Food for Thought
Lessons from Wisconsin
Port Huron Turns 50
Outraged Over Atrocities
Edward S. Herman
The Arab Spring
Libya, Africa, and AFRICOM
May Day 2012
Taking on Methyl Iodide
EDUCATING WITH MUSIC
Books, Rhymes, Life
The Obama Syndrome
Do No Harm
Ten Economic Crises
Victory for Colombian Students
A Drone World
Advertisements You'll Never See Again
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Artists Call For Monsanto Accountability In Mock Hearings
No matter who you are or where you live, Monsanto has invaded your life. The world’s largest distributor of seeds, agricultural chemicals, and biotechnology impacts not only farmers, but the land and cultures of everyone who grows or eats food on this planet, says University of Iowa (UI) Media Arts Professor Sarah Kanouse. “There is no place that is not touched by Monsanto chemicals,” says Kanouse. “There is no place that has not had their economy, their eco-system, their very bodies polluted by any number of their products. Most recently GMOs, but in the past Dioxin and PCBs, Asparteme, and all these things.”
A member of Compass, a large-scale collective of artists and activists who collaborate to promote social and environmental justice, Kanouse organized a three-hour mock hearing on Saturday, April 21, in a small law school auditorium. The proceedings began when five “judges” dressed in black robes entered and took their seats on the podium.
Kanouse served as the people’s advocate and announced that they were under no obligation to be evenhanded since Monsanto has an ample budget for advertising, public relations, lobbying, and so forth. She noted that the multinational has $17 billion in assets and an annual revenue of $10.5 billion.
The first to testify was a veteran whose prerecorded deposition appeared on a screen. Exposed to Agent Orange when he was in
Even though he was disabled by the treatment, a result confirmed by the Veteran’s Hospital in
Monsanto, the Law, and Nature
Kanouse says using the pseudo-legal process to call for accountability brings up questions about the legal system. “Ideally, the legal process has several phases,” she says. “It’s an opportunity for evidence to be weighed, for people to come forward and speak, truth and harm to be determined, and restitution made. What we have seen time and time again with many lawsuits against Monsanto is that the legal system is very much manipulated by money.”
The result, says Kanouse, is that existing law only recognizes certain kinds of harm that can be measured physically or financially, leaving harms that are more intangible unrecognized by our legal system. “What is the value and what is the moral standing of a river or butterflies or fish?” she asks. “These are all creatures that have no restitution in a court of law.”
Many people have long suspected the link between the use of chemicals and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has been devastating bees around the world.
The federal government, impacted by lobbyists and campaign financing, has done little to protect the consumers, organic farmers, or the environment. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, whose law firm defended Monsanto in court cases, was appointed by President Barack Obama as secretary of agriculture, an obvious conflict of interest.
“Monsanto’s worst abuses have taken place, not in the
Monsanto’s Bt Cotton Disaster In India
Cotton and eggplant (brinjal) had been two of
“Farmers that used to buy cotton seeds at $7 before now had to buy Bt cotton at $40,” said Cotton. The high price was supposed to be worth it since Bt cotton would fight off all these pests and wouldn’t require pesticides. But, all these things that they promised would happen based on what they saw in the labs, didn’t work on the ground.”
Cotton said Bt cotton was a complete failure and left farmers in great economic debt. “Bt cotton failed to prevent the bollworm attack for which it was designed and the farmers still had to spray pesticides for other pests,” said Cotton. “So not only did resistant super pests emerge, Bt cotton proved to be more vulnerable to pest and diseases than the traditional varieties. Monsanto and Mahyco blamed the poor farmers for not irrigating their fields properly.”
Cotton was played by Abhilash Kizhakke Puliyakote, a PhD biomedical engineering student who believes in the application of scientific research to improve human lives, but only after rigorous testing and peer reviewed studies, with informed consent.
Brinjal, which means eggplant, was played by Renu Pariyadath, a PhD student in communication studies at the
Brinjal noted that people around the country fasted for one full day in January 2010, the day that marked the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s death, “To protest against losing our hard won freedoms and protect our food sovereignty,” she said. “Thirteen states in
The Indian government imposed a moratorium on Bt brinjal, but only until more tests are conducted and it’s found safe for humans to eat.
Puliyakote and Pariyadath are both members of the Association for
Feeding The Earth
Scott Koepke, a local food activist who teaches young people about the importance of healthy soil to food production, brought a basket to the stand. “Food needs to eat first,” Koepke said he tells his students. He reached into the basket and brought out a handful of rich dark soil and said there is no safe level of chemical fertilizers, they are not safe or necessary.
He spoke about the “incredible destructive effect” chemicals have on soil, making it biologically dead. He said organic practices build the soil for a more robust environment, making essential nutrients available for food. Holding earthworms he pulled from the soil, he explained how important is the link between biodiversity and balance. “Pesticide is homicide,” he said. “The best pesticide is healthy soil.”
Power of Monsanto vs. The Power of the People
Other witnesses gave evidence about the harm done to the environment from Monsanto’s gene manipulation and the influence of Monsanto money on research institutions and regulatory agencies, as well as our political, legal, and agricultural systems.
Kanouse says you don’t have to be against GMOs or science to be concerned about the role Monsanto has had in transforming agriculture. “You don’t necessarily need to be an organic farmer to have been harmed in some way Monsanto produces a cycle of dependency, even for conventional farmers, where it becomes decreasingly possible to do anything outside of their circuit. And that is something that should be, I think, of concern to everyone, even to those who have been chemical farmers for many, many years.”
In a statement released before the trial, the Iowa City Coordinating Committee of Compass wrote: “Under current law, Monsanto is granted the rights of a legitimate ‘person,’ while human noncitizens and nonhuman agents in our biosphere are not recognized. Even the historic class-action lawsuit brought against Monsanto by organic farmers, which we fully support, must tread on highly technical issues of patent and copyright infringement around genetically modified foods. Our proposition is to consider the issues holistically and to propose all living things as potential plaintiffs in an account of Monsanto’s crimes.”
“I see art very much as a space where we learn how to think differently and to see differently,” says Kanouse. “Whether that’s a painting or an event like this. We are ultimately hoping for this project to be something that can be picked up by people we don’t know yet that can hold these hearings in their own communities.”
Gloria Williams is a freelance journalist, activist, and member of the War Resisters League. Photos in this article were taken by Williams.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.