Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Follow Monsanto & Co’s money

Paul Towers's picture

10 million dollars. That’s what Monsanto and other pesticide corporations have spent so far to defeat a ballot initiative in Washington State to label genetically engineered (GE) food. In a replay of what took place in California last year, a handful of companies is trying to confuse the issue so people vote against our right to know. But the money trail — and corporate spin tactics — are very clear.

To date, more than half of the funds spent to defeat I-522 have come from pesticide and biotech corporations, with Monsanto making the largest contribution of $4.8 million. Why are these corporations so invested in defeating GE labeling initiatives? Likely because they fear losing marketshare for their GE, pesticide-resistant corn and soy.

Pesticide and genetically engineered seed companies are increasingly one and the same. As I highlighted in a recent post, just six companies control a majority of the commercial seed market and a majority of global pesticide sales. The "Big 6" marketshare grows as they develop new GE seeds and complimentary pesticide products —driving up use of these increasingly harmful pesticides.

More than 60 other countries have passed laws that require labeling of genetically engineered foods. And in the U.S., Washingtonians are on the frontline of the issue, working to ensure they know what's in their food and how it’s grown. Farmworkers, farmers and nurses agree — that’s part of what GE labeling helps do. It allows families to choose the food and farming system they want to support.

Hopefully, Washington state won’t be a replay of California’s narrowly defeated Proposition 37. The "Yes on I-522" campaign and partners are working hard to cut through the scare tactics and misinformation and make sure voters have the facts. Contrary to what opponents claim, we know that labeling GE foods won’t make groceries more expensive. Instead, it will simply gives shoppers more information and more choices.

Washington isn’t the only place these issues are at play. About half of U.S. states have introduced legislation or considered efforts to label GE foods, and two states — Connecticut and Maine — passed laws that will go into effect once surrounding states are on board. And others are growing public awareness about pesticide use and its links to GE crops.

Even though most Americans say they have a right to know what's in our food — more than 90% — the Big 6 will undoubtedly continue investing in defeating initiatives like I-522 and creating campaigns of confusion.

Money trail goes local

Beyond GE labeling, the Big 6 are heavily invested in protecting (and expanding) their seed and pesticide marketshare on many fronts. On the island of Kaua'i, where many of the Big 6 operate open-air test fields for GE crops, local residents are working to pass a county bill that would protect communities from the pesticides applied to test fields. But the Big 6 are pushing back — hard.

Their latest move? To get the governor of Hawai'i involved. It looks like Big 6 interests have persuaded Gov. Neil Abercrombie to step in and stall the passing of Kauai's pesticide protection legislation, Bill 2941. The Governor has a long history of campaign contributions and collaboration with the Big 6 representatives, including Monsanto. In addition, Kaua'i Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who tried to derail the County Council vote last week, has also received contributions from Syngenta, the world’s largest pesticide corporation.

Monsanto & Co. are also attempting to pre-empt posible restrictions on their products in Oregon. As part of a package of special session bills, the Big 6 companies snuck in state legislation that would prohibit counties from prohibiting the growth of GE crops in Oregon, which the Governor then signed into law. Not surprisingly, Syngenta and Monsanto led the way giving $11,000 collectively in the last month alone to the blandly named FirstVote PAC, a pesticide industry front group lobbying for the bill.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: follow the money. The Big 6 pesticide and GE seed companies will continue to withhold information from the public and stop citizens — working with their local governments — from passing laws that give us more information and control over our food and farming system.

Take action » A win for GE labeling in Washington will pave the way for GE labeling across the country — and build momentum to get us off the GE/pesticide treadmill. Help pass I-522 by reaching out to Washington voters and ensuring they have the facts!

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elizabetta's picture
elizabetta /
<p>For 2 years I have been trying to get PAN to help me monitor drift that comes onto my small farm in southern CA from a large nursery next door. &nbsp;It took months for them to respond to my request, and then they said there wasn't much they could do. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Paul Towers's picture
Paul Towers /
<p>Hi Elizabetta,</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thanks for reading my blog and for reaching out. I sincerely apologize for any tardiness on our end and for the problems you are facing. We do our best to provide support to everyone we can, and unlike our corporate counterparts, we have very limited capacity. We are able to provide the greatest amount of support to people who come together and form organized communities of individuals. If you are looking for organizing tips and support, I would encourage you to contact our partners at Pesticide Watch: 916-551-1883.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As you are in California, I would encourage you to contact your County Agricultural Commissioner and report drift whenever it happens, both to document and to encourage an investigation. Additional tips on what to do about drift can be found here:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I hope this helps and and I wish you the best.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paul</p>
Paul Towers's picture

Paul Towers is PAN's Organizing and Media Director. He is the primary liaison with press and supports campaigns to protect bees, children’s health and challenge corporate control in the food system. He serves on the steering committee of Californians for Pesticide Reform, a statewide coalition that supports policy change for safer food and farming. Follow @PaulAtPAN