Picture of Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii

Got Fairness?

Tomorrow morning, as you pour milk into your kids’ cereal bowls or buy a latte to get you going, take a moment to think about the dairy and other family farmers who will be braving gusty winds off Lake Michigan to converge on the steps of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. These farmers are demanding an end to the price fixing and speculation by traders that has bankrupted thousands of family farmers across the U.S., while spurring food crises worldwide.

Led by Wisconsin-based Family Farm Defenders, farmers and allies will be calling out the traders who take home millions of dollars in profits every year, while family farmers continue to see their farms foreclosed and local businesses shuttered. These farmers will also be exposing the hidden links between America’s giant dairy monopolies and the scandalous recent approval of genetically engineered alfalfa by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, designed to boost sales of Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller, Roundup. This Friday's action (on April 15) is one of many being taken by family farmers and supporters around the world in celebration of International Peasants Day, April 17. National Family Farm Coalition is compiling a list of related actions around the U.S.

Something rotten in the Land O'Lakes

Unbeknownst to many of us, a significant chunk of the dollars we spend on milk and butter are not going to dairy farmers at all, but are being captured by huge corporate dairy giants like Dean Foods and Dairy Farmers of America, an amalgamation of Land O'Lakes and other mega-sized “cooperative corporations.” These folks are anything but cooperative, as far as family farmers are concerned. They have long had a hand in fixing milk prices below cost of production while charging consumers top dollar, driving America’s dairy farmers to bankruptcy. That’s why they have been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and are the target of recent class-action lawsuits for anti-trust violations, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders explains.

Transgenic guns & butter

But there’s more—these same dairy corporations have also been active in developing genetically engineered (GE) crops like GE alfalfa and in lobbying the U.S. government for deregulation of GE alfalfa. Land O'Lakes has long been an ardent advocate of GMOs since the FDA’s approval of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in the 1990s.

I can’t believe it’s that butter! Ariana Velez of the Brooklyn Food Coalition

Land O'Lakes’ primary seed research partner is Forage Genetics, which developed GE alfalfa using Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready technology. In the last two years, lobbying by Land O'Lakes has surged, with hefty portions going explicitly towards efforts to deregulate GE alfalfa. With so many corporate interests coming out swinging for GE, no wonder the White House lined up so quickly with industry on this one.

Three things you can do to support our dairy farmers:

1. Buy dairy products from independently owned family farms and go organic if you can to avoid GE!

2. Sign Food & Water Watch's petition asking the Obama Administration to protect farmers and consumers from Monsanto's GE crops.

3. Tell the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to demand a democratic overhaul of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to prevent corporate price fixing.

Picture of Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii is director of PAN’s Grassroots Science Program and a Senior Scientist with a background in insect ecology and pest management. Her campaign work focuses on supporting and strengthening agroecology movements and policies in the U.S. and globally, in addition to challenging corporate control of our food and seed systems. Follow @MarciaIshii

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