Thursday, June 19, 2014

Monsanto is suing Vermont?? Part 2

Howdy y'all, if you missed my post earlier this week, it was about the GMO labeling law in Vermont, the lawsuit that has come about as a consequence of the law, and the fundraising campaigns which claim that Monsanto is suing Vermont.

The four plaintiffs in the lawsuit are The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers. I could not find reliable information indicating that Monsanto was a member of these organizations. I claimed that fundraising campaigns, particularly the campaign led by, is misleading the public by stating that the funds will be used to "lead the fight against Monsanto".

I wrote to asking how the money would be fighting Monsanto if the company is not one of the plaintiffs. Today, I received this response:

"Thanks for the questions.
I wanted to provide you with the membership list from the GMA's website, before it was removed earlier this year, to confirm that Monsanto is a member. It's attached.

I'd also flag that in a political fight over labeling that did require disclosure, the Washington state ballot over labeling of GMOs, Monsanto contributed more than $5 million to the campaign to defeat it, while the GMA itself donated more than $7 million. GMA only disclosed their donors (as required under WA law) on that campaign after the WA Attorney General sued them to acquire that information.

Unfortunately, federal disclosure laws governing where GMA's funding comes from are not as strong. It is clear, however, that both Monsanto and the GMA are prepared to spend large sums of money defeating labeling laws that do enjoy public backing, as in Vermont, and that their interest in transparency is minimal.

Hope this is useful.
They included an attachment with a table of GMA's membership. The list is huge and includes Monsanto, as well as Syngenta. Every food manufacturer that you can think of off the top of your head is probably listed, as well as some members or associates that you wouldn't think of, such as VWR, Oracle, and Microsoft.
I went to the Attorney General's website for the state of Washington to find out how much Monsanto had contributed to the campaign through the GMA to defeat the labeling law in Washington. The list of contributors can be found here. Monsanto's not on the list, but it doesn't really matter since they contributed 5 million dollars separately.

Seriously. The amount of money being spent on all of this is pretty disgusting.
I wrote to Monsanto directly to confirm that it's a member of the GMA. Their response simply stated: "Monsanto is one of the more than 300 member Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)."

I'm of two minds here. I absolutely agree with that contributions should be disclosed because it's hard to know what all parties are doing. But for that very same reason, we do not know if Monsanto is the primary donor to the GMA for this lawsuit. Consequently, the fundraising campaign that SumOfUs is driving is misleading (I might downgrade the campaign from misleading to sleazy :) ). If one reads the description of the lawsuit on SumOfUs' website, one would think that Monsanto's name would be front and center on the list of plaintiffs.

In chatting about this with the spouse and with friends, none of us have any doubt that the reason why Monsanto's name is touted is to drum up support in fundraising efforts. After all, SumOfUs could equally say that Syngenta is suing Vermont, or even the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (who is also a member of the GMA, according to the list I received... who knew??). But neither of these have the same ring to it or evoke the same feelings as "Monsanto", much less America's beloved companies such as CocaCola or Mars. Someone's train of thought might be "Mars --> Snickers --> Snickers' SuperBowl Ad --> Betty White --> Betty White is suing Vermont? I love Betty White!!" should not be singled out in this tactic. has several petitions hoping to "block Monsanto from suing Vermont". The Organic Consumers Association is raising funds to "help defeat Monsanto and the GMA". It seems pretty clear that the reason why Monsanto is being used is to play on people's sentiments and biases against the company.

My concluding thoughts here are against Monsanto. I understand why Monsanto is defending its products and its customers. If GMO sales drop, it's not only Monsanto who is impacted, but many farmers as well. So there's a lot at stake and I really get it. But my opinion is that, instead of spending all this money on political campaigns, the money might have been better spent educating the public about the company's technology. Frankly, I don't see the labeling debate going away anytime soon, and Monsanto will continue spending money out the wazoo to defeat these efforts, unless they educate the public about their products and about genetic engineering. The more money Monsanto spends in political campaigns will only entrench the publics' negative views about them. Sponsor an episode of Cosmos!!!

Well, that's all I've got on this story... Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

Next week, I'll return to my ongoing series about the use of NGS technology in studies examining if DNA/RNA from our food have any impact on us. I'll also be potty training the kid (looking at these numbers and the money wasted has left me thinking of words associated with 'potty').

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