Update on Famers vs. Monsanto Hearing & NYC Support Rally

This is a longer than usual post for me, but one I hope you’ll read in its entirety. (There’s a fantastic video at the end as your prize for getting through!)

I don’t normally use this blog as my soapbox, but this is an important issue to me and I wanted to report back on the rally I was able to attend over at City Hall in Manhattan this past Tuesday morning in support of family farmers taking on Monsanto.

(You can read more about how Monsanto is undermining our farmers, our food, and the agricultural system by checking out my last post, Family Farmers Take on Monsanto.)

The rally was organized in part through Occupy Big Food and Food Democracy Now (the founders of which came out from Iowa).  Having gone to a couple of the Occupy Wall Street marches / rallies, where anywhere from 10,000 – 20,000 people were present, it was kind of a shock to see how few people had come out to oppose Monsanto and support the farmers.  Then again, it was a weekday morning, and those people lucky enough to have jobs right now were working.  I also wonder if agriculture and food policy issues fall off the radar for some people, or if these particular issues don’t seem as immediate to some.

More folks showed up as the day went on.  I asked one policeman how many people he estimated were there at the peak – he guessed about 125.  I would have guessed closer to 200 myself, but what do I know?

Here are of some of the signs people had made from burlap feed bags:

People had made “timeline” signs detailing Monsanto’s atrocities from 1901 through 2012.  Each person held a sign and stood together, in semi-circle so that you could walk along and read them all.  Here are just a few…I wish I had a panoramic shot of how many people it took to hold all those signs.

There were some really wonderful speakers, including Andrew Faust of The Center For BioRegional Living.  He spoke not just passionately, but really intelligently and persuasively.  He shared a particularly disturbing German study that found high concentrations of Glyphosate, a carcinogenic chemical found in herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup, in all urine samples tested.

He also talked about what power we as consumers have, and “the Fourth R,”  as he calls it.  To paraphrase him, recycling, reducing, and reusing are all great – but we also have the power to refuse.  He reminded us of the power we have as consumers spending money and encouraged us to “Vote with your dollars.”

Andrew Faust talks to the crowd

While we waited anxiously for the farmers to come out of the courthouse, people mingled and networked and a few people did some filming for an upcoming documentary they are making about the cause.  I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen since 2008, who is very into permaculture and who happened to be carrying around some seeds from a few places, including the local Hudson Valley Seed Library, who she very highly recommended.

She also had some colorful corn seeds from a friend in Arizona.  “Are they popcorn seeds?” I asked.  She said no, that these corn seeds were from a Native American there, and that this corn goes back many, many, many generations.  Wow.  She gave me a few of the seeds.  I don’t have a lot of room, but I’ll try planting one or two, if only to help continue saving the seeds.  (If anyone is interested in trying it, by the way, I can spare a few of these…)

Here are a few photos of the general crowd / scene that day – notice the lack of any kind of media whatsoever except the documentary crew.

a farmer introduces the attorney who is representing them...

One of the founders of Food Democracy Now (on left) and an organizer telling us (after the farmers spoke) that the police are breaking us up and we have to stop. Evidently we couldn't talk together in groups more than twenty. (Is that in the constitution?)

The farmers finally came out around 11:30am, along with the lawyer who is representing them.  Evidently the judge decided she will announce a decision in early March as to whether or not she’ll grant Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the farmers’ lawsuit against them.

Farmers had come from all corners of the country –  North Carolina, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, California, North Dakota and from Canada as well – Saskatchewan.  I’m sure there were more.  Several organic food / growing coalitions were also represented.

One by one, the farmers got up to talk to us.  I want to show you their faces, but alas, WordPress refuses to let me include a slideshow AND individual photos without linking them…There are too many photos  to include here, so I’ve created a separate post where you can see the farmers in attendance.  See:  The Faces Behind Our Organic Food.

It was a really moving day…there was a lot of fear and sadness, but also a lot of hope and inspiration.  It was great to see people of all kinds, from all walks of life, from all over the world banding together in solidarity to discuss what we, as consumers, can do.

This woman, a farmer in the North East who had been in the courtroom, was heartbreaking when she said “I believe this judge is in the pocket of Monsanto.” and then stopped for a few moments as she teared up.  It’s what everyone fears.  She went on to say “I believe this judge is in the pocket of Monsanto, and I believe our government is in the pocket of Monsanto…I fear for our future, for the future of our food, for the future of our children, for our health…”

“Monsanto may have all the money,” she said,  “but we, the 99 Percent, have the heart…and the power to use our dollars to show our voice, the ability to educate each other, and the will to see this through. “

She encouraged all of us to educate ourselves and each other, to inform as many people as we can about what’s going on and why it’s important, to grow our own food, save our seed, and if we can’t, then buy locally and support farmers in every way we can.

I would add to that to write letters, make calls, and sign petitions to make your voice heard if this issue is important to you.   You can sign petitions at these sites:  Food Democracy Now,  and Move On.Org.

One of the more encouraging things I’ve seen lately is this clip of 11-year old Birke Baehr giving a presentation about how even a kid can see that our food system is wrong, and dangerously so. He speaks intelligently, with humor and passion about what he’s learned, how he feels, and what he intends to do about it.  Bravo, Birke!  Well said.

Please take 5 minutes to watch his really inspiring video:

Here’s hoping Judge Naomi Buchwald is NOT in the pocket of Monsanto and that the farmers can proceed with their case.

I don’t know what the next steps will be if the farmers lose this one…It’s harrowing to me to think that the future direction of our food system could hang in the balance of one person’s decision.

So until March 5th, I’ll be actively trying to let as many people as I can know about what’s going on and urging them to sign as many petitions as possible in the next month, for whatever it’s worth.

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24 thoughts on “Update on Famers vs. Monsanto Hearing & NYC Support Rally

  1. Aimee this is so important and why i try to grow some of my own food…how a company can say they own seed that has been around for thousands of yrs…here’s hoping that the 99% will be heard…many of your pictures were not displaying for me and i tried reloading a few times…that video is amazing… will be sharing your post and the video..let me know about the pics though since I want folks to see all of your post!!

  2. Thank you so much, Donna. I am reloading the photos that were not displaying – nearly done now…not sure why they weren’t working, but they should be within an hour. :)

    ps – I haven’t forgotten about the Versatile Blogger, just been busy and wanted to get this up first. Soon!

  3. Excellent coverage Aimee. I was really sorry I wasn’t able to make it but you help me feel like I was there. This is very powerful and important. I hope you don’t mind if I link to you on my site. Hoping all’s well and that we see each other soon! All the best to you, and please let me know of any other events like this you go to, and maybe I could join you. p.s. did you bring the spicy mustard to the swap? Still enjoying it. If you did, I have every intention of finagling the recipe from you! ;)

    • Hi Kati! I will definitely let you know about things like this – there are some upcoming events with the Brooklyn Food Coalition that sound great – google them and check it out. I’d love to meet up with you one of these days soon, and I’m happy to give you the spicy honey mustard recipe – glad you’re enjoying it, and glad you appreciated this post – please do link to it…spread the word…

      • Bless you – thanks Aimee! That mustard was delicious — your posts are great, so informative. And I’m really looking forward to catching up with you again soon. Maybe you, me and Mimi can check out a Brooklyn Food Coalition event soon. She mentioned an April seed swap. I’m in!

  4. Pingback: Farmers v. Monsanto « revelgardener

  5. Great post! Are you (or were you ever) a reporter? Thanks for making the trek in to give us an eyewitness account. I’ll be looking forward to the post with the farmers’ pictures. The tortured logic of the Monsanto lawsuits makes my head spin — Exorcist-style.

    I don’t know if any of the Monsanto signs had the further tidbit that Donald Rumsfeld dragged aspartame back into our food chain after the FDA had banned it, packing an investigatory panel with his cronies. He was chairman of Searle at the time, and, I think, went back to work for them after his disastrous stint as Secretary of Defense. One more reason to go after this sleazy company.

    Keep us posted!

    • Thanks so much, Tricia! Nope, can’t say that I’ve ever been a reporter, although I think it was one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up! I’m happy to have been able to share what it was like being there, what people spoke about, etc.

      I am pretty sure that aspartame issue did make an appearance in the timeline signs…there were soooooooooo many of them there was no way I could have included them all in this post – I didn’t even have a chance to photograph them all. It was great to see tourists passing by stop to read them, though.

      Farmer photos coming tomorrow – stay tuned!

    • Thank you for linking back and helping to get the word out with your own post – very, very well said. I agree completely – this affects everyone! That’s why I can’t understand why this particular issue doesn’t seem as large or as important to some folks as other issues. It’s our health! Of all the fundamental rights out there, we really ought to be able to have GMO and chemical-free food.

  6. Thanks for the good coverage…and all the informative links.

    It looks like somebody mixed up their signs, though! 1939-45 was WWII, years before the Vietnam War and the agent orange disaster. Ah well, it couldn’t have been easy putting on a demonstration like that.

    • Aha! Right you are, my dear! (Charlie is the other half of Red Garden Clogs) How did that get missed? Monsanto is indeed responsible for Agent Orange…not sure when they actually created it, but it certainly wasn’t used in Vietnam during the years they have it listed! I wonder if there was a sign for 1969-1975 and what THAT sign said? A mix-up, perhaps?

  7. Aimee, what an amazing post and summary of the rally. It’s heartbreak to know that Monsanto is so powerful and scary. Those signs makes me feel so sad and angry. My only hope is that more people stand up for the farmers and for what’s right. Hopefully they will get heard in the courts.

  8. Pingback: The Faces Behind Our Organic Food « Red Garden Clogs

  9. Wow, what a moving post. Thank you so much for sharing your experience of the protest. Congrats on joining both this rally and the Occupy protests. Very cool! Although you may be limited to grow much of your own food in NYC, you have the amazing benefit of being able to participate in important rallies like this. Its interesting that pointed out that there was no media coverage there, although I’m not surprised. I’ve read little about it in the news and certainly no coverage of the rally at NY City Hall. I’m surprised that even Democracy Now! hasn’t mentioned it. It seems like Susan G Komen is currently hogging the limelight in alternative news media, but that is a very important issue, too.

    I did know that Monsanto was responsible for Agent Orange, but didn’t know about saccharin. And that photo of that woman tearing up and saying that the judge is probably in Monstanto’s pockets… just heartbreaking.

    Yes, I will continue to sign petitions and such. When Susan G. Komen for the Cure reversed their decision to cut funding to PP this weekend, it proved that we do have the power to make a change. After their initial announcement, there was a HUGE uproar across this country. We wrote letters, signed petitions, facebooked, and twittered and we actually provoked change! If only people cared equally as much about their food (which, by the way, may very well be causing the cancer that Susan G. Komen is trying to cure).

    -Emily

  10. Hi Emily,

    Thank so much for your thoughtful response to this post. You make a really good point that living in the city does allow you to participate in important events like this one. I’m really glad I was able to.

    As for media, the only “big” mainstream article I’ve seen with regard to this case is in the Washington Post, here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/monsanto-petition-tells-obama-cease-fda-ties-to-monsanto/2012/01/30/gIQAA9dZcQ_blog.html

    Hopefully there will be more. Technology has certainly made us more able to get our voices out there in terms of signing petitions, making articles and sites go viral, etc. In fact there is now a facebook page for getting the government to drop FDA ties to Monsanto: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tell-Obama-To-Cease-FDA-Ties-to-Monsanto/105907189534363

    I am with you 100% on the Susan G. Komen business, btw. If enough people come forward to voice their opposition, it really can make a difference! “If only people cared equally as much about their food” – you said it. And you are so right about it very well could be linked to the cancer they are working to find a cure for.

    Keep on spreading the word!

  11. Thank you for posting this. I really wanted to go, but I live in Massachusetts so it’s hard for me to get down to the city during the week. I was disappointed (though I guess not really surprised) with how little press coverage there’s been of this issue.

    • Hi Kate, thanks for visiting and checking out this post. I too am really disappointed with the lack of media coverage this has received. Absolutely incredible. There’s an organization in NYC called Just Food that is doing a lot to try and bring local, safe food to schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and “food desert” areas…as well as train people to become urban farmers, set up city markets and CSA programs, and find unused public lots in the 5 boroughs. They’re having a conference this weekend that I’m attending and will report back on.

  12. Pingback: Apathy is Democracy’s Greatest Enemy | Neighborly Notions

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