Genetically Engineered (GMO)

Letter to the Editor, Awareness grows on GMO’s

BY CATIE FARYL

There are dozens of groups actively seeking remedy for the planting of GMO crops in our state through peaceful, legal channels. The Chamber of Commons and Common Sense Sovereignty is addressing this and other areas of corporate overreach such as fracking, taxation, privacy, and takeover of water supplies. We are accomplishing this through education on how people can exercise their community rights.

In regard to the article about “economic sabotage” and destruction of a crop in Talent, reported in the June 21, 2013 Ashland Daily Tidings and Medford Mail Tribune, we question the bias of that story.  More than 1000 people marched against Monsanto in Medford on May 25th, and our organization collected over 400 signatures in a couple hours that day to advise the federal government to rescind the Monsanto Protection Act.

There is growing public awareness about the multiple dangers of GMO crops, seeds, pollinators and foods. Our fellow citizens and many of our brave elected officials are working daily to diminish the proliferation of GMOs in Oregon and America.

There needs to be a reframing of this and similar issues.  Chemical agriculture and GMO systems are losing their efficacy, and it would be best if these systems were abandoned in order to insure the health, safety and future of America.  The biggest economic threat  is the threat to export dollars since other countries are viewing with distaste, fear and suspicion the crops from Oregon and other states.  And can there be anything more violent and inappropriate on a moral, physical, spiritual or economic level than using “gene guns” to aggressively shoot trans-species genes into food seeds, not to mention the huge die-off of bees and other sentient beings, the soil, water and air contaminated and damaged by the toxic chemicals needed to grow GMO seeds and crops?

How can we end this type of treatment by corporations like Syngenta, a Swiss company who cannot legally do their experiments and gmo seed testing in their home country?  How can “We the People” unite and assert our community rights to reclaim self-governance and decision-making power for agriculture, energy, water, communications, taxation and in an array of areas being overtaken by big government in league with the “corporotocracy”?

Banning GMOs: The new civil rights movement

BY KAI HUSCHKE

As the fight over genetically modified canola and other GM crops escalates in the Willamette Valley, a group of farmers and neighbors in Benton County have spent the past year talking about how to stop GMOs.

They’ve asked the question that people across the country ask when faced with corporate threats — such as GMOs, fracking or water privatization — how do we say no?

Traditional environmental activism would have them writing letters to elected officials, submitting public comments on proposed GMO plans and testifying at hearings.

This kind of activism is based on the assumption that we have the legal authority to decide what happens in our communities. And from this, that if we build enough support in opposition to unsustainable practices such as GMOs, then the folks who run things will take heed and respond.

The problem is that this simply isn’t true.

 As folks in Benton County are finding out, this kind of activism won’t stop GMOs. And so they’re taking a different path, which is forcing them to dig deeper than they ever imagined into how and for whom our system of law works, placing them side-by-side with hundreds of other communities in what may become this country’s new civil rights movement.

*Bringing Down the Hammers*

 Corporations have painstakingly constructed a system of law — through the use of public institutions including the courts, state legislatures, and Congress — to ensure we can’t stop threats such as GMOs, and chilling community efforts by punishing us when we step outside the box they’ve constructed for us.

To maintain the box, corporations have devised four large hammers, which they use on us when we dare to say things like “we don’t want GMOs here” and seek to drive that idea into local law.

The first hammer is called Dillon’s Rule, named for a railroad lawyer who wanted a legal doctrine that would put a halt to municipal “interference” with railroad expansion. Under Dillon’s Rule, communities can’t enact any laws unless our state legislatures say we can. Our municipalities are thus subordinated to the position of “children” to our state “parent,” only able to do what we are told. If we do otherwise, corporations clobber us with Dillon’s Rule, suing us for acting outside our authority.

The second hammer involves our legislatures (and occasionally Congress), banning communities from adopting certain kinds of laws. At the behest of industry, our legislatures routinely draft laws that preempt communities from having decision-making authority over things like factory farming and fracking. Here in Oregon, Big Ag is seeking to have the Legislature pass a bill preempting communities from making any decisions about GMOs.

When these first two hammers fail to sufficiently smash us, corporations have two more at their disposal. The first is “corporate personhood.”

Beginning in the 1800s, by pressure from railroad and other corporations, federal judges began to recognize corporations as “persons” for purposes of constitutional rights. Today, corporations routinely wield these “rights” to override community lawmaking.

 

The fourth hammer comes when corporations wield our own civil rights laws — written to protect freed slaves – against us. Under these laws, corporations demand monetary damages from communities that challenge their authority to engage in fracking or other harmful activities.

Thus, if we seek to pass local laws to stop GMOs, we must dodge all four hammers to be deemed “legal”; yet affected corporations triumph even when only one hammer hits home.

*Running Around the Hamster Wheel*

The big environmental organizations have mostly decided to work within these limitations. In the case of GMOs, that has meant trying to do everything but ban them, since state and local bans of governmentally approved seeds and foods fall directly under all four hammers. Instead they’re try to get federal agencies to deny applications for new GMOs or better regulate GM crops, or push for labeling of GMOs in food.

They have settled for “what can we get,” rather than asking, “what structural change do we need?” to guarantee that GMOs never see the light of day.

Such a strategy gives away the store without a fight — creating the illusion that GM crops can be controlled, and that the growth of GM foodstuffs is inevitable.

*Reframing the Fight Against GMOs*

For the problem isn’t GMOs, but the system of law that enables corporations to impose GMOs upon our communities without our consent.  If we’re to stop GMOs, we need to change the system itself.

In short, while we need a sustainable food movement, we can’t have one until we launch a democracy movement.

We’re not the first to strive for structural change. When the Abolitionists looked out at the constitutional landscape, slaves were *invisible* to the law — much in the way our communities are today.

Recognizing that it was the system of law itself that was the problem — and not that they needed to just better regulate slavery — they pioneered a movement that forced the system to work for them. Thus, they defined existing laws — which refused to recognize slaves as “persons” — as unjust. And then they proceeded to break those laws, openly, frontally, and without apology.

In so doing, they revealed how the system worked, in order to reach more and more people who would see that injustice and join their movement.

The fight against GMOs must follow a similar path, transforming itself into a movement by revealing how the current system denies community authority to build sustainable farm and food systems.

*Community Civil Disobedience in the Name of Sustainability*

In 2001, faced with an influx of factory farms and the state Legislature’s preemption of local lawmaking around farming, Wells Township, Penn., adopted a law banning agribusiness corporations from farming.

This ban on “corporate farming,” borrowed from similar laws adopted in Midwestern states, reflected a new understanding by communities: The problem wasn’t odor or water quality, but rather the corporatization of agriculture. Communities redefined the problem from being about factory farming, to being about a system of law, which authorizes corporations to define what food production looks like.

Wells was joined by other communities who passed laws which took on the key legal doctrines — those four hammers — which stand in the way of municipalities saying “no” to threats like factory farming and the ability to build environmental and economic sustainability.

Over 140 communities in eight states have followed similar paths.

This kind of organizing — seizing our municipal governments to commit acts of *collective, non-violent, civil disobedience through local lawmaking* — isn’t focused on the hope that the courts will rescue us by overturning 200 years of corporate “rights.” Instead, it is being pursued with the understanding that structural change will only occur when we refuse to comply with a system bent the other way.

*So, What Do We Do Tomorrow? *

Over the past year, folks in Benton County asked themselves that same question — given the state of farming and a system focused on delivering a toxic mix of corporate concentration and GMOs.

Understanding that without challenging the system of law itself they cannot stop GMOs, they drafted a “Food Bill of Rights” law that establishes a “right to sustainable food systems” for the community, and prohibits those activities — like the planting of GMOs — that would violate that right.

The law takes aim at the existing system by re-defining corporate “rights,” invalidating preemptive state and federal actions, and elevating the right of the community to sustainability above competing rights claimed by agribusiness corporations.

In many ways, the proposed Benton County law, as well as other laws that have been adopted across the country, dare corporations to reveal how the current system of law works.

If they seek to overturn these local laws, corporations must bring down those four hammers of Dillon’s Rule, state and federal preemption, corporate personhood and other corporate “rights” — which they’ve constructed to ensure communities can’t interfere with the expansion of their authority and power. Exposing the hammers in plain sight means communities can see them for what they are — legal doctrines intended to subordinate our communities to a “corporate state.”

 

These laws thus “reframe” the dispute — from being focused on the question of whether GMOs are harmful to being about the authority and “rights” of agribusiness corporations to override the authority and rights of communities to self-govern.

 

This issue of “who decides” must build toward removing those corporate hammers at the state level, as is beginning in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Washington State. And then build toward federal constitutional change that elevates community self-governance above rights claimed on behalf of corporations and commerce.

If we want to stop GMOs, we need to instigate a community revolt that produces a system where it actually matters what we want. This means we have to stop deluding ourselves that it’s enough to write letters and wave signs, and instead begin to drive structural change to liberate our communities from the corporate grasp.

Originally printed in Eugene Weekly.  Reprinted with permission from the author.

March against Monsanto

The presence of even a small amount of genetically modified (GM) material can cause a farm to lose its organic certification. In southern Oregon, thousands of dollars of lucrative seed crops have already been plowed under by organic growers to protect their certification and market reputation from pollution by gene drift from GM crops.

As part of the March Against Monsanto nationwide day of action, there will be a march starting in Vogel Plaza in Medford on Saturday, May 25 at 11:00AM. People angry at multinational biotech corporations have scheduled more than 250 marches around the globe in response to the group Anonymous’ call for action against GM crops.

With the growing demand for local and organic food and seed production, there is huge opportunity for this region to take the lead. You can stay in touch with local initiatives by visiting GMO Free Jackson County at gmofreejacksoncounty.org or on Facebook.

Bill requires labeling for genetically engineered foods

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced that will require food manufacturers to inform consumers when packaged food contains genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. [Read more…]

Organic food supporters aren’t fooled by GMO industry propaganda

The Chew on This Tour, which is part of the Drive to Feed the World, made the first appearance of its national tour at the Jackson County Fairgrounds on February 26. Featuring a pumped-up pro wrestler mascot, a media blitz ensued that was designed to discredit and marginalize the growing natural, organic, and non-GMO agricultural movement here in the Rogue Valley and across America.

[Read more…]

GMO patents squeeze small farmers

As the GMO debate heats up in the Rogue Valley, large agricultural companies such as Monsanto, with its patents on popular genetically modified (GM) crops such as Roundup Ready soybeans, have more and more control over the nation’s seed supply.

The domination of the seed market by big agribusiness affects farmers growing GM and non-GM crops alike. Some farmers are concerned that seeds from nearby GM crops could contaminate their fields, threatening their organic certification or making them a target for a patent infringement lawsuit. Others worry that it will become harder to find non-GM seeds as GM seeds become even more widespread. [Read more…]

GMO Free movement makes headway

An initiative to ban the cultivation of genetically modified (GMO) crops in Jackson County will be on the May 2014 ballot as Measure 15-119. Organizers of GMO-Free Jackson County submitted over 6,500 petition signatures from residents who support the measure.

The GMO-Free Jackson County campaign was started by Rogue Valley farmers who are concerned that their crops are being contaminated by GMOs. Genetically modified crops cross-pollinate with locally grown organic crops. Advocates of the initiative say it is necessary to protect organic farmers, backyard gardens, and local food choices. [Read more…]