Protests against Monsanto’s Roundup – with its poisonous, weed-killing glyphosate – have spread around the globe. An arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a probable cause of cancer in 2015. California’s Environmental Protection Agency (CA EPA) recently decided to label it as such.
Environmental groups and activists in Northern California, a region known for its wines, advocate a moratorium on this herbicide as health concerns mount. Roundup is the world’s most widely used pesticide.
Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, was the focus of a January 28 informational event. It was initiated by the Watertrough Childrens Alliance as a fundraiser for a lawsuit against winemaker Paul Hobbs for converting an apple orchard into a vineyard adjacent to schools, thus putting the health of around 500 children at risk by spraying Roundup. The Sonoma chapter of the Sierra Club co-sponsored the evening.
Sebastopol Mayor Sarah Glade Gurney welcomed a panel of three experts and around 60 people from Sonoma and Napa counties and moderated an active discussion.
“Ninety-three percent of soybeans and 80 percent of corn in the US are grown with Monsanto GMO seeds,” reported Ella Teevan, an organizer of the Washington, DC-based Food & Water Watch. “Food & Water Watch wants a moratorium on more GMOs and their labeling.”
“Our food system and how we interact with our environment is broken,” Teevan continued. “Instead of serving people, profit is served. We need to fix our food system.”
“Glyphosate has become a pervasive presence in the environment – 65 percent of water in some countries has traces of it,” said attorney Jonathan Evan of the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity. “Exposure can create a number of problems, including liver and kidney damage. It can even change one’s DNA. Our goal is to protect health and keep these products out of the market.”
“After the CA EPA decision to label Roundup, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against them. They claimed that their First Amendment rights to free speech were being violated,” Evan reported.
Become Educated Consumers
“We need to become educated consumers and not buy these products. We need to empower elected officials to act,” Evan said.
“We need to get involved in grassroots actions and push for a just food system,” echoed Teevan. “Become active participants in democracy.”
“The California city of Richmond banned all pesticide a year ago,” said Petaluma Vice-Mayor and City Council member Tiffany Renée. “We advocate such a ban in Petaluma, which must include neonicotinoids. Portland, Oregon, has banned neonicotinoids – systemic pesticides that damage bees. Glyphosate is a public health threat. The many costs are suffered by humans, animals and plants. The benefits are only to a few humans,” she concluded.
“The highest use of glyphosate in Sonoma County is for wine grapes, yet non-toxic alternatives are available,” said Evans. “Monsanto is a bad actor. The company sues farmers when GMO seeds blow onto their lands from neighbors,” he said.
Alexander C. Kaufman reports that the giant bioengineering firm has been dubbed “the world’s ‘most evil corporation.'”
Mounting criticism of Monsanto’s “litigious, secretive, and combative” practices have made it financially vulnerable, asserts Kaufman. It plans to cut 3,600 jobs, which would be 16 percent of its global workforce. Roundup and Roundup Ready constitute 90 percent of Monsanto’s revenue. “Several countries, cities, and retail chains worldwide have banned or severely limited glyphosate products,” notes Kaufman. “Hundreds of Moms Across America groups exist nationwide … and more than 2 million people in 52 countries internationally took to the streets to ‘March Against Monsanto.'”
Monsanto is desperately seeking a merger, according to GMWatch. One of the company’s goals seems to be abandoning its tarnished name.
Citizens Speak Up
Sebastopol Mayor Sarah Glade Gurney opened the discussion to the crowd, more than a dozen people promptly came to the microphone. The first speaker quoted a study of seven wines from Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties conducted by the Biochemical Working Group in Ukiah. It documented that traces of glyphosate exceeding EPA safe levels were found in all of them. People are drinkingRoundup in their wine.
“We’re tired of our children and babies being damaged by Roundup. We need to mandate a real school protection zone,” declared Janus Matthes of Wine and Water Watch. Instead, “the vineyards are being protected,” she added.
“It is so easy to use Roundup. The breads that you eat that are not organic have glyphosate in them,” noted geologist Jane Nielson, Ph.D.
“Roundup is an antibiotic that kills gut bacteria,” said Amy Martenson of Label GMOs Napa County. She added that “we are having problems with the vineyards. Napa County has the highest rate of cancer in California.”
“We want a GMO-free zone up and down the coast,” explained Pam Gentry of Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families. “Most counties on the North Coast have prohibited growing GMO crops. They are collecting signatures to place an initiative on this year’s ballot that would ban growing genetically engineered crops in Sonoma County.”
“Monsanto controls an area in South America larger than California called ‘soybean republic,'” Jim Stoops noted. “Sixty doctors have complained about higher cancer rates in that area.”
Meanwhile, GM Watch reported the following:
Monsanto’s attempts to build its GMO seed plant in Argentina have met with three years of unflinching popular opposition. Protesters received an eviction notice, but local activists mobilized to strengthen the blockade, and a prosecutor suspended the order. The demand was: ‘Monsanto, get out of Latin America!’
Back in the US, GM Watch reports the following:
Campbell Soup Company said it supports the enactment of federal legislation for a single mandatory labeling standard for GM foods. The company said, ‘Printing a clear and simple statement on the label is the best solution for consumers and for Campbell.’ Campbell says its prices will not increase as a result of labeling.
Renee concluded that “We need activism. Eat locally, hopefully organic or biodynamic. Grow part of your own food.”
KOWS-FM recorded the evening, which will eventually be available at www.kows.fm.
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