfa. He has found that he needs to test seed that he buys to make sure it is free of any transgenic content. He has not been able to trust the seller’s word that the seed is non-transgenic. He has needed to do his own testing to make sure it fulfills the claims made by the seller, and he has found some seed that is contaminated.
Another seed seller has reportedly sold as organic seed that proved to be highly contaminated. These matters make our issues with Monsanto important to us and to everyone who wants to eat uncontaminated non-transgenic food. Most farmers of non-transgenic crops do not want to have any Monsanto “security consultants” visiting, investigating, and intimidating them, and they certainly do not want to be required to pay a royalty for possessing Monsanto’s patented genes as the result of biologically and easily-spread contamination. This is especially bad when they have already needed to sell their crops at a loss. Even European livestock feeders commonly feed transgenic feed or animal feed with transgenic content even though no one knows the human health impacts of eating meat from animals fed transgenic grain (mostly imported corn and soy). Little research has been conducted to determine the answer to that question, but when researchers in Canada found Bt toxin in the blood of both young women and their unborn children, they believed it must have come mostly from the meat they had eaten.
When all corporate and corporately-sponsored research in the U.S. on this subject has obscured more than it has illuminated because of the short-term design of the studies, the long-term impacts cannot be learned. To overcome this U.S. negligence, studies have been performed in other nations, but too often the results have been minimally reported in the United States. For example, after the report on the two-year Seralini rat study was released in France, the corporate mainstream in the United States either did not cover the story, or they focused their reporting on criticisms of the study.
The criticisms were emphasized even though the study was designed to use the exact same protocols as the Monsanto 90-day studies, simply extending the time frame out to the full two year life-span of the rats. This detail was not reported in the major U.S. coverage of the story. The U.S. stories were found to have a pro-Monsanto slant as if they had been written for the papers by Monsanto’s public relations staffl.
In most cases, research about transgenic crops in other nations has not been reported in the U.S. mass media or it has been minimally and cursorily reported. This has been the circumstance even though the impact of Monsanto’s products on human and animal health is considered to be enormous by those reporting on it anecdotally from their own experience. These include doctors, patients, veterinarians, and farmers. Some farmers have been driven to bankruptcy when their herds have lost fertility. One year of that can leave a farmer with nothing to show.
Needed now is a survey article covering all the research over the years, but such an article has not been advanced by any major publication.More than a dozen foreign studies have been made, and they should be replicated and confirmed in the United States, but that has not happened.
The U.S. media outlets often run news and op-ed columns with a pro-biotech slant, and Monsanto has public relations consultants to help them place their material with the news media, including programs run on the National Public Radio (NPR) network of locally supported stations. As mentioned earlier, one NPR program is underwritten by Monsanto, but this program, Marketplace, is produced by American Public Media, not by NPR. It is only broadcast by NPR stations, so that makes them responsible to police the objectivity of the journalism they air.
WAMU, a Washington, DC NPR affiliate station also has received funding from Monsanto and has run their spots: “Support for WAMU 88.5 comes from Monsanto, committed to sustainable agriculture and creating hybrid and biotech seeds designed to increase crop yields and conserve natural resources. More at Produce More, Conserve More dot com.” No doubt some WAMU listeners were grateful for Monsanto’s support of their station, and many might think their transgenic seeds have increased yields. That is a fiction, and a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists has established the lie of it.
Monsanto’s transgenic seeds do two things: enable herbicide resistance and incorporate pesticidal toxin. Any other traits come from the hybrid seeds they use as the host for their transgenes. Yields have not increased, and in drought conditions organic crops have out-performed Monsanto’s crops because the soil on organic farms retains the organic matter needed to also retain moisture during a prolonged period of drought.
Prospectively, Monsanto’s underwriting has affected the way transgenic agriculture is covered even by the nationally-syndicated Diane Rehm Show now aired on many NPR stations across the nation. So far, the story has not been aggressively researched and pursued the damage and destruction caused by transgenic agriculture even though no less of a figure than Al Gore told Diane on the air that the future of agriculture lies in organic methods.
To date, the coverage of the topic on NPR could be called mostly “softball,” despite some detailed reports by environment reporter, Dan Charles. The subject is complex, and it is not easy to cover all aspects in one full-hour program. For the same reason, short news segments are not enough to establish the facts.
Thirty-five years ago when Fred Fiske had the prominent talk show on WAMU, he did several full hour discussions of the issues surrounding the American Agriculture Movement’s farm strike and tractorcade to Washington. Those issues were also hard for people to understand, but they were not as complex as the current issue, and they were also not as important to the national interest, even though the issues 35 years ago were more important than many have yet understood and the failure to address them has led directly to the troubles now. Actually, they were addressed in a way, but they were addressed erroneously and insufficiently. The unbridling of Monsanto was one of the ways they were addressed. Monsanto would provide underwriting support for WAMU for the same reason they advertise on the Sunday morning talk shows. They want to influence and wave a stick at the political class in Washington (and elsewhere). This is not advertising to consumers; it is aimed at policy makers and people with political influence. They would know that many of the people who listen to WAMU in Washington work in the federal government. They would not be as interested in underwriting spots on public radio stations in most other places, though they might in a state capitol if they had issues before the state government. They design their advertising to influence targeted people subliminally, implanting in them a favorable sense of what the company does. The imposition of transgenic and related chemical dangers on unsuspecting consumers (who hope both the government and the nation’s biotech companies are looking out for their interests) has been left undisclosed partly because corporately-allied politicians have long wanted to reduce the regulatory burden on corporations even to the point of ending all oversight needed to protect the public. As a result, corporate interests have become more important within the government than the public interest.
More than two decades ago, President George H.W. Bush told Monsanto officials to come see him because he was “in the business of reducing regulations” for the benefit of corporations trying to sell their products. Since then, leaders in both political parties have followed the same permissive practices, backed up by the same insufficient scientific documentation and support for the “substantial equivalence doctrine” and the lack of risk implied when Vice President Quayle erroneously declared transgenic crops “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).
Politicians know regulation is unpopular with corporations whose political contributions they need, so they have obsequiously helped do what the corporations and their profit-pursuing owners have wanted done whether or not the public interest is served or they have lived up to their oath of office which is actually aimed more to defend the constitution than the interests of the people. The oath needs to be changed to make the interests of the people more prominent than they are. This would have been done long ago, if the Constitution had not been designed from the start to defend the interests of the economic elite who had suffered from too much democracy and too much decentralization under the preceding Article of Confederation.
An oath of office defending the Constitution is like defending the bird's nest at the expense of the birds that live in it and depend on it. If the results of oath taking are as have been observed, it would be better to abandon the oath altogether and insist on a rigorous definition of personal integrity instead, but even more important is finding a way to separate and differentiate the interests of corporations from the interests of the nation and the public interest.
History has shown too many politicians more interested in “shaking-down” companies for political contributions and trading off the public interest if that is necessary to get the contribution. A money-dependent political system needs go after the money it needs in the places where it is most abundant. Protection of the public interest has been lost as a result, and that is the deplorable outcome of the U.S. democratic experiment unless changes are possible.
During the Clinton-Gore years, some company executives complained publicly about this “shake-down” because they were not as ideologically attuned to the goals of a Democratic administration, but they needed to give them funding to protect political access to the administration on matters of policy centrally important to them. That was essential even as they may have been also contributing funds to Republicans for the purpose of replacing as many Democrats as possible at the soonest opportunity.
Under the established political system, companies with policy interests to protect must give money to administrations of both parties before their concerns are likely to get a hearing. Even good ideas are unlikely to get attention unless a link to money has been made clear. That is the way the system works now. The loyalties of politicians can often be discerned only by knowing where the largest share of their campaign funding comes from. Campaign contributions are the price of admission into the office of elected officials, especially when the company is not a major employer in a politician’s district, but campaign contributions also commonly yield a quid pro quo in return for the gift and as a way to encourage more giving in the future. This will be denied at every opportunity, but the record can be independently observed for anyone to see if they want to pay close attention to the way the system works. Often money spent on lobbying and campaign contributions has paid large, even outrageous dividends compared to the size of the investment. Monsanto is a leading beneficiary of this reality.
U.S. democracy has been discredited around the world as a result of the observed power of corporate money in greasing its wheels, but the government still ignores the transparency of the behavior the same as if it were the naked emperor. Many are too busy collecting money to want to notice the way others view their shabby enterprise. Some make incessant noises about wanting to deliver change without really wanting to accomplish it. This has been exemplified during the Presidency of Barack Obama.
In 2007, he said he favored the labeling of transgenic food, but as President, he still has not responded to petitions sent to the FDA and posted on the White House Web site requesting a statement on the subject. One of the petitions was launched when the petition page on the Web site was first launched. Many other subsequently raised issues have received a response, but not this one. Now, in late 2013 virtually added to the list of signatories are almost 49% of the voters in California and Washington state as well as the legislators in Maine and Connecticut.
These realities are observable by those who want to pay attention, but more important is the need for the voters to inform themselves on the issues in their own self-interest. In the modern political environment, issues are milked for as long as possible before they are addressed. Politicians pretend no one sees what goes on, but a growing number do see the pay-to-play system and the delays from it in operation. They are no longer fooled by it as much as they were earlier.
If people and animals suffer or die prematurely as the result of governmentally-supported corporate activities, those responsible seem to count on the source of this outcome being lost in the past, so the guilt of those responsible gets lost. The enabling behavior has been lost too often in the fog of history. No one is likely to fear prosecution for what they have done anymore than executives in large corporate banks have so far feared prosecution for their role in causing the economic collapse of 2008.
Following the previous economic travail during the Savings and Loan crisis of the early 1990s, about 700 people went to jail for what they did, but Savings and Loan banks are small fish, not “too big to fail,” so they could be prosecuted. The big banks are “too big to fail,” so they must be bailed out in addition to being to big to prosecute. At least, Attorney General Eric Holder has called them too big to prosecute even though a supposed $13 billion settlement was reached with one bank over their deceitful role in the mortgage debacle. (The net cost to J.P. Morgan is projected to be actually only $2.7 million after tax deductions, and that is barely a tithe from the gains they made from their mortgage fraud.)As a result, the needed systemic repairs have not been made, and some basic repairs seem unlikely given the power of the banks in the political system.
Similarly, needed repairs have not been made to improve the functionality of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the appointed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, was stone-walled by Republicans in the U.S. Senate until July 2013. At that point, they finally began to figure out the impact of their behavior on their electoral chances in 2014. The problem with the operation of the government is not just within the agricultural sector; it is more widely systemic than that. Troubles are generated from all the major sectors of the economy, including the intersection between agriculture and healthcare.
Aggregate healthcare costs have been rising, and much of it has been traced by doctors to the impact of transgenic food. See the movie “Genetic Roulette” made by Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology and other materials available from the Institute of Responsible Technology (IRT).
In 2012, a major provider of healthcare, Kaiser-Permanente, issued tips to its customers on how to avoid transgenic food, and they would have done that to help lower their costs. Human fertility has declined as has livestock fertility, and veterinary costs have also risen along with human healthcare costs, but no one has initiated studies to find out what is happening, and if they would try, Monsanto might use its patent rights to block the investigation or try to. The number of anecdotal reports is growing, but legislation is needed before Monsanto can be prevented from blocking research as they have done.
Even more important is the need to protect the independent integrity of research institutions. Until that is done, honest academic research will continue to be impossible. With that, the credibility of democracy as a governing system is lost. An axiom of the democratic ideal states: people are allowed to have differing opinions but they are not allowed to have their own facts. Yet, when the research system operates as it does now in the United States, the whole goal is to allow wealthy corporations and others with the necessary wealth to invent whatever “facts” suit their objectives. Lies are propagated more commonly than truth under this system, and that discredits democracy the same as if it were the goal.
As one result of this dishonest system, everyone in the nation will be either a patient or a healthcare provider in a few more decades, according to Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, who served on the Obama healthcare team at the White House Office of Management and Budget during the campaign to pass Obamacare and who also wrote a book to promote his own much different healthcare policy proposal (Healthcare, Guaranteed: A Simple, Secure Solution for America by Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Victor Fuchs). The changes needed in healthcare cannot be made because corporate interests make it politically impossible to sensibly address rising healthcare costs.
Early in his political career, President Obama favored a single payer system, but that was before he made his accommodation with the realities of corporate political power in the United States. Obamacare was designed to work within the established system, but that is no more than a wealth transfer scheme serving to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The goal of the Republican party is shown to be the preservation of the prior system that was even more unjust. It allowed the widespread sale of poor quality insurance which served to make problems worse in multiple ways beyond just the transfer of wealth from citizens to highly profitable corporations with highly paid executives benefiting themselves more than the people purchasing their products.
These realities discredit U.S. democracy by leaving the nation with pro-corporate answers to all problems, and these have been the only answers the corporate powers have been willing to support. As long as they are as powerful as they are politically, no better will be possible. This is especially the circumstance as long as one political party is fully subservient to the corporate agenda and the other one is largely subservient. The provided answers are designed to deliver profits to companies first and serve the people second, if that is still possible.
As the political system, the agricultural system, and the healthcare system head down the rat hole of dysfunction in sycophantic service to the monied interests, the tweaking of policy only kicks the problems down the road. Obamacare does that, even if it does offer modest improvements, and pro-biotech agriculture policy does it even more imperilingly. Neither addresses core issues needing to be addressed before the cost of healthcare can be lowered. The first step will be to reemphasize nutrition, the essential but long neglected reason for being concerned about the food people are provided to eat. Citizens could get organized to address the troubles politicians have neglected, but they do not understand the agricultural sources of their problems any better than most policy makers. Only with purposeful votes and active political attention can they counter the dominant power of focused campaign contributions and lobbying from within both the biotech and the healthcare industries.
Trusting reliance on public servants, both appointed and elected, has only resulted in corporate domination over policy and reality, as our attorneys will show in greater detail when we get our day in court. They will also show how the functional failures of the patent system are a source of the problem needing to be repaired before the injustices wrought by Monsanto can be ended. These are the abuses, two federal courts have acted to perpetuate on February 24, 2012 and June 10, 2013. Once the negative importance of the decisions released on those days is fully understood either by the public, by historian, or by the archeologists of some future civilization, those two decisions could live in infamy, if they are not soon corrected by others of greater vision.
The citizens of the U.S. and the world have been let down and sold out, and some have been willing to sell out themselves through their easy willingness to go with the corporate flow. Evidence about that is posted on this Web site and elsewhere, though more evidence from many more independent researchers could be valuable. We are not finished collecting evidence or testimony, and the delaying tactics of the Monsanto attorneys has given us more time to do that work, but it has also given them more time to get everyone contaminated with their transgenes.
Clearly, Monsanto thinks time is on their side, maybe because they hope to get everyone contaminated and end all controversy through their success with that tactic. Because of their control over the pertinent information through the assertion of their patent rights, it has taken many years and efforts in several nations to gather the information needed to challenge them, and we hope to be able to do more of that before the damage grows to a point past failsafe.
The mounting health and environmental issues are especially agonizing when Judge Buchwald was demonstrably unconcerned or unaware about the public health and environmental risks posed by transgenic agriculture. She showed a desire to fall into lockstep with the irresponsible political officials since 1992 who have gone along with the Monsanto program without the necessary independent and objective proof that Monsanto’s chemically-reliant system of agriculture could ever be beneficial over the long term—or the short—for farmers or consumers.
Inasmuch as most citizens are not able to do their own food safety testing, they must depend on the government to do it for them, but government agencies have punted this responsibility off to the biotech companies as if it should be a good idea to put the fox in charge of the hen house. The most dominant of the biotech companies is Monsanto. Responsible efforts in the public interest on chemical and transgenic agriculture has been neglected by the FDA, the USDA, the EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of State among other complicit agencies, departments, and offices.
Even common sense has been neglected as officials have served the interests of the biotech corporations under Monsanto’s leadership by relaxing restrictions and opening up new and ever more irresponsible and profligate transgenic markets.In late 2013, the FDA is reportedly ready to release transgenic salmon, and several new transgenic crops are also in the USDA pipeline. Most of these are resistant to even more toxic herbicides than Monsanto’s Roundup and that has proven to be worse than DDT.
Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior, certainly with White House approval, has allowed transgenic crops to be planted on park lands and conservation areas. That can only be a relaxation of wisdom designed to help Monsanto hasten its contamination of the gene pool while using wildlife to advance the massive biological experiment Monsanto has been allowed to conduct along with the other biotech companies on people, livestock, and wildlife.
Allowing patent-protected contamination and transgenic trespass is worse than farmers letting their cattle run free among their neighbor’s crops or letting people take over their neighbors’ house to throw a big party while the neighbors are away on vacation, but the same principle of illegal trespass is at issue. Transgenic trespass is more dangerous and damaging than other kinds of trespass, because it is self-replicating and self-imposing—and it spreads by pollen and seeds the same way plant genetics have always been spread. It is not the same as standard plant breeding and plant evolution in the past.
Monsanto’s system is like a thief who can breed and multiply his thievery in every direction automatically. If someone steals a television set or a car, they can use it as long as they have electricity or gasoline, but Monsanto’s transgenic thievery perpetrates itself in perpetuity unless nature would be smart enough to recognize the alien transgenes and wipe them out. Their technology is based on the premise that animals and humans can quickly evolve to tolerate and make benign use of transgenic crops the same way insects and weeds are doing to defend themselves.
Some transgenic plants are more potentially or actually dangerous than others because of the way they are pollinated. Those pollinated by insects spread faster and more widely. Transgenic canola has also been spread widely by birds. They have contaminated fields along midwestern U.S. flyways that are far from any fields where canola is grown.
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, transgenation is defined as gene mutation. While Monsanto wants people to think it is no different than the kind of normal plant adaptation and evolutionary change done for millennia by farmers through plant breeding, it is definitively different. A transgenic cross is forced in ways that are much different and much less predictable than traditional plant breeding, adaptive modification, or even hybridization, which can also be destructive of nutritional value.
Viruses and “gene guns” are used to force the alien genes into the genetic make-up of the target plants, and when this is done, genetic traits can be turned on or off in unexpected and unhealthful ways. It is not like replacing the 4-cylinder engine in the family car with an 8-cylinder engine—or installing a supercharger. It is not like putting steel shoes on a horse. That addition does not change the way the horses function operationally and genetically. Horse shoes do not make unexpected and unpredictable changes in the genetic code of the animal and pass these along to multiple future generations.
Despite common use of over-simplified imagery to make transgenics seem benign, the hazards are serious and the public has yet to be informed about them even though FDA scientists would have advanced that work if they were allowed to back in 1992. Instead, the government made an arbitrary, negligent, and politically totalitarian decision, imposing the biotech project on the people without their informed consent. The terms “modification” and “engineering” are used to make the processes seem benign, even progressive, and as part of that, Monsanto has argued their crops are “substantially the same” as non-transgenic crops even though they want them to be considered unique enough to deserve a patent. Both contentions need closer scrutiny than they have received, and that is an objective of our lawsuit. Because this work has not been undertaken as it should have been, we are asking the courts to look at the issue in the public interest.
That would happen immediately receipt of the request if judges and courts had not shown themselves to be bedfellows with the corporations just as much as many politicians have been. If that is going to be the way it is in all courts, the work of change will be left to the people. That might take a movement as big as the Civil Rights Movement was a half-century ago. Already $18 million has been raised and spent to narrowly lose ballot initiatives in California and Washington state, but that could be relative “peanuts” compared to what may be required before the job can be completed nationally.
Through the abuse of patent law, Monsanto and other biotech companies have been able to abuse the public interest—sometimes with the help of collaborative government officials or staff seeking a future opportunity to move into well-paid corporate jobs after they leave government service. After the model of the proverbial revolving door between corporations and the government, the system is rigged through multiple and atrocious internal incentives to serve the needs of corporations with the people and the collective interest are abused as a result. Even Monsanto’s customers are abused without reprieve.
In our effort to end these abuses, our attorneys extend to Monsanto the right to consider their crops novel but question their public utility in the face of the damage they do to the public health and the environment. We scrutinize the claim that the crops are equivalent to pre-existing crops that look much the same as their transgenic crops and cannot be distinguished from them by the naked eye—but instead require expensive testing to tell the difference. We will argue they have no public utility and should never have received a patent.
The Struggle Against Uncontrolled Transgenic Release In the face of unbridled corporate profit pursuit, companies should not be allowed to impose their unproven technologies on the public, but Monsanto has been doing that—even though responsible scientists at the FDA and elsewhere have expressed concerns about the implications of transgenic seeds from the beginning and since. Under patent law, companies should be required to control their radical biology, and they should not be allowed to force the non-consenting, uninformed, and unwilling to participate in their biology experiments.
The fact of this shameful profligacy is proof of the pro-corporate dysfunctionality of the U.S. government. As a result its touted democratic ideals and the associated capitalist system is cast under a moral cloud. Additionally, the collaborative corporate and government willingness to force the technology on people as if they know more than others argues the invalidity of Monsanto’s patents. Anything that cannot be controlled should not be patentable, and it also should not be allowed into the marketplace without a full explanation of all the technical details by an independent, and objective reviewer.
This is not an argument for socialism; it is an argument against the pro-corporate form of socialism that has already been allowed to take over the same way it did collaboratively with the government in Nazi Germany. It has become a U.S. form of national socialism with Constitution and its governing model used as a smokescreen. The U.S. formulation may be only slightly less atrocious and abusive than other forms of national socialism seen in the past, but if that is true, it has already cause much more damage than the other forms seen in Germany and Italy. They caused acute immediate injury, but the U.S. injury is not as acute as it is invisible, chronic, and long-term.
One of the hallmarks is the doubling of chronic human affliction in the United States since Monsanto’s products were put on the market. Another is the massive use of antibiotics in the meat industry. That is made necessary because of the combined impact of lowered mineral content in the feed resulting from the soil mineral chelation by Roundup and because the high quantities of Roundup in the feed and forage kills the intestinal bacteria the animals need to protect their immune system health.
In the case of cattle, a heavy grain diet is unhealthful both for the animals and for the people who eat the meat. Cattle are designed to eat grass, and their meat cannot be healthful for people unless that is what they eat. Poultry and hogs also need to graze; when they eat only grain they do not get the nutrients they need to stay healthy, and this is especially true when the grain is denied nutritional quality because of Monsanto’s agricultural method. The nutrients needed in the meat, eggs, and dairy products to nourish the people are also absent.
The animals cannot deliver to people what they do not get from their feed. Because they can get sick so readily in the factory farm environment, antibiotics are used to keep them standing long enough to get them to slaughter, but the antibiotics are also necessary because the transgenic feed and the herbicide causes a failure to thrive and provides a climate allowing pathogenic bacteria to thrive instead—after the good gut bacteria have been killed. These are replaced by Roundup Ready gut bacteria that are not recognized by the biology of the animals, so it causes an inflammatory reaction and the failure to thrive. It also provides less defense agaiinst pathogenic bacteria that have become a growing problem for people both in the meat and the eggs and also in vegetables fertilized by the manure.
The only way to fix the problems in the manure is to compost it thoroughly and correctly, but that still does not reestablish the nutrients that were not in the animals because of the way they were fed before they made the manure. If the fresh manure is spread on the soil and worked into the soil, the healthy bacteria in the soil may be able to fix the quality of the manure if given enough months to do that work, but that only happens when the soil is organic or biodynamic.
If the soil has been doused with Roundup, that will have killed the good bacteria in the soil the same as it kills the good bacteria in the animal and human intestines. In that circumstance, the soil is made pathogenic, and that can be the way the pathology ends up in the food consumed by humans. Because of the rough skin of cantaloupes, for example, the pathogens can live on it, and be transferred to people. Monsanto’s transgenes can also be transferred to food through the soil in the same way weeds have been made transgenic with the patented Monsanto traits, and no one has been testing for this kind of contamination even though they should be.
Under a responsible investigative regime that did not want to use everyone as their lab rats, Monsanto and other biotech companies could feed their transgenic food to recruited volunteers or perhaps their own executive employees for a period of years and then report the health results, but they have not presented any demonstration group of committed employees dedicated to eating their transgenic food. Failure to recruit and publicize such a group suggests the existence of internal knowledge about the compromised healthfulness of transgenic food—or a preference for placing corporate profit above guaranteed food quality and nutritional integrity.
An understanding of this issue by Monsanto employees could be the reason why the employees at a Monsanto facility in Great Britain demanded no transgenic food be served in the company cafeteria. Maybe they understood something the rest of the people have not been able to understand and have been intentionally blocked from understanding.
If this was not the reality, company executives would be touting their personal experience with the healthful benefits of their crops, but they have not done that. They have not written essays telling about their experiences eating their own food creations, but they would have done that if their food was any good. Many others would have also done it. They would have their own personal stories to tell. These stories would be testimonials. Then the information would be publicly available for everyone to evaluate for themselves. Monsanto and their allies in the government would not have spent two decades hiding the truth and replacing it with propaganda.
Because the history has been as it has, the question people ask is: What are you hiding and why are you hiding it? Monsanto’s behavior has not been credible or it has only been credible to people who have a stake in making it work. Some of those are farmers who want the technology to be a good idea because it makes farming easy and cheaper—and without it anymore their farm could not be profitable enough to survive. Farmers are still going out of business at an average rate of over 300 per week, and for the past 77 years, the average has been over 1000 per week. That is the measure of the continuing concentration of ownership and control over the farm economy.
Ultimately, some kind of land reform may be needed to fix this concentrated control over the land wealth of the nation. The trouble is many people may not want the land anymore. If it has been so heavily doused wih herbicide the contamination needs 25 years to repair, then few will want to wait that long—if that is the amount of time they need to wait before they can finally work with healthy and healthful soil again. Remediation is possible, but that releases the chemical into the water table and into rivers, streams, wells, and lakes. Some of it evaporates into rain clouds from where it can be spread anywhere.
That is the way the urban people in Germany were found to have Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup) in their urine at 5-20 times the amount that is allowed in drinking water. The circumstance would likely be worse in the United States. The growing of transgenic crops is banned in Germany, so apart from miscellaneous uses of the herbicide for killing weeds, the only way the German people might be getting it would be through the meat of animals whose feed and forage has been soaked in it repeatedly during the growing process.
The corn and soy fed to the European meat animals raised in feedlots comes from Brazil and Argentina where it is grown on huge transgenic and herbicide-dependent plantations. Any hay that is fed is commonly dried off through the use of Glyphosate. It is used to prevent the hay from getting moldy.
If the chemical is at high levels in the meat, it will be be passed at similarly high levels to the people consuming the meat, but studies examining this issue are not done in the United States. Neither the biotech companies nor the subservient government agencies want to know about the size of the problem among the U.S. people. That knowledge would be inconvenient to the corporate agenda, so the needed information to build our arguments in court must come from studies in other places—like Germany and also Argentina where the over-spray of the herbicide onto people has been causing documented birth defects and also impaired fertility.
Based on the research done so far in more than a dozen places, Monsanto’s creations should not be called food, and because of that belief, some have suggested calling their techological products: “phude,” as a way of differentiating them. Perhaps this stands for “phony food.” The trouble is: the idea only works in writing; it does not work orally, and oral differentiation is more important than written. That might be fixed by changing the word to “Phud” and pronouncing it like “Fud, rhyming with Crud.
In 1999, when workers at the Monsanto facility in Great Britain sought a published assurance transgenic food would not be served in the company cafeteria, they stood up for their right to healthful food, but we cannot now easily know what they they may have known that others have been prevented from knowing. In the absence of objective long-term studies and the resulting public knowledge from the publication and publicizing of them, someone is needed to blow the whistle on the continuing profligate evasion of the research requirement.
For the benefit of everyone who eats and wants to protect the freedom of wise and healthful food choice, we and our lawsuit are joining those who have been trying to do this work in every way possible for a long time. Jeffery Smith has been working at it for 18 years and others have been at it for as long or longer. The Center for Food Safety just had it’s 15th anniversary. They are co-plaintiffs and appellants in our group.
Hopefully, we will be able to help move the cause forward, but given the unjustifiable and inexcusably evasive decisions by two lower courts, that is not a forgone conclusion. Many people in positions of power could want to prevent us from getting a day in court. Much could be revealed that would not please them. With courts easily wanting to do their part of the economic and politica establishment, few would be surprised to find them dedicated to the protection of the establishment interest in their decisions, even when that interest is against the public interest.
If the Congress and the executive branch of the government are not going to examine the issues being raised, then someone else needs to advance that work in some other place. If the power of campaign contributions and lobbying deter others from doing their job, someone needs to do it for them. We hoped to be assigned a judge with the curiosity and the commitment to take on the work others have been too negligent to undertake, but instead the judge assigned to our lawsuit fell into lockstep with the politically dominant corporations as a defender of established political power and against the pursuit of the truth about the U.S. food system and those controlling it.
We are not wanting to impose our views on anyone: we only want the opportunity to present our arguments in court and allow Monsanto to present theirs. The need for this presentation of competing views should be obvious, but it is not in places where people want to prevent the truth from being learned and the dominant reality from being examined.
So far, we have failed to find the kind of judges we were hoping for, but we are committed to making our case with the objective of obtaining a hearing of our issues and an adjudication of our contentions. We feel we should be entitled to that as fully as Homer Plessy was entitled to have his issues brought before the court more than a century ago.
When our lawsuit is rejected because we are not entitled to the same human right Plessy received, we do not even get the benefit of “separate but equal.” We are separate, impugned, and disparaged. In the eyes of history, that will be a disgrace, and those responsible for it will be disgraced. We believe we know enough to feel assured about that, and we believe those who study the facts will agree.
We want our day in court as a basic human right, and we will do the best we can to gain that opportunity. That is the only hope the legal system makes available to us. Alternatively, we could lobby the government in hope of bringing change in the political arena, but our contentions are more legal than political. Also, confronting the established power of Monsanto through lobbying would be even harder to accomplish than our effort to gain access to the court. Lobbying would require millions more people and vastly more money to contend against the millions of dollars Monsanto has to throw at a political campaign against us on Capitol Hill. Much money has already been spent to get the Congress lined up on their side
The campaign over the California ballot initiative, Proposition 37, aiming to require the labeling of transgenic food shows the inequality of the power and resources on the two sides, and if money could decide the issue, as it often can before state legislatures or the Congress, then it would be almost automatically clear who would win on our issue in Washington. The 62 corporate opponents of Proposition 37 and three of their trade associations raised $46 million to produce a “No” outcome against Proposition 37, while the proponents of transgenic food labeling raised less than $10 million. Industry spent $1.20 per Calfornia citizen, and in Washington state, the spent about $3.00 per citizen to defeat Initiative 522.
The 5-1 funding imbalance in California allowed the industry forces to saturate the airways for a month before the “Yes” side was able to get their advertising on the air. “No” won in the rural, inland counties, and the “Yes” side in the coastal and urban counties. No reports make clear how party affiliation was predictive of the voting, but judging by the demographics, the “Yes vote looks to have been heavily Democratic and the “No” vote more strongly Republican, and that fits with the pro-corporate stance of Republicans as well as the more anti-corporate stance of Democrats.
On December 4, 2012, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen stopped posting the daily update on the vote count even though the “Yes” votes were slowly eroding the margin of victory reported for “No” in the Election Night tally. Bowen announced no further daily tallying would be reported until the final total would be announced on December 14. She said further daily reporting would not be cost effective. That is obviously true, but the prior three weeks of daily reporting was also not cost effective.
The point of daily reporting is to make the vote transparent in the public interest. It is done because transparency is considered more important than cost-effectiveness. If cost effectiveness was the goal, we might want to have Bowen pull winners out of a hat. In taking her decision to put the counting under the table and behind a curtain, Secretary Bowen reversed a long history of stated personal commitment to improve public transparency of both the voting technologies and vote counting.
Maybe the commitment Bowen had stated when campaigning for office was only campaign rhetoric. An explanation of decision to pull the curtain on the process is needed. The answer cannot be easily discerned, because the behavior was counter-intuitive. To go on radio silence for the final ten days before the final results were announced leaves large questions about the counting process anomalously ignored. The process was taken under the table as if it needed to be taken out of site, so that it could be rigged. Until the story is fully revealed, a rat smells.
Perhaps, given the emerging closeness of the race, Secretary Bowen did not want the different counties and their partisan leaders to be able to able to “find” additional votes for their side before the final tally was completed. Commonly, in elections, the absentee ballots are not counted unless they are needed. If the election is close, they are counted, but if the total number of absentee ballots could not affect the outcome even if they were cast all one way or the other, then the counting of them is omitted.
The closer the election the more the counting of all ballots is needed. For this reason, in this election, a better breakdown of the vote count is needed, so the results from early voting (half of the voting in the election came from early voting), Election Day voting, and late arriving votes can be made clear.
The counting of absentee ballots could be suppressed if it is thought to be more for one result than the rest of the voting. On Proposition 37, the late votes or the late arriving ballots were stronger for “Yes” than the earlier vote, so that could have provided an incentive to suppress the late counting in many places just as it could have provided an incentive to find every single late-arriving vote in other places.
The attitudes in each county toward the late-arriving absentee ballots would have depended on the politics of those in power and the views of those controlling the counting. This is the reason, both parties normally provide observers to watch the counting, but they cannot know how many absentee ballots would have been sent in unless that information is reported. Then it is also important to compare the number of absentee ballots received and counted against the number of ballots requested and sent out.
When this final test was run in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2013, most area of the county showed about 90% of the absentee ballots had been returned, but part of the county showed only about half that percentage had been received back and counted. This raised a question about what happened to cause the difference. The likelihood was that some votes were missed and not counted, and that is what had happened in that case. Along with some uncounted votes in a few other places, the missing Fairfax votes were enough to change the outcome of the election.
A Monsanto victory on labeling speaks against the expressed desires of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans as manifested through polling, and it was accomplished by dominating the airwaves with scare tactics in the weeks immediately before Election Day. In Washington state, voters were told that labelling would increase their cost of food by about $450 annually. That was the estimate if the labels were required in only the one state and not in any other state. It was the cost of making separate labels for the one state while keeping the transgenic ingredients unlabeled in other states.
More important, those not wanting to pay more for their food would be mostly those believing the Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence. If people think the food is no different or want to think that, they will not want to pay for labeling that does not tell them anything they do not feel the need to know. On the other side, if people are concerned about the healthfulness of transgenic food, they would be more likely to want labelling whether or not they truly believe the cost of the food would be increased.
This is the divergency that exists on he issue, and it is largely a rural-urban split even though polling has shown that most farmers growing transgenic food do not want to eat the food they grow. The difference could also link with the places where organic food is available as opposed to the places where it is not.
In many rural places, organic options are not available if the market does not seem to be demanding them. A particular chain may offer them in places where they are demanded but not in other places. Thus, the desire for labeling could correspond with the level of concern people have about the kind of food they are provided. If they are not concerned about chemical content in their food, they will not be concerned about transgenic content either.
As recorded and certified in both California and Washington state, the vote expresses a preference for ignorance or a belief that knowledge about the transgenic content of food is not needed. The gap between the two sides was almost the same in both states, but there were also big differences in the turn-out from county to county, and this could show that more Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort was made in some counties than in others. “No” won in both states by more than two percent, but no assessment has been made to examine the difference in the GOTV efforts between the two sides.
The turnout was generally higher in Washington state in the rural counties, but the reasons for it have not been learned. More important to know would be any divergence from normal patterns seen in other years. The outcome in both states shows a slight majority of voters willing to do without knowledge about transgenic content if it would cost them money to get it. The process of reaching such a conclusion does not seem to have been deliberatively thoughtful based on careful weighing of all concerns.
Most of the “No” voters seemed to have been heavily influenced by the industry’s advertising campaign. Otherwise, labeling would not have been heavily favored before the ads started. From the change, the impact of the ads can be assessed. This suggests limited knowledge driving the pro-labeling position before the ad campaign started. Many may have given a simple common-sense answer before the ads started but were easily dissuaded from it when given some projections about the likely cost. Further, many people may not have been able to assess whether or not the cost projections were likely to be accurate and they may not have looked carefully at the source of the projections to see if they would trust it.
The net result of the electoral efforts in California and Washington state suggests a need for more public information about the issues. This might have been provided by the federal government if they wanted to be objective instead of lined up heavily on the side of the corporations. The kind that wil be promoted by our lawsuit could be helpful to voters if the news media choose to cover it and people want to read it.
Meanwhile, Monsanto and its allies have prevented labeling bills from coming to a vote in many state legislatures, and the allied forces opposing labeling defeated a U.S. Senate amendment to the farm bill on the issue by a 3-1 margin during the summer 2012 and then again on another vote in 2013. In all cases so far, the power of corporate money has spoken louder than the voice of the people wanting to know more.
In Vermont during the spring of 2012, Monsanto threatened to sue the state if they passed a labeling bill, and that was enough to prevent the bill from coming to a final vote, despite having only one opponent when it was voted out of committee. That happened even with the Organic Consumers Association volunteering to help the state raise the money needed to fight any lawsuit.
In Connecticut, also in 2012, the bipartisan votes to pass a labeling bill existed in the legislature, but the governor used his prerogatives to gut the bill’s language before it was able to come to a vote. The politics of that action also would need an explanation if a bill on the issue had not passed in 2013. When the governor signed the bill, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass a labeling bill. Maine soon followed, but others are needed, because both states required more states to pass bills before labeling could take effect. This provision has been added, so several states can share the cost of any lawsuit brought by Monsanto or its allies against the law.
In the other two dozen states where labeling bills were introduced, only in Vermont, Hawaii, New Mexico and New Jersey are bills reported to have come out of committee. A public hearing was held by a legislative committee in New York on July 30, 2013, and after that, the committee chairman promised to bring the bill to the floor of the legislature. The New Mexico bill died on the state Senate floor, and further action in New Jersey has been awaited. The bill in Hawaii has been voted on by one house but it applies only to food imported from outside the state. Alaska vote out a bill on transgenic salmon. Many of the bills are likely to be reintroduced in 2014, but improved outreach to legislators is needed to counteract the power of the industry lobbying.
The poor showing in the states where bills have been introduced (26 states) can mean only two things: the organized forces against it were stronger than the organized forced favoring it, and that the support for the bills is insufficiently organized. The opponents could have been stronger because of lobbying power, and campaign funding. The action taken in Connecticut and Maine was highly dependent on citizens activism, and similar activism is being seen in New Jersey and New York. The Vermont House voted on a bill, but action in the Senate will not happen until the 2014 session. Citizen action has been seen in Hawaii, but more may be needed especially given the power of Monsanto in the island. It does much of its crop development in Hawaii.
Transgenic food labeling is related to our lawsuit in that the debate over labeling helps to inform the public about all the related issues and make up for the failure of the corporate media to fully investigate all the relevant details. Our lawsuit is not just about organic and other non-transgenic farmers; it is about the public interest in patent law and the unrestrained public and ecological victimization for the unbridled benefit of profit-pursuing corporations. The labeling of transgenic food is centrally related to our issues, because it is also directly about the need of the public to know and not have the wool pulled over their eyes by corporations and collaborating politicians.
We believe we are promoting the first thorough public review of Monsanto’s science and technology in a place where a full and fair public debate between their view and ours will be promoted, as it has not been by the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. We will have the opportunity to answer their arguments, and they will have the opportunity to answer ours as best they can. Within the government, a whitewash of the facts and a greenwash of the implications has been enabled and promoted in service to the corporate interest. The goal now is to establish the truth; it has been our goal from the start to state arguments on these points as part of showing how the nation and the government have gone wrong during 20 years of bad, negligent, unresearched political decisions about transgenic agriculture and transgenic food. As a fundamental axiom, people should be informed about the potential risks associated with the food they eat, and we are promoting that ideal. Without a second’s hesitation and as a core principle, the potential consequences of eating particular man-made, genetically-redesigned foods should be made public before any potentially or assuredly endangering food can be put on the market.
Transgenic trespass occurs in people’s bodies as well as in farmers’ fields, so people should be free to decide what they want to eat as well as what they want to grow—without risk from unstudied, long-term genetic damage to future generations and other shorter-term health impacts. So far, studies in other nations show major risks from transgenic food over both the short and the long term.
The impacts of Monsanto’s genetic manipulations may not show up tomorrow morning or three months from now or even a year or two from now, though some things may show up after 90 days for those who diligently persist in seeking them. The trouble is dissection is needed to see many of them. That shortcoming has enabled Monsanto’s project to persist without scrutiny.
Most short-term genetic impacts are not readily visible without dissection of key organs and the lining of the intestines; thus, the risks do not seem to many people to be worrisome, especially when publicly available animal studies have not been available in the United States. Whatever people cannot see immediately or soon is not generally feared, but they should be seeing the epidemic of obesity and the increase in inflammatory bowel disease.
Obesity is so common in U.S. culture people are not concerned about it, and many have worked to prevent it from carrying any stigma. Even one in five young people of grammar school age has been reported to be obese. A brief allergic response or a short headache is often hardly noticed or understood for what it may be. Larger issues can be missed until they are seen more prominently in subsequent generations.
The animal studies in other nations have allowed this to be known. This is the reason independent, objective, longer-term studies are needed before the safety of transgenic food can be fully understood. The failure to conduct these studies in the United States is irresponsible, immoral, unethical, inhumane, unjust, uncaring, and even hateful. It is a denial of everything formerly important in the United States even among the most self-serving. Earlier in U.S. history, it would have been more difficult to overwhelmingly compromise the collective interest so profligately, negligently, and continuously for nearly 20 years.
This may be part of a moral decline, but it also is the result of so much more complexity needing to be understood as part of responsible citizenship. When people need to know so much, many find it easier to tolerate ignorance. They cannot keep up. Monsanto has benefited from this circumstance.
Even nutrient deprivation can be easily missed, because people have no easy way of knowing what nutrients are in their food, what are not, and what should be there but are not. For example, they cannot instantly know if trace minerals are absent or even if a major nutrient needed for immune health is substantially absent. This is what was wrong with an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz in the December 3, 2012 issue of Time magazine when he compared organic food to chemical-reliant food and called organic advocates elitists. They are elite only in the sense that they are smart enough to want all food to provide all the nutrients it should contain. A response to the article by the Cornucopia Institute is here. Nutritional equality between organic and chemically-raised food is not determined by only examining a few major nutrients, as the Oz article suggested. Even the freshness of food can have great impact on nutritional quality. Soil quality is centrally important in determining nutritional quality, but nothing was said about this in the Oz article. The importance of micronutrients was neglected, but they are extremely important, and if they are missing in the soil as they often are now, they cannot be in the food. In that, to its discredit, the article served to lead people astray.
Unfortunately, many doctors obtain no training in nutrition as part of their education, and the older doctors are, the more this is true. Some schools have been improving on this, but the education gap will not close as long as conventional allopathic medicine is closely linked with pharmaceutical profits. The dominant reliance on drugs pushes nutrition out of the way, and patient demand for quick-fix drugs is a large part of the problem. With concern about causes largely missing is many places, the system will not change quickly despite the rapidly rising costs.
As much as the absent nutrient content of food is threatening, this issue is not as dangerous as the emerging longer-term multi-generational impacts shown in the mostly international studies evaluating the health impacts of transgenic food in the diet of animals. Europeans have been more concerned about genetic issues than people in the United States—with Canada sometimes in the middle between the two but closer to the United States in its official attitudes.
Policy in Canada has gone with the ideology of the conservative government, but the Parliament got its first elected Green Party member from coastal Britsh Columbia in 2011. Before that an Independent member had converted to the Green Party, but after that, he was defeated. He never was able to win an election under the Green Party banner.
Some Latin American nations have shown a European level of concern about transgenics or more than that—at least some investigators and legislators in some nations have. Other Latin American companies have been taken over by transgenic agriculture. Included among these are, most notably, Brazil and Argentina. Both are growing transgenic feed, mostly soy, for European feedlots and the sales produce income also for the government.
Even though Europe has been alert to the growing of transgenic crops, they have not been alert to the feeding of transgenic feed and the spreading of the transgenes through animal manure and also the meat eaten by people. The interests of the people on this part of the issue have been manipulatively ignored and sidestepped in Europe almost as much as they have been in the United States. Organic farming is stronger in Europe than in the United States, but too many people still lack the knowledge they need.
The banning of transgenic food in Peru was taken by unanimous vote of the legislators with a couple of abstentions. Meanwhile, in the United States, many people have shown an oblivious Alfred E. Newman “What Me Worry” attitude. Some say they want to eat whatever they want without worrying about it. This attitude is facilitated and even favored as long as people have difficulty knowing what is in their food and what its health impacts are.
The oblivious attitude may come from people not wanting to worry about things they did not need to worry about in the past, but as long as the government does not help them know what they need to know, the oblivious disinterest is encouraged. As a result many are now expected to lead shorter lives than than their parents. The steady rise of average longevity has started to turn around, and it will not be fixed until people show a desire to become better informed about the nutritional wisdom they need.
Some food producers have been abusively unconcerned about the character and value of the food they produce just because they know many consumers who buy their food are unconcerned or do not want to feel they need to take the time to be concerned. Companies have taken advantage of the public ignorance and the general continuing public preference for ignorance. That has been seen clearly in the voting on the ballot initiatives in California and Washington state. As long as people can be easily talked out of their interest in labeling by flashy brochures and incessant broadcast spots, broad improvement in the public awareness is unlikely.
Even if people say they want to know what is in their food, they cannot be taken seriously on the issue unless they get organized to demand what they tell pollsters they want, but before the demand is stated, people also need to know the reasons why the knowledge is important to have. It must be more than whimsical curiosity, and even the statement of a basic human right to the knowledge is not enough to be broadly persuasive as long as countering arguments can be made to stick. As long as the stated desire for labeling is a mile wide and an inch deep, it will not yield any policy change. Politicians ignore the disorganized and listen only the loud and noisy.
A stronger argument would be the need for crop and seed diversity, but that is not enough either among voters who do not have a very diverse diet or an understanding why they should need that. In a forest full of large corporations, voters also do not know why they should be concerned about seed monopoly. As long as they can buy a burger and a bag of fries, they do not care about anything they do not realize.
An axiom in politics says to keep the messaging simple and do not try to educate voters during a political campaign, but education is what voters need. Monsanto would have never been able to do what they do in the first place if the U.S. people cared much about the quality of their food, how it is grown, the chemicals used, the health of the soil used, and where it comes from. Among other things, people ought to be paying attention to the ability of the soil to sequester carbon dioxide. That has been lost, and the modern chemical-dependent system of agriculture creates greenhouse gases as well as weakening the second most important asset in sequestering carbon.
The nitrous oxide created by the use of anhydrous ammonia is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, but as long as people do not know the facts and demand actions from their policymakers, nothing positive happens. Negative behavior is seen instead as the United States puts pressure on developing nations to stop their creation of greenhouse gases while the United States commits to doing nothing to address the need. This is another part of the corporately subservient U.S. political model that makes people in other nations mad, killing international support for U.S. world leadership.
When public expectations are passively stated with unconvincing docility, they do not have the ability to confront organized corporate power expressed through lobbying, campaign contributions, and blatant ability to place their people in key government positions. No company more exemplifies this blatancy than Monsanto. Many citizens are too preocuppied with other activities, including the diligent pursuit of entertainment, to do what they would need to do to make change happen. In forgeting the need for committed citizenship, many have bamboozled themselves or allowed themselves to be bamboozled the same as if they were residents of ancient Rome spending their time in the Coliseum watching Christians being thrown to the lions.
Now the U.S. people throw themselves to the corporate lions, and as long as the pro-labeling campaigns emphasize the public right to know while avoiding discussion about the merits of transgenic food, they do not illuminate the reasons why labeling is needed. Emphasis on the right to know has not been good enough to get the job done. The health and environmental impacts must start to be known because they need to be known. Without that, the arguments about the right to know are toothless against the industry argument that the right to know is going to cost people unnecessary.
If people were concerned about anything but cost, they would want better food, so they could eat less of it. They would pay attention to nutritional quality, but they are more interested in quanitity for the buck without regard for anything else. That is how the U.S. people have come to get the diet the atrociously unhealthful diet they have. Policy has delivered it to them. Policy has promoted the heavy use of corn, soy, sugar, canola oil, and cottonsed oil in food and the unhealthful use of some of the same products in animal feed. The unhealthful U.S. food agenda treats people almost as atrociously as its animals, and the amorality of both marks the cultural amorality.
When the government is not doing its job, the people need to step up to the responsibility of filling the void, and unless they do, healthcare costs cannot be lowered. This is what citizenship should mean in a democratic culture unless people are satisfied to be corporate serfs serving the companies at their own self-destructive and highly costly expense.
With consumers more concerned about price than nutrition, farmers also have often been more concerned about lowering production costs and making farming easy than they have been about the nutritional quality of the crops they grow. This is part of he U.S. system of values that makes everything about money. Under these valuse, farmers have tolerated the creation of a farm economy depending on corn and soybeans, so meat animals can be fed them and also so they can be used for biofuel—whether or not either project is wise or intelligent.
Neither policy makers nor many farmers have cared if a corn and soy diet is unhealthful for meat animals as long as food is cheap for consumers with taxpayer funds given to farmers to make up for policy-wrought low commodity prices, but now the farm subsidies are resented because too much of the money goes to people who need it least. That happens because policy has been used over recent years to funnel money to the Republican rural constituency while also serving the requirements of the agribusiness industry.
U.S. pro-agribusiness farm policy represents the kind of short-sighted thinking the United States has exemplified for many decades, and it is the product of a money-driven political system. The biofuel project has raised commodity prices for farmers, and the issues beyond that have not been of concern to most members of the Congress, who understand little about agriculture in any case. Ignorance in the Congress is as bad and as dangerous as it is among the members of the public, and democracy is discredited because of both realities.
Maybe the issue in the Congress would be better if the members did not need to spend most of their time raising money and did not need to be so responsive to those who have the money they need. This is the kind of political system those with the greatest power have wanted to create, and it all started with the Constitutional Convention in 1787. When the elite set out to create a political system designed to protect their interests, the modern system is what that system looks like two centuries later. No one should want to copy it any more than they would want to duplicate the National Socialism seen in Germany. That system was aggressively efficient at pursuing diabolical goals, while the U.S. system is aggressively dysfunctional in pursuing shamefully ill-informed, destructive goals.
Among all the other issues, transgenic, herbicide-laced brewers grain has been fed to animals as if it could provide all the nutrients the animals need or at least enough to keep them standing without the use of antibiotics, until they can be slaughtered. The public health consequences of this approach to food production need to be debated, but they cannot be debated among people who do not understand enough to launch the debate, and that could be part of the picture painted more fully as part of our lawsuit.
This is another dimension of a food system designed to produce easy corporate profit and cheap food for the public but at the expense of nutrition and national integrity—not just the food integrity but also the moral integrity of the nation. These issues must be examined and publicized, but they have not been.
The reasons and the ways the public interest has been ignored and subverted short-term and long also demands attention, but as long as policies are set through a mutually self-serving collaboration between agribusiness corporations and the politicians they fund, intelligent functionality and wisdom will be made reprehensibly unimportant. Both consumers and citizens will be abused for the benefit of those milking the system for their own advantage. These are the people who should not have been tolerated by Judge Buchwald, but instead she defended them against those who would blow the whistle and help restore sustainable agricultural wisdom.
As long as many consumers and farmers have been unconcerned about quality nutrition and nourishment, food manufacturers show little need to be concerned on their behalf, and that is why it has been hard to learn the details about what is in food. It has also been hard to learn about Bisphenol A in can linings, and it has been hard to learn about ingredients in food that may not be on the label, like the amount of chemicals, bug parts, and rat dung allowable in foods. It has been hard to understand the impacts of preservatives and irradiation of food, but these things affect healthcare costs and the ability of people to function without health limitations.
Jobs in the United States have been exported overseas not just because workers have been cheaper and more compliant in other nations but also because the workers in other nations are more healthy, less obese, and able to work; they are less constrained by afflictions induced in the United States by a corrupted food system than routinely puts profits ahead of health. More information about these issues needs to be put on the table, but instead it has been consistently suppressed by corporations and their co-opted collaborators in the government. The results should be embarrassing to all patriots.
When information is not available, consumers do not have the information they would need before they can show concern and begin to get important problems solved in their own interest. If more information was available, many people would be less interested in convenience “junk” foods, and they would want to prepare fresh food for themselves, maybe food they would grow for themselves. That is not something the corporately-dominated food system would want to see, and neither would its corporately subservient public officials. Demonstrably, they are not dedicated to the needs of the people as much as they are to the needs of the agribusiness corporations. That should be oblivious beyond doubt to everyone. Of these corporations, Monsanto is the most egregious.
Companies often or usually do not show concern unless they are forced to show it under law, and even then some may do whatever they can to circumvent the law. The most important existing law or legal understanding for corporations requires them to serve the interests of their shareholders above the interests of the public and the environment—or the wild and domestic creatures having no political voice.
Corporations have an obligation to produce a profit, and this exceeds any responsibility they may feel to produce a public benefit in exchange for the dollars of customers. When food quality is compromised as a result, this is inexorable, subversive, moral corruption, especially when many people start to exhibit the same self-interested and self-serving amorality as corporations.
When roughly 75% of all processed food in the United States contains transgenic ingredients, it is hard for people to avoid these ingredients unless they are intensively disciplined in their focus and in their shopping habits. That is even more true when most of the meat, dairy foods, eggs, poultry and farmed fish is raised on transgenic grain, especially soy and corn or the brewer’s grain made from it. As a result, the impact on future generations may be equally hard to avoid; yet, people should have the ability to avoid transgenic food and food from creatures fed transgenic feed if they want to—just as farmers should have a basic human right to avoid contamination from transgenic crops.
Even hunters need to be concerned, because game can only eat the food available in the neighborhood where they live, and most of the feed in the fields they access is likely to be transgenic. Animals have been shown to prefer non-transgenic crops if they have a choice, but even wildlife in many places may not have much choice anymore. Worse still is the extensive exposure to the herbicide sprayed on the crops.
People should have a right not to eat transgenic food as much as they have the right to know what is in the food they buy in stores or the food they are served in restaurants and elsewhere. The chemicals in food should be labeled just as much as transgenic contamination, and they would be if the welfare of the people mattered more than the welfare of corporations. That would have happened decades ago if democracy worked as it should. No company should have the unmediated right to sell food when the safety and healthful value of that food cannot be guaranteed and definitively understood.
With the freedom to do business goes the moral responsibility to do it with integrity, but that idea has been lost in the United States as corporations have been allowed to cut corners as part of their free and unregulated pursuit of profits. The responsibilities attendant with business freedom have been less clear in part because the Declaration of Independence is remembered more for the rights it enumerates than for the equally important responsibilities lost among the listed failings of the British king. As a result of the visible U.S. failings, both the capitalist system and the U.S. democratic ideal have lost international esteem. This should be a bigger matter of concern in the United States than it has been seen to be.
The United States should be working to increase its international respect since the end of the Cold War, but the opposite has happened. Respect has been thrown away as if that should be the objective. Sometimes control, domination, and exploitation have been the visible U.S. objective, and that has made it impossible to make real any altruistic interest in the people of other nations. When the U.S. system does not show concern for the welfare of its own people, showing concern for the welfare of other people is made much harder. The labeling of transgenic food is a major indication on this.
The behavior of corporations and politicians intentionally putting their own interests ahead of the public interest is a major cause of the lost respect. Since the Cold War, control has been more important to the United States than respect and admiration, and that has been stated by Republicans and Democrats, despite the price paid in the hearts and minds of the people in other nations. Work needs to be done to address this issue, and our lawsuit is one way to help do that if it is not permanently stonewalled as it has been so far. The agonies of transgenic agriculture are only part of the larger trouble for the United States, but they are a big part, as is the increased use of the associated and equally destructive chemicals.
When people and their culture want to deny the right of the truth to be discovered and affirmed or they prefer their own prejudice ahead of the truth, they are a people and a culture preferring their own fictions ahead of reality. This is the reality we are contesting or seeking the right to contest. Based on what we have seen so far, we may continue to be denied that right, but if we are, the identity of the U.S. culture will be clearly established for history to examine.
We can continue our struggle because it is too important not to continue, but those opposing us will have established their own values and imperatives. They will not have taken anything away from our objectives; they will have only made them more urgent—the same as all pursuit of justice and truth in the face of tyranny. The question is about who wants to look at all the evidence from all sides and who does not. Behind that is the question about why they want to ignore and neglect the evidence they want to deny. That raises a further question about what—exactly—they are hiding and why they want to hide it.
The needed answer is about the reasons they feel the continuing need to hide and deny the full truth and the examination of it as a minority understands it. The answer to this question is sorely needed, but this much is easy to know: hiding truth is what people do when power over reality is more important to them than pursuit of justice, truth, and honorable wisdom in the full collective public interest. It is the mark of a culture protecting an oligarchy for its own benefit.
The Rights and Needs of the People vs. Service to the Interests of Corporations Every farmer and gardener, even if they grow their vegetables in a flower pot, should have an unimpaired and guaranteed right to avoid accidentally growing transgenic food as the result of contamination, and people should not be required to eat transgenic food because they have not been informed about the transgenic trespass against it. No one should be required to pay $200 to test a small quantity of vegetables just to make sure they have no transgenes.
The existing abuse should be addressed through regular and thorough testing paid for by the contaminators, not by the taxpayer or the growers and the consumers. Placing the burdens anywhere else is perverse, and honorable integrity demands better than has been the established rule in the U.S.
The U.S. government has been a collaborator with the corporations against the interests of the people, but that does not mean the government should pay to obtain the knowledge needed. That would only further abuse the people who have already been abused too much. The government should only be required to pay if the money could come directly from those who have continuously facilitated the abuse. If that was possible, officials might be more responsible about the way they perform their jobs, but the trouble is all of the guilty officials do not have enough money.
Once the needed knowledge is gained, the question of liability for the negligently incurred damage arises, and that would require even more money, more than the biotech industry has ever earned from its exploitation. They have been causing more damage than they have delivered benefit from the day they first got started, and that is why they never should have been given any patents to protect their abuse.
As it is now, the costs of avoiding contamination in the United States must be born by the potential victims, and the costs incurred by those actually contaminated must also be covered by the victims, not by the contaminators. This is backwards, and the right principles need to be restored. They would have been restored long ago apart from the organized and well-funded political influence wielded before an easily cooperative and collaborative government by biotech agribusiness companies—with Monsanto in the lead. They have abused patent law for their own advantage and domination over both farmers and consumers with continued government facilitation.
Government action and inaction preventing citizens from knowing what they want and need to know is atrocious and even unbelievable—and in a culture where justice and wisdom should be important and once was credibly important. Those allowing the subversion of historic values should be prosecuted, and they would be if they had not used the power of government to form a self-protective cabal.
Actions taken to benefit corporations ahead of the interests of the people would be intolerable and unacceptable apart from corporate oligarchic domination over the political and the judicial system. The matter is not trivial and the consequences of the operating government policy are not minor.
These issues will be illuminated in the courtroom once we can gain the right to present our issues before an honorable and respectful, truth-seeking judge—if that is possible. We will see if it is possible prior to a new Constitutional Convention to redesign the government and overcome the current flagrancy.
Under patent law, patent holders should be required to control their inventions the same as pet owners must be able to control their pets (and clean up after them) and drivers of cars must be able to control their cars (and pay for insurance to cover the damage caused by their collisions). Monsanto and other biotech companies should not have the uncontrolled right to run over consumers and farmers without responsibility, restraint, consequence, or obligation—and especially not when polling shows 93% of the U.S. people want transgenic food labeled—so they can have a choice about what they eat.
Even more important is the obligation of the Patent Office not to give patents to technologies incapable of being controlled. For this, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the politicians controlling it are as guilty as the companies seeking the patents and the judges deciding they should be allowed to have them. To do as they have done is like dragging into the city a Trojan Horse filled with enough noxious gas to alter the genetics of the population and other living creatures for all of ensuing history of life on the planet. They have not been able to know if the troubles they have released into the world can ever be reversed.
Farmers should not be responsible for the liabilities; they are victims of the project as much as the consumers who have been prevented from knowing what they have needed to know to protect the health of their families and future descendants for generations to come. This is the result when corporations (and the people leading them) are driven by short-sighted expediency without moral constraint. This has become the mode of operation under the destructively exploitive U.S. capitalist model, and it must be changed before the former promise of the United States can be restored.
Unfortunately, most of the people wanting transgenic labeling are not as organized politically as Monsanto and the other biotech companies, so the demand for labeling has been politically soft. If it were not, the sponsors of labeling bills in over half of the U.S. states would be able to get action on their bills. They are ignored in the states, for the same reason their issue has been ignored by the Obama administration and by those preceding it over the years since transgenic crops were arbitrarily declared “generally recognized as safe” by Vice President Quayle in 1992.
A charge of misfeasance, if not malfeasance, is warranted based on facts that have become known since 1992, mostly from investigation in other nations. These investigations still waiting to be verified by confirming research in the United States conducted by disinterested, objective, morally dedicated, independent, politically incorruptible investigators. The advocates for biotech food, like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, point to “500 peer-reviewed studies proving the safety of the products,” but peer-reviewed studies are worthless if the peer-reviewers are all in the tank with Monsanto and the other biotech agribusiness companies as the result of the power of their money in the U.S. agricultural research system.
This matter also must be investigated in the interest of public integrity, and it would have been the subject of congressional investigation years ago if the members of the Congress were not part of the problem as much as the research institutions and other parts of federal and state government. The problem cannot be repaired until the rebirth of integrity arrives anew from somewhere.
Patent holders have a moral obligation to make sure their patented products can be controlled, but someone also needs to make certain the research about them is honest and thorough. In addition, customers and licensee farmers should not be forced to assume all liability, but as long as Monsanto can rig the game in their own favor through the language in their adhesion contracts and Technology Stewardship Agreements, often unread but tacitly accepted by farmers when they open a bag of Monsanto seed, responsibility will not land where it should.
This escape from liability should have been illegal as well as morally atrocious, but because of the political power Monsanto has wielded, it has not been made illegal to escape responsibility for the problems caused by their transgenic crops. Farmers would not be able to get the legislation they would need in the public interest, because they are politically weak in the face of the political power of Monsanto and others in the biotech agribusiness industry plus their allies.
Monsanto has been able to turn their adhesion contracts into a catch-all for everything they have wanted to escape—and they have been able to get away with that largely because farmers do not take the time to read the contracts and agreements they have agreeed to accept. If farmers paid better attention, they would have protested the onerous terms of these contracts, but they have not done that. They have been too eager to embrace the short-term and short-sighted benefits Monsanto has offered.
Even if they had paid better attention, most individual citizens do not make focused political contributions or lobby the government incessantly to protect their collective interest, and when they have tried, they have not been able to establish the same coordinated and enduring financially-empowered leverage of the opposing corporations. This is made worse when the organizations they pay dues to, like particularly the Farm Bureau, are an agribusiness ally of Monsanto more than they are a farm organization.
Fighting the forces arrayed against them has required more resources than farmers could have assembled, just as the “Yes” side on transgenic labeling in California could not muster the resources they would have needed to level the playing field on Proposition 37. The same disparities in power have been seen repeatedly in many places, and in November 2013 the same was seen in Washington state on Initiative 522.
In California and Washington on the ballot initiatives, the campaigns to defeat them were conducted as if by established formula. The strategy was seen unfolding as if the industry forces understood the amount they would need to spend to fulfill their objective. Despite the possible need for adjustments along the way, the campaign was waged as if no doubt ever existed about the ability of the industry forces to buy the outcome they would want as long as they provided all the money needed. When some of the companies funding the campaign in California decided to withdraw participation from the campaign in Washington state, others were needed to take their place or some needed to increase the relative size of their donations.
Most individuals do not have organizations to serve them as powerfully and intensively as the trade associations and astroturf organizations created and lavishly funded by the biotech and agribusiness companies. Not only have they been able fund these organizations, but they have also possessed the political power, together with their allies to win government-administered check-off funding to support their agenda—without any vote from farmers.
Check-off funds are provided by all farmers out of their sales revenues, and these funds should be used, under the law, for crop promotion and other matters needed by all growers of the crops. They are not supposed to be appropriated by a special interest to serve their own agenda, but because so many total farmers grow Monsanto’s transgenic crops, Monsanto has shown the political leverage needed to use this money to fund their astroturf organizations, even when some farmers would object to it.
This is another example of systemic abuse farmers have been powerless to fix, and they do not have enough political leverage to have political friends able to help them get the matters fixed. When they are sandbagged by their own government as well as by the corporations, farmers are left without options when they need to spend most of their time just earning a living. They are left like the estimated 400,000 U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam war who have suffered serious health impacts from their exposure to Monsanto’s Agent Orange.
The use of Agent Orange in Vietnam was not just the biggest deployment of chemical warfare in human history but its impacts on the “friendlies” was almost as serious as the impact on the enemy, and even that was unconscionable under the rules of war. Because of the impact on defenseless civilians, prosecutions should have been warranted in a world where human rights would be universally important and not just a propaganda tool to use when it is convenient and to ignore when it is inconvenient.
U.S. soldiers in Vietnam did not get a vote on whether Agent Orange would be used. They were not given an opportunity to be fully informed about risks associated with the chemical anymore than than U.S. citizens have been given the opportunity to know about the risks of Monsanto’s transgenic food. Basic democratic rights were denied in both cases.
In politics, corporate money and the established corporate relationships based on money are stronger most of the time than the votes and voices of citizens. This has been especially true in the case of the biotech industry with its multiple powerful, interrelated, and collaborative trades groups all with intensive lobbying capability. They are able to join in the formation of a lobbying phalanx alongside the lobbying power of the individual corporations like Monsanto.
Mutually supportive lobbying relationships are established with all the officials important to their interests, and they monitor the government every day to make sure their meticulously-arranged and diligently-sustained political fix does not become unfixed. The fixes only become unfixed comes when massive citizen protest is raised and sunshine is allowed to penetrate the dark places where the political fixes have been consummated. That occurred in 2013 in the case of the former Monsanto Protection Act, benignly known as the Farmer Assurance Provision added to the Continuing Budget Resolution.
Supporting the pro-corporate and pro-Monsanto arrangements] - are the number of industry people given key positions in the administrations of all four recent U.S. Presidents. Mercola.com and others provide a list of 35 officials with ties of one kind or another to Monsanto, and this is certainly not a compete list. Many more junior people are included on the list. (The list is available on the Handout page of this Web site, Item Number B15).
While not everyone on the list can be or should be accused of placing Monsanto’s corporate interests ahead of the national interest, many have helped their former employer when they could do so, and some of them may look forward to returning to a job with the company when their government service comes to an end. The end does not necessarily come when the other party takes over the government, because corporations like Monsanto make sure they have feathered their nest advantageously with both major political parties. They play the game as it has been designed for corporate players to play it.
The common practice seen among politicians in their relations with corporations was memorialized in a definition of an “honest politician” stated by a Civil War-era U.S. Senator, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, who said, “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.” If this is still the established standard, it can be little wonder the U.S. political system is as dysfunctional as it has been in the twenty-first century. The dysfunction has been important because it has allowed corporate interests to be served while the public interest has been continuously marginalized. This is the reality.
The only difference between behavior now and the behavior in earlier times may be that politicians do not as frequently line their own pockets as a result of their public service. Where they put money in their own pockets in the past, now they may mostly put the money in their campaign treasuries to help fund their reelection. The change has occurred as the cost of political campaigns has increased and as other arrangements have been made to put money in the pockets of former politicians. Board seats and speaking fees are an example. Speaking fees are a way of thanking former politicians for policies they have made possible when they were in office. They have provided some with massive personal wealth.
Often laws are written to appear as if something important or valuable is being done for the people when, in fact, many laws are designed provide an appearance of public benefit without making good on the reality or more often modest benefit is provided for the people while massively more benefit is delivered for the benefit of the affected corporations. Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, is one example, and the Affordable Care Act is another. The system serves the corporate interests first (and primarily) while the people are served secondarily.
Largess is often given to the corporations, so they can pass it along, maybe, in the form of corporate jobs. Many examples can be cited. Obamacare is one; it served the insurance corporations and other major players in the healthcare industry ahead of everyone else, because that was the only way a healthcare bill stood a chance of being passed in a political system where the role of lobbyists is more important than the role of citizens. Some laws have been drafted by the industries they serve, and they are provided to their nominal sponsors virtually ready to be voted on.
As should be a birthright democratic entitlement but is not, people expect the government to serve the collective interest of citizens without any extra lobbying or other vigilance being required of them. The public has been especially neglected on issues important to the biotech industry. Unlike the biotech companies and their trade associations, citizens usually have limited ability to get their defenders and spokespeople appointed to governing regulatory and administrative positions with controlling power over health-impacting decisions. This how the power of money works to influence the operation of the system.
Routinely, the people appointed to regulatory jobs are viewed as favorable and accommodating to the regulated industry, and representatives of the regulated industries may be consulted before appointments are made. Sought are people who understand the needs of the regulated industries, and those are usually people who have worked on the inside within those industries. Republicans have been the best at playing the game in this way, and the outcome has not always been negative for the public. Sometimes a win-win has been possible. Other times the results have been publicly costly.
Too commonly, corporations overpower the interests of citizens as if they were a hot knife and the citizens were butter. For example, denying people the needed information about the potential dangers of transgenic food is like denying them informed consent on medical decisions, but that has been done—as if it did not matter. It is bad enough to have no long-term safety studies about transgenic food because the patent-owning biotech companies like Monsanto have prevented this information from being made available, but it is worse to allow Monsanto and other companies to do their own safety studies without independent, disinterested, diligent government oversight, objective confirmation, duplication by multiple disinterested researchers, and impartial investigation or review of the findings by professionally qualified panels, as should be required under law—if corporate corruption of U.S. political processes was not accepted as normal.
As long as it has been possible to get away with serving the corporate interest ahead of the people, it has often been accepted as normal by many people.Still worse is the way the patent office has given Monsanto and others multiple patents on transgenic seeds in violation of basic requirements of patent law against duplicate patents. These issues will be explained in detail in the courtroom when the time comes to present our issues and our grievances before a judge, but with or without patents, studies about the healthful utility of transgenic foods should have been performed by qualified scientists (without a conflict of interest) starting back when President Reagan was in office. Instead, he decided careful regulation of transgenic agriculture would not be needed.
The people of the United States and many more around the world should not have needed to wait for the research to be done by scientists in other nations where corporate power is more resisted than it has been in the U.S. That fact alone has turned the United States into a politically-compromised and disrespected nation exhibiting impaired, corporately subservient, and discredited morality to the world.
The welfare of the people of other nations is affected by U.S. policy, so the impacts imposed on them cause anger, and that should make the U.S. people embarrassed to the point of shame—if they understood the impact and wanted to pay attention. In fact, little attention is often paid in the United States to the thinking of people in other nations. No doubt, that is one result of living far away on the side of major oceans. The situation would be like a wealthy person living in a big house on a high hill outside of a town, except the United States is on the other side of the world without the vantage provided by a high hill. Instead, the disadvantage of isolation is established.
To this international isolation is added the isolation engendered by a nation where the governing and controlling elites are intentionally isolated and self-isolating from the people of the nation. They connect more with the corporate elite than they do with the people who elect them. This is true of both parties, though it is more true of Republicans. They go with the people who have the most money to fund their greatest need: the need to be elected and reelected.
Out of this circumstance, the people become abused, margininalized, and exploited. Apart from this condescending and prejudicial attitude, the citizens of the United States and the people of other nations would not be treated like lab rats and guinea pigs for the profitable benefit of biotech and agribusiness corporations and those farmers who use their products (without being expected or able to make their own evaluation about the safety issues).
Because many farmers use transgenic products to serve their short-term but unsustainable profitability, they would be as culpable as the company selling them the transgenic seeds (and the chemicals to go with them) if they were not comparatively powerless and often with little perceived choice beyond accepting the Monsanto system as it has been delivered to them. In many cases, their bankers require them to farm as they do.
If farmers need an operating loan to remain in business, as most do, they are often given no choice about their farming methods. The bankers require them to farm by the methods considered most likely to enable them to pay back their loans. With these strong compulsions goes the desire to be seen as leading, elite members of their community and even among the most prominent citizens in their states.
These views encourage those farmers who have survived the demand “to get big or get out” to go along with the corporate biotech flow. Bucking it requires more attitudinal independence and financial independence than has come readily to many modern farmers even as the movement into biofuels has helped to improve farm commodity prices. Even when they handle a lot of money in the course of a year, they may end up with little more in take home pay than they would if they carried a lunch pail to a job in a factory, and many do have a job in order to support their part-time farming habit.
In many cases, farmers cannot find non-transgenic seeds from the seed dealers in their local area. This is all part of the way the agricultural system works, and the farmers using Monsanto’s products are no more able than food consumers to make their own safety investigations. They need to depend on government agencies to do this work for them, but the government has not done it. Elected officials have served their own interest in being reelected, and they have collaborated with the corporations to enable that. Some have clearly not wanted to be primarily servants of the public interest when their own interests are more served by and linked with the corporations. As a result, obligations they should feel as part of their oath of office are ignored and evaded.
When transgenic food was arbitrarily declared safe in 1992 by Vice President Dan Quayle over the objections of FDA scientists with serious doubts about the safety and wisdom of the decision, the public interest was swept under the rug, and it has stayed there ever since. The contrary views of the FDA scientists were not publicly known when the Quayle announcement was made, even if they should have been. They should have been published in an impact statement and publicly discussed, but they were not. The government should have been required to present their supporting evidence as well as the dissenting views for everyone to see.
Full disclosure should have been basic before any decision on the public release of transgenic crops was issued, and it would have been if the system was not rigged against the interests of the people and in favor of the corporate interests. Because pro-corporate decisions are so common, the conclusion is clear: The United States has become a nation of, by, and for the corporations with the interests of the people made secondary at best. Apart from the courts, if they would want to, only the people can change that, but it will require massive effort most people cannot make.
With so much wealth transfered from the people to the most wealthy, farmers have been turned into serfs under the new corporate feudalism, even if they are highly capitalized and mechanized serfs. They have no reprieve from their circumstance if they do not have the resources they would need to be in the streets long enough to promote the needed political changes. The goal of the systemic design is to keep farmers on the treadmill under contractual control. Only the smaller organic farmers or uncertified organic farmers selling in farmers markets have the ability to escape the dominant federal pressures, and they do not have an easy life either.
Without any question, farming is not an easy way to make a living. Some specialties are easier than others, but none is without its own challenging demands. For farmers growing transgenic crops the biggest include soil destruction and declining soil productivity coupled with the need to use more fertilizer and chemicals—and the growth of superweeds and pesticide resistant insects. They technology that was supposed to make farming easy and reduce soil erosion has ended up too soon making it harder.
More than 25 years ago, transparently revealing the views of responsible government scientists should have been a fundamental principle under law, if the rule of law was respected and not turned into a jack-ass in service to pro-corporate politics. Politicians should not be able to decide the science they want to accept and the science they want to ignore, but they have done that, and they continue to do it—repeatedly—and without anyone going to jail. The Obama-Biden administration has done it hardly any less than the Bush-Quayle administration or any other in between.
Whether or not Bush-Quayle was eager to reduce regulatory burdens without examining the potential future costs of their ideological preference for deregulation, better should have been expected of them. Public officials should take an oath of office to serve the public interest, not to sell it out in exchange for campaign contributions from powerful industries with armies of lobbyists and enormous financial leverage over government policy. Sadly, officials and their staff too often have an eye on future corporate employment and other related remunerative opportunity, including lobbying work.
Not only has this result been seen among elected and appointed officials, but it has also been seen among those working for them, as Jack Abramoff established publicly from his own experience. He has told about this in his book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist, and in related media interviews. As a convicted money launderer, fraudster, and conspirator in a case involving political influence peddling, he is in a better position than most people to comment on the matter. Huffington Post writer Dan Froomkin said this: “Abramoff frankly admits that he engaged in a massive, ongoing campaign of de facto bribery, where quid pro quo deals with members of Congress were the rule, not the exception.” Though many in politics have denied any relationship with Abramoff and have called him a liar,Abramoff tells of Congressional staffers lining up readily to serve the interests of lobbyists as a way of currying favor and advancing their future prospects to gain better paying billets. According to Abramoff, staffers played the game more willingly than the elected members of Congress. The painted picture shows the breakdown of respectable and admirable democracy as many people put their own personal monetary interest ahead of the public interest, selling out the public readily. In his book, Abramoff suggests the need for a law preventing people who have served in government from ever going to work for a lobbying firm. In obvious retaliation against this suggestion, the attacks against him have been many and loud, but having been sent to prison for his civic failings, he feels he has nothing to lose from airing the dirty laundry and casting blame wherever it needs to fall.
In now attempting to fix the problem he highlighted through his behavior and in his book, Abramoff can only be seeking to redeem himself in his own eyes, if not those of others. Meanwhile, it is is hard to know what Washington would look like without former members of the Congress working as well-paid lobbyists. They are highly in demand, because they understand how Congress works from the inside, and they have the needed relationships with both members and their staff. This is how the system works for former Senators, Congressmen, and also for former officials and staff in the Executive branch.
Commonly, people serve in government roles when their party is in power and in lobbying jobs addressing those they know in government when their party is out of power, but some, like Monsanto’s former chief lobbyist and vice president of government operations, Michael Taylor, have served in government under both Republican and Democratic administrations. He has facilitated the advancement of transgenic technology under both, and he has had help from others, like Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack, with a similarly strong, pro-corporate, pro-biotech history. Vilsack has been an advocate for transgenic pharmaceuticals, and those are the most dangerous because they threaten to put drugs into the food supply and the water supply.
One lawsuit cannot fix all the problems needing to be addressed, but maybe it can help. Someone has to start somewhere, and we are committed to do as we are doing not only because the current system is unsustainable but because the people need those who understand what is happening to stand up. That is why we have filed our lawsuit. Now the question is: whether judges in the futue and the Supreme Court on the present petition will continue to seek and come up with ways to block our efforts. The issue has come down to that, but in no way would it be ethical or responsible to give up as long as path forward is seen.
Facing the Challenge of Establishing U.S. Cultural Integrity Following Decades of Neglect Without regard for public health damage, rapidly-rising healthcare costs, and environmental destruction, the public interest has gone unprotected just because individuals in government service and in corporations have had a contrary personal and collective interest hostile to the public interest. The presented image shows a culture in decline much as the democratic culture of ancient Rome failed from the inside out—and from afflictions it brought onto to itself through its own mistakes. This impact in the United States will be illuminated as a by-product, if not a central element, of our lawsuit.
These matters need to be addressed by the government and the people, if enough of them want to demand responsible food safety, agricultural accountability, and nutritional transparency. So far relatively few have been found to be alert to any of these needs. Many seem to be little different from farm animals, eating and trusting whatever is offered to them as food or feed without raising the essential questions required for their own self-protection.
We need protection for ourselves and all endangered farmers against patent infringement lawsuits because consumers need us to have that protection, but among those who are informed about the issues, few have stood up in there own interest everywhere they can. That kind of extended commitment is needed when an alliance between companies and the government needs to be confronted. Most of the farmers have also caved in, giving the market-dominating corporations growing control even if it is stupid, unhealthful and environmentally damaging.
Only organic, biodynamic, and non-transgenic farmers have refused to do that and not even all of them, yet. Those who have stood up did it because there has been a market for the non-transgenic food they grow or their members grow, but they could not yet stand up with a large number of consumers ready to support them. Many understand the issues being raised, but the organic market is still small, only 5% of the national grocery market even though half of the nation's people buy organic food sometimes. That number also has reported in polls the desire to buy organic: “if they could find it and afford it.”
In some cases, the farmers growing non-transgenic crops have built their own market for their products as much as they have responded to a market demand built for them by others. In as many ways as possible, they promote the value of what they do. Hints of that can be seen in the information the co-plaintiffs have provided for their own co-plaintiff pages of this Web site. Someone needs to do the education required to build the market, and major national organic retailers have not been found to be doing that. They will capitalize on the market if it exists, but they do not work to help to strengthen it. That is done more by smaller stores as they try to strenghten their niche.
The largest seller of organic food in the United States is Walmart. They have about one-third of total sales, but they mostly respond to demand rather than helping to build it. Nonetheless, the presence of products in stores does facilitate availability, and it does inform people about products. So everything helps. The same is true of the large grocery chains offering organic food in the locations it is wanted.
The market for non-transgenic food is needed for reasons bigger than all of the non-transgenic farmers in the nation. Non-transgenic food integrity is needed by everyone, even if most people are so disconnected from the sources of their food they do not understand the need for something better than they are offered in most commercial grocery locations or in all the processed foods many people buy. Convenience and price are still the major market drivers in most places.
Farmers markets are growing, but they do not account for a major part of the market because they usually take place one day a week for a few hours and not everyone can arrange their schedules to get there when they need to—especially when the location is a long drive. Around the world 1 in 5 people are farmers, but in the United States, 1 in 150 are farmers, and that difference promotes the observed disconnection. In other nations many more people grow their own food, and when they do, they do it out of necessity more than because of personal choice.
Monsanto might say that even traditional foods hav aspects that can be dangerous, so “What is the big deal about creating new dangers?” They might continue, “Human beings created automobiles and airplanes, and they are dangerous, too; new dangers are part of life.” The big deal is this: people should be able to choose what dangers the want to take, and they should not be prevented from fully understanding those dangers.
Maybe Monsanto assumes people and animals will adapt themselves to their products through natural evolution the same way weeds and insects are adapting, and maybe that can happen over time. That does not mean the adaptation is healthful or wise any more than it means the food they produce is nutritious and does not cause: allergies and illness.
If Judge Buchwald had felt an interest in defending the operation of responsible and responsive government including the operation of the courts in establishing and maintaining a wise and safe food system, she could not possibly have dismissed our case as her way of preventing us from having our arguments heard. If she was diligently interested in a responsible and responsive court system and government service to citizens, she could not have failed to see a valid controversy between the farmers wanting protection against Monsanto’s rapacious business practices, and she would have sought to understand the impact of those practices either through questioning during the oral arguments, detailed reading of the complaint, or through whatever additional research she might have directed a clerk to do for her as she sought to learn more.
This is a question of the underlying attitudes, misunderstandings, or prejudices enabling and encouraging people to see an issue in one way as opposed to another. Empathy is a quality essential to democratic citizenship and particularly in the character of those elected or appointed officials serving in a democratically elected government—perhaps especially judges—but it was not seen in the dismissal decision written by Judge Buchwald.
Because of that shortcoming and no doubt also because of the ideology likely to be governing Judge Buchwald’s perspectives, she could not see a valid controversy where one does actually and unquestionably exist. She was able to relate to the corporate reality but not to the reality of farmers and their sense of integrity about the work they do in the public interest. Her decision dictates farmer subservience to the needs of biotech corporations.
If Judge Buchwald’s attitudes reflect the state of the national consciousness, the empathy needed to make a democracy work is AWOL.Worse than that, she did not feel the need to try to grasp the facts we presented to her; instead, she felt it was her job to slap us down for our anti-Monsanto and anti-corporate impertinence, and further, she felt it was her right and maybe obligation to tutor us about what should be comforting to us. She protected the established elite interests in much the same way King George III did in the nearly two and a half centuries ago.
King George showed a similarly condescending attitude toward the colonists, most of whom were also farmers. Farming was the occupation of over 90% of the people in North America during the eighteenth century, and it delivered the independence democracy needed to thrive. King George would have slapped down Thomas Jefferson the same aggressive way Judge Buchwald slapped us down.
Important among the judge’s associated underlying attitudes had to be a pro-chemical, pro-transgenic attitude and a sense that those not wanting to get on the chemical/transgenic bandwagon or treadmill would have to be backwards-thinking Luddites ignorantly unwilling to embrace the new world modern science would assertedly make available for them if they would open their minds to its promise. That would need to have been her attitude, and because her decision was not supported by the precedents we asserted, the only remaining option for her was to seek other precedents able to support the conclusion she wanted to draw.
From that preference by the judge, we understand an atrocious arrogance, and if it is not corrected, it is likely to bring United States to its knees. This is the view suggested to us by study of the evidence, and we will present that evidence when our right to a day in court is finally recognized. The sooner that happens the better in will be for the people, the environment, and the future of all life on the planet. This is our view of the matter. This is why we view Judge Buchwald as an ally of Monsanto, the same way President Obama and Secretary Vilsack are allies of Monsanto.
If this is a fair and accurate analysis of what happened at the hands of Judge Buchwald, the process and attitudes making her dismissal decision possible need to be confronted, but it is hard to do that when the underlying biases can only be obliquely discerned—and most people are not even paying attention to the issues being raised. In the face of this circumstance, the only possible way to understand the underlying thought processes would be to require judges to write up a frank statement of their personal biases to accompany every decision they write, but that still might not expose everything needed.
Few people ever want to write an honest statement explaining their biases, even if the have the perspective needed to do it. Exceptionally honest, honorable, and introspective people are needed to do that, and few people are likely to be that honest or that capable of seeing themselves clearly, especially when it could cause controversy related to performance of their job. Judges operate under the illision that they are able to produce wisdom, and they want to escape from the belief they are biased.
An honest statement would require acknowledgement of human limitations, and humility is needed to accomplish that. That would go against preachments about the higher authority of judges suggesting the need for definitive infallibility in the administration of justice, but under the current circumstances, justice has been impossible, and with it, wisdom has been even less possible. That needs to be repaired.
Canadian farmers in our plaintiff group are concerned about these issues not just because they sell products and buy seeds in the United States—and because nothing protects them from contamination spreading across the border in all the ways pollen spreads but also because their legal system takes its lead, especially on patent-related issues from U.S. precedents. If U.S. judges make errors, then the impact of those errors spreads, and it spreads more widely than Canada, because many other nations also take their lead on patent law from the United States.
Even if Canadian farmers growing non-transgenic crops did not do business in the United States, their livelihood, their food ideals, and even the admirable rule of law are all in the balance for them just as much as they are for farmers in the United States. Sometimes, the threats felt from transgenic pollen result because pollen can rise on a hot air convection, travel on winds in the upper atmosphere and come down with rain or a cold air inversion far away from its place of origin. Farmers in Canada could have their crops contaminated in that way.
Small insects possibly carrying pollen can travel similarly on the upper atmospheric winds. When the LibertyLink rice contamination occurred, it occurred despite the fact that rice is 99% self-pollinating. Other major transgenic commodity crops are also mostly self-pollinating, but that does not mean transgenic pollen cannot travel both shorter and longer distances away from the fields where the crops are grown.
The idea that a buffer zone around the perimeter of a field can be sufficient to provide protection is a sham, and in any case it should be up to the contaminator to create and pay for the buffer, not the endangered farmers and gardeners. The contamination must be stoppable and repairable, and that should have been required before any of transgenic crops were released.
The demand that the buffer requirement be fulfilled by endangered farmers is like obligating all car owners to surround their cars with thick resilient rubber to protect themselves from negligent drivers or requiring everyone to carry a gun to protect themselves against the irresponsible and hostile behavior of some. Responsibility for transgenic contamination needs to be carried by those deserving to carry it and that means fingering the people who have created the problem—as well as the judges who have helped them escape from responsibility.
In Hungary, the government has prepared a policy for use in the future if their ban on transgenic crops cannot be sustained; the policy proposal calls for a buffer zone far larger than is used in the United States to be established by the person or company wanting to grow transgenic crops. This would be in addition to the demand that anyone wanting to grow transgenic crops get permission from everyone in the neighboring region, not just the local neighborhood but the wider and more distant region as well.
When Monsanto Canada sued Percy Schmeiser, who was a non-transgenic farmer wanting nothing to do with Monsanto’s seeds, because they ruined 50 years of his own canola plant breeding work (using traditional methods), many Canadian farmers immediately saw how affected they could be. That is part of the reason a group of Canadian farmers and organizations have joined in our lawsuit.
As citizens of the United States and Canada from all states and regions, the plaintiffs and the members of plaintiff organizations in OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto need to establish just and reasonable expectations under law. At the moment, those do not exist, and U.S. democracy will not be internationally admired again until they do—especially not by the rural people who well understand the issues at stake but also not by those who are forced to eat trangenic food or meat fed transgenic grain they have not been able to know about, even though they want to know about it.
An example of the attitudes found among rural people in other nations was exhibited in Haiti after their big earthquake in 2010 when affected farmers there rejected an offer of free seeds from Monsanto. The offer was viewed as imperialistic encroachment, a Trojan Horse, not as a kind and charitable gift. Some of the seeds were burned as a public protest against the gift. Similar attitudes have emerged in India and Africa. Monsanto has gotten its foot in the door by selling hybrid seeds that need to be bought new each year. Then after that, they introduce transgenic seed. An article about the issue in Africa is here.
During 16 years of buying first hybrid seeds and then transgenic seeds from seed companies in India under contract with Monsanto—without having been able to save seeds as had been done for millennia—a quarter million farmers committed suicide when they could not re-pay the debts incurred from buying the seeds. After the seeds failed to deliver the promised yield increases and the farmers became buried in debt beyond their capacity to recover, they have taken their own lives, often by drinking the Monsanto herbicide bought to be used with the seeds.
In Bangalore in 2011, the Permanent People’s Tribunal called for criminal indictment of the Monsanto company and several other biotech, chemical-selling agribusiness companies because of all the damage caused to people, animals, and the environment by both chemicals and the associated transgenic seeds encouraging increased use of the chemicals. We need to be fully informed about the impacts resulting from the way our food system is managed, and so do the people of many other nations also endangered by Monsanto products. People are not sheep, but the right to a “government of, by, and for the people” has been taken away from them as if they should be fleeced the same as sheep.
Even sheep would not deserve to be treated as people have been by the dominant agricultural system under the control of corporate agribusiness with Monsanto marching in the lead —twirling their fat baton as elected and appointed political officials follow them like the Pied Piper's lemmings. The U.S. government has delivered a negligent tyranny with corporate super-citizens made more important and powerful than unincorporated human citizens.
Entitlement to better ought to be a fundamental human right under constitutional principle, but it is not any longer, and the two major parties are little different in their facilitating role than the democracy-destroying corporatocrats. Both follow the money similarly, and both are leading the nation and the world off a cliff, not so much a fiscal cliff but a biological, ethical, environmental, and a moral cliff.
By working to determine in a courtroom whether our views better serve the public interest than the views of Monsanto, our lawsuit advances an essential public debate in a place where political contributions and lobbying power should not overrule healthful, nutritional wisdom important to the future of life and the protection of the gene pool. Short-sighted and expedient agricultural corner-cutting at the long-term expense of the public interest and the planet’s environmental safety is intolerable, and we believe we are rendering a public service by bringing our issues up for public review in a court of law.
We might not have brought our lawsuit if we saw others benefiting from Monsanto’s project, but we only see Monsanto’s shareholders and the recipients of the campaign contributions being benefited. The only other beneficiaries are Monsanto’s employees and contractors. Even the farmers who think they benefit from buying Monsanto’s seed are suffering damage to their future productivity. They have purchased a chimera and many are beginning to understand that. The trouble is: they cannot easily get off the treadmill Monsanto has created for them.
Our goal is to establish in the courtroom an understanding that a place still exists where the truth about genetic science can be truthfully argued when that possibility does not exist at the USDA in Washington, in the halls of the Congress, the White House, or the mistakenly and unwisely self-interested and myopic transgenic farms in the United States and Canada. This is not just a lawsuit about the problems of infringement following accidental contamination. It is about the basic value of transgenic science at the current stage of understanding and biological respect.
Monsanto’s entire project is based on an erroneous understanding of the way genetics work. They started with the belief one trait equaled one gene and that a gene with the new trait could be added to the existing complex of gene without changing the way they interact. That is an incorrect understanding, but Monsanto continues to pursue it as if they could force their own view of the truth on the universe. The scientists at the FDA did not believe the Monsanto view from the start, but the governing politicans did want to believe it—whether or not they had the training needed to know anything about the issue.
Obtaining a declaratory judgment from the court requires good technological and practical reasons to obtain it, not just legal reasons or a desire. As part of the total argument, all the reasons to grant our request for court protection against Monsanto’s depredations need to be put on the table, and the opportunity to do that is what we seek. We believe this pursuit should be our basic human right, and we view Judge Buchwald’s contentions supporting the dismissal of our lawsuit are no more than a corporately collaborative legal gimmick designed to deny us our basic human right to be heard.
The denial of this right is effectively a seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights and so is the behavior of Monsanto a government-sponsored seizure worse and more destructive than the Writs of Assistance of King George III. Ours is a case in patent law, but the underlying human rights should be fully understood. As part of their seizure of other rights, Monsanto has been allowed to come onto farms to test for contamination and sue farmers when they find it. That, by itself is perverse. In our case, they should owe farmers for the damage their crops have perpetrated, but because of “strict liability” in patent law, they have been able to turn the tables against all reasonable logic, justice, wisdom, and common law.
In the end, if the Monsanto Company was proud of what they do and did not want to fly under the radar in their pursuit of agricultural control and agri-chemical profit, they would welcome the chance to defend their technology in court. They would be happy to explain to the public everywhere and anywhere why and how their technology is permanently beneficial to both farmers and consumers. They would jump at the opportunity to dispel all doubts and answer all questions, and if the company was managed by people of basic human integrity, they would have required this of themselves before any transgenic products were put on the market. That has not happened, and it still does not.
Monsanto would have wanted thorough, independent, objective, and transparent long-term studies, even if government officials did not have the personal integrity, intellectual honesty, or the thorough diligence to require these studies of them. Demonstrably, they have not shown the honorable motivation to explain, prove, and establish the long-term value of their offerings. They have sought to escape that need by seeking a dishonorable and devious way around it. They have wanted to skate past that requirement presenting embarrassingly inadequate research as if it could be sufficient evidence to justify their expediencies, and their behavior has repeatedly shown shameful manipulation in the face of the need for respectable transparency. This needs to be repaired by the government has done nothing to repair it.
Judge Buchwald has assisted them for reasons she has not made clear, even though she revealed a clear personal sense of punitive animus against our lawsuit, our arguments, and our group for asserting the basic human right to have a day in court defending basic principles of agricultural integrity. Then, the three judges of the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit similarly assisted Monsanto in avoiding technological scrutiny but without showing the same animus seen in Judge Buchwald's decision. Neither decision will meet the test of history. Both will be seen as part of the governing tyranny worse than the tyranny perpetrated by King George III.
If Monsanto would have welcomed the opportunity to proudly state their ideas and accomplishments, overruling their attorneys’ effort to escape our lawsuit in the easiest possible way, they would not have introduced dismissal motions against us and shown the desire to follow-up with other delaying tactics, trying to escape from our dispute with them on technicalities or to wear us out through the delays. Instead, they would have provided a better binding legal covenant than the one the Appeals Court attributed to them. We sought a Binding Covenant from them when our lawsuit was filed, but we never would have accepted the paltry one the court gave.
If a workable and practical Binding Covenant would have been made possible, that could have rendered unnecessary a Declaratory Judgment from the court, but neither a Binding Covenant nor a Declaratory Judgment is fully sufficient. Beyond that an examination of the merits of the technology is needed. Monsanto also would have engaged in a full public debate about the merits of their technology long before now if they were confident about its value, but they have not done that either. They would have done that if they were interested in truth and public service above exploitive pursuit of profit.
Instead, they have shown repeatedly they do not want the public exposed to a full discussion of the issues, and Judge Buchwald assisted them in that objective. They have used their political influence to prevent a fair hearing of all sides of the argument from occurring, and that abuse was embraced by Judge Buchwald as if there was not reason to think it should not be. Then the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit further acted to embrace and facilitate the error.
Monsanto's attorneys, led by the former Solicitor General of the United States have stated their intention to seek a change of venue moving our lawsuit to St. Louis where judges have notoriously and continuously rendered decisions favorable to their pro-biotech interests. If she is given the authority to make this decision by the Supreme Court, Judge Buchwald may grant that motion to change the venue and perhaps especially so if she wants to manifest her disinterest in the issues we are raising.
On the other hand, Monsanto’s attorneys might decide Judge Buchwald’s revealed attitudes are as good for them as any judges in St. Louis might be, so they might decide to stay in her courtroom. Ever since our lawsuit was in her courtroom, Judge Buchwald revealed pro-corporate thinking on cases that have come before her. Those decisions may also be subjected to Appeals Court review, but on her decision regarding LIBOR manipulation, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine compared her decision to exonerating bank robbers because they did not break the speed limit while driving to and from the heist. The Rolling Stone article is here. With virtually undeniable certainty, the Monsanto Company hopes to circumvent any discussion of the underlying scientific truth about their transgenic methods and associated agricultural system. Because they do not welcome it in the best, sustainable, long-term public interest, the assumption is inescapable they have no concern about that. They seem to believe time is on their side, so they must think delay and obfuscation serves their interests. Either that or they are using of a war of attrition to drain the public capacity to contest against them at least until they have the time needed to get all crops contaminated.
Monsanto’s behavior calls to mind a bumper sticker seen arguing in black and white that transgenic food is corporate bioterrorism against the people. If this is the truth, government support for it is as culpable as the corporate behavior, and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court might be fruitfully expanded by international mandate to hear the case. The court ought to be able to hear any government tyranny against the interests of the people, not just those that are war related. U.S. democracy cannot have standing in the court of public opinion as long as it keeps its own internal tyrannies off limits.
Beyond opposing activism against transgenics in every way possible—both fair and foul, the biotech and agribusiness companies led by Monsanto have also promoted food libel laws, now existing in 13 states. These anti-democratic laws give them an additional tool to fight those who oppose their technologies. They provide a way to silence dissent and make the illumination of the truth more difficult. As long as these laws exist U.S. democracy is further discredited and self-disparaged. No patriots would stand for it, so as long as these laws exist patriotism has been replaced by loyalty to corporate Capitalism.
On the subject of food, the United States is still in the era of President John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts when free speech rights were impugned and dissenters were jailed for opposing the government and for standing up against it. That was a time in the United States when the politically empowered silenced those who disagreed with them, preventing them from being heard, but back then, the issues at stake were not yet as serious as the issues being raised now against Monsanto’s agricultural system and the government allies who protect it. They were not even a small fraction as serious. Now, the future of life is at stake, and finding the truth is more important than ever. More important than ever!
Through their tactics as well as all the raised issues of public integrity, the Monsanto Company and their allies reveal their moral character, and they subject their behavior to challenge if a court can be found where the contentions can be heard. Compromised standards in an effort to create and preserve profits in all the nations where they have been permitted to do business needs to be exposed to international scrutiny as much as it needs scrutiny in the United States, and this would have happened if the Indian proceedings of the Permanent People’s Tribunal would have been able to win press coverage in the international corporate media. They have not covered the story and enabled people everywhere to join in the debate.
The corporate mainstream media in the United States have collaborated with Monsanto as much as the government has, and altogether they have perpetrated tyranny against the people of the world. The extent of tyranny and the impacts from it have not been widely understood yet, but one day they will.
In no place has the tyranny from the transgenic affliction and its risks been so grossly asserted as in the United States. There, even the power of the diplomatic service has been put at Monsanto’s disposal alongside the work of other government officials who have continuously helped to grease the political skid on Monsanto’s behalf. Many of these facilitating officials are former Monsanto employees.
Even an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, is a former Monsanto lawyer, and not only has he failed to recuse himself on Monsanto-related court decisions, he wrote the decision on the principle case allowing transgenic seeds to be given utility patents: J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-bred International. Monsanto was the largest beneficiary of that decision, but Justice Thomas did not perceive a conflict of interest in what he did any more than he has on other cases suggesting to many other people a need for recusal in the interest of judicial integrity.
Recusal rules are liberal for Supreme Court justices, and while some would rather err on the side of caution, others do not. Because of this, a call has been heard to require the Justices of the Supreme Court to follow the same standards required of other judges. Maybe this should be important when they look themselves in the mirror and stand before their grandchildren to defend their personal integrity.
Others in the government with prior pro-Monsanto, pro-biotech connections include: ･Tom Vilsack, recipient of a special award for his service to biotech agriculture when he was Iowa Governor; former attorney at a law firm serving corporate agribusiness; now he is Secretary of Agriculture ･Michael Taylor, former Monsanto attorney and Monsanto Vice President for Governmental Affairs (chief lobbyist); now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, referred to as the nation’s Food Safety Czar ･Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center and one of the fathers of transgenic agriculture; most recently director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture ･Islam Siddiqui, former Vice President of Science and Regulatory Affairs at the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife America; now Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative ･Rajiv Shah, former Gates Foundation agricultural-development director who served as Obama’s USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist, now Administrator of USAID (Bill Gates is a major Monsanto shareholder and international promoter and facilitator of their transgenic agricultural model) ･Ramona Romero, the former corporate counsel at Dupont, (a leading biotech company following the same business model as Monsanto; they are the owner of Pioneer Seeds which licenses the Monsanto technology); now General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
This is not a complete list, but it is suggestive of some of the major positions filled by people with Monsanto and related connections. A larger list of 35 names is on the Handout page of this Web site. These people may not all promote pro-Monsanto decisions and interests just because they have served the company in the past, but the record shows many of them have done that. Perhaps they believe the same as Defense Secretary Charles Wilson did during the Eisenhower administration: that the best interests of his company (General Motors) were completely consonant with the best interests of the nation. If this is the position taken by those with Monsanto connections, they need to be called on to present their evidence so it can be examined by everyone.
Secretary Vilsack has said he views transgenic farmers and non-transgenic farmers as his children, implying the interests of both are important to him, but that is like having one child who is a Bengal tiger and another that is a domestic kitten. The kitten is certainly going to be eaten, and its cute charm and sweetness is not going to be able to protect it.
Secretary Vilsack created the AC 21 Commission to come up with a policy proposal to promote and enable coexistence between transgenic and non-transgenic crops, and their proposal passed with only one dissenter (Isaura Andaluz, director of our co-plaintiff Cuatro Puertas in New Mexico). The proposal requires those wanting to protect themselves from contamination to buy insurance as the only government arranged means of protection beyond the maintenance of buffer zones by threatened farmers. They do not even require testing.
The AC 21 proposal could only have resulted from a pro-Monsanto committee, and the outcome that resulted was understandable from the composition of the AC21 Commission before it began its work. The group was assembled at the discretion of Secretary Vilsack, and he chose its members. Maybe he did not expect even one dissenter, or maybe he expected at least a majority to produce the answer he wanted.
Among those considering coexistence impossible, the resulting insurance proposal has no integrity, no justice, no wisdom, no honesty, and no credibility. It is viewed as a Trojan Horse serving the interests of transgenic agriculture at the expense of all other interests. It would make minimal sense only if all farmers were farming for the money and all of them exhibited the same amorality and negligence seen at the biotech corporations and in the government.
Providing insurance is at best only a way to buy farmers off, as if money should be their only motivation for growing non-transgenic crops. The AC21 Commission and its report are a national disgrace because they transfer costs to the taxpayer that should be born by the contaminating company and those using its products. This can only be seen as a complete desire to escape inconvenient truth.
Meanwhile, the use of U.S. diplomats to do Monsanto’s bidding and bully foreign nations has been documented in multiple postings of documents released by Wikileaks, and at home in the United States, the USDA has virtually thumbed its nose at the courts on Monsanto’s behalf, rolling over court orders on transgenic alfalfa and sugar beets as if they did not exist. USDA officials claim they have done all they can do under the law, but others read the law differently. A court case is advancing on this contention, but it has suffered set-backs from the Federal District Court in California and from the Ninth Circuit Court. These cases have not been tracked by the media any better than our lawsuit.
The executive branch is responsible to enforce the law and to propose new laws to the Congress when they are needed. When the Congress does not act, the President can issue an Executive Order on matters needing attention. The judicial branch does not have its own enforcement powers and resources, but when they require action be taken the executive authorities have not fulfilled their duties in the management of transgenic agriculture. They claim they do not have the authority they would need from the Congress, but they also show no inclination to fix the situation.
A law enabling regulation of transgenic agriculture and independent investigation of it is needed, but neither the Congress nor the President are likely to support such a law as long as the biotech lobbying and campaign contributions are used to fight it. Officials have circumvented their duties to the people and evaded the needed agricultural and food integrity. Because of that, they need to be challenged in court and elsewhere in as many ways as possible. This is the only option available short of extensive citizen manifestations in the street demanding the required changes in law and fulfillment of official responsibility. Polling has not been enough. The Supreme Court required the USDA to prepare an environmental impact statement before releasing transgenic alfalfa, but the EIS report they prepared was pro-forma cutting and pasting research from industry sources and industry-sponsored sources without hiring independent experts to undertake a thorough independent, objective, reliably unbiased investigation of the issues at stake. As long as biotech patent holders control the research that can be done, that is all they said they could do, or it is all they have argued they have the authority to do. This is the reason additional law is needed to protect the public.
The USDA claims they are only empowered to examine plant pest matters under the applicable existing law, and so far the courts have upheld this view. Judges cannot require the Congress to pass needed legislation when they want to ignore it, but that does not mean they need to defend the abuse as if that behavior were prudent, wise, or honorable. Even if executive agencies deliberately mislead the public in service to the corporate agenda, the courts do not have to join them in their tyranny. The required USDA processes following the court decisions on alfalfa and sugar beets did not serve the public interest in either detail or objective according to the arguments of those opposing what the government did, but as it was with Judge Buchwald and the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit in our case, some other courts in other cases have found in favor of the pro-biotech, pro-Monsanto agenda. Our lawsuit is different from the other lawsuits against Monsanto in raising patent-related questions, but all the lawsuits are important in opposing the destructive Monsanto juggernaut. Their corporate power is great, and they have used it in March 2013 to promote the so-called Farmer Assurance Provision (also called the Monsanto Protection Act by its critics) designed to prevent the courts or anyone else from preventing or slowing the release of new transgenic crops. This provision was part of the Continuing Budget Resolution from March until September 2013, and it would have been renewed if public protest had not risen up strongly and angrily against it.
Meanwhile, fast track approval provisions for transgenic crops have been advanced, and they are now being used by the USDA to support the release on new transgenic crops. Similarly, showing where the power is in the U. S. government, the Senate has twice voted against transgenic food labeling bills by wide margins.Despite the public desire for labeling, as shown many times in polling, the first Senate vote on the amendment was 26-73, and almost a year later the “No” votes were still 71. Many of these “No” voting Senators had received Monsanto campaign funding.
The lobbying power of biotech agribusiness and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, backed up by campaign contributions, was clearly evident in working to influence both votes. If the Senate voting had tracked with the prior polling and was not influenced by the industry disinformation campaign in California on Proposition 37 designed to establish transgenic food labeling in the world’s eighth largest economy (that is is where California would rank if it were a nation), it would have passed by a bipartisan landslide. Some senators said they wanted labeling to be a federal prerogative, but the federal government has not done anything, so that position is seen as a meaningless ruse designed to mislead and deceive.
When the vote on Proposition 37 was reported on Election night the margin was 5.2% (53.1 to 47.9) and when the counting of the late arriving ballots and provisional ballots seemed to stop on December 3 and no further daily updates were posted even though the final tally was not due for eleven more days, the margin had closed to 3% (51.5 to 48.5). Then, on December 14th when final numbers were posted, the margin was 2.8% (5I.6. to 48.4) even though the Secretary of State’s Web site said on December 3rd that about a third of the counties had not yet sent their final report on the ballot count.
From the reported numbers, the final count with all the late ballots from two-thirds of the counties closed the gap by 2.2% while the final numbers from the remaining third of the counties only closed the gap by an additional .2%. This is anomalous, and nothing about the last third of the counties explains the small change in the final numbers. They contained a mixture of large and small counties, including both pro and anti labeling counties, but more important was the tendency of late votes to come in for “Yes.” If the closing of the gap had been proportional, the gap would have closed by an additional 1.1% reducing the margin down to 1.9% from the Election Night gap of 5.2%. An explanation of the final counting from the Secretary of State, Debra Bowen should be demanded to explain the anomaly. It seems that someone decided the “Yes” side was not going to win, so they stopped the final counting, but in such a close election, that would not be an explanation good enough to satisfy a reasonable need to understand exactly what happened with all votes counted.
Meanwhile, if The Monsanto Protection Act finds a way to hide in some new legislation and deliver Monsanto longer-term protection from the courts, the effective result will be the repeal of Judicial Review, the long-standing principle allowing the court to consider the constitutionality of any law when it is brought before the courts. Monsanto’s transgenic juggernaut would be allowed to continue on its course. If the continuing contamination becomes widespread, organic and all other non-transgenic farms would be forced to accept it as a governing reality. At least, that seems to be the way Monsanto and their allies in the chase for transgenic profits seem to see it—and to hope it will turn out.