Power of Monsanto: Shareholder Meeting Had More Cops, Arrests Than Votes for GMO Labels

No to GMOs

Story at-a-glance -

  • At a Monsanto shareholder meeting, more than 95 percent of the shareholders voted against mandatory GMO labels
  • At least two dozen on-duty police were on hand to “control” the 30-40 peaceful protestors outside of Monsanto’s headquarters; 10 protestors were arrested
  • A review of nearly 1,000 diplomatic cables (released by WikiLeaks) details how the U.S. State Department promotes the genetically modified seed industry’s global agenda
  • Taxpayer-funded U.S. State Department officials have actively promoted the commercialization of biotech seeds, going so far as to facilitate negotiations between foreign governments and Monsanto and promote Monsanto products

By Dr. Mercola

At a January 2014 Monsanto shareholders' meeting, two rather disturbing trends took place (though, admittedly, neither was entirely surprising).

First, it was readily apparent that the company has no intention of taking steps to label genetically modified (GM) foods, and any such proposals by shareholders do not stand a chance of being voted through.

Second, Monsanto's power doesn't end outside of their boardroom… at least two dozen on-duty police were on hand to "control" the 30-40 peaceful protestors in favor of mandatory GM labeling. As Daily RFT reported:1

"…two things were clear: mandatory GMO labels aren't happening any time soon, and the police have Monsanto's back."

Monsanto Shareholder Proposes GMO Labeling: 95 Percent Vote No

Farmer and food activist David Murphy spoke on behalf of GM labeling at the Monsanto shareholder meeting. He was there speaking for Adam Eidinger, an activist shareholder who bought into the company to encourage GMO labels.2

Murphy spoke for three minutes in an unreceptive room (where half of the shareholders did not bother to turn around and face him as he spoke), pointing out the facts:

  • People deserve to know what's in their food
  • GM ingredients are already labeled in 64 other countries
  • Monsanto spends millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives

When it came time for the vote, more than 95 percent of the shareholders voted against mandatory GMO labels. Even a proposal for a report about the cost of GMO labels is rejected by more than 93 percent of the shareholders.3

That Monsanto shareholders voted down the GMO labeling proposal is not at all surprising. But the fact that police officers followed Murphy as he left the building and drove to speak to activists outside is…

Why Are Police Arresting Peaceful Protestors?

Police dressed in military fatigue uniforms were on hand at the shareholder meeting displaying their power, or rather Monsanto's. In all, 10 protestors were arrested, including a woman in her 60s who was pulled over for holding a sign out her car window and arrested for "impeding traffic."

When Daily RFT questioned the Creve Coeur police chief about the officers' presence, they were told the officers were all "on duty being paid by the City of Creve Coeur."

Interestingly, rather than simply being on hand in case the protestors got out of control (which they did not), they appeared to be playing intimidation games, particularly with Murphy. Daily RFT reported:4

"'He has just entered a blue Ford F-150,' a Creve Coeur cop says into a walkie talkie as Dave Murphy, a farmer and food activist who had just given a speech to about 50 protesters near the Monsanto entrance on Olive Avenue, gets into his truck.

As Murphy drives to another part of the biotech giant's sprawling campus to address shareholders about a proposal to make GMO-labeling mandatory, several of Creve Coeur's finest keep their eyes on him.

Murphy had done nothing suspicious. Nonetheless, one of the patrol cars follows Murphy as another appears to write down his license-plate number."

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US Taxpayers Are Also Paying for Monsanto's Overseas Lobbying

Taxpayers aren't only footing the bill for Monsanto's apparently "private" police force outside of their shareholder meetings. A report by Food & Water Watch has also revealed that taxpayer-funded U.S. State Department officials have actively promoted the commercialization of biotech seeds, even going so far as to facilitate negotiations between foreign governments and Monsanto.5

The report, which included a review of nearly 1,000 diplomatic cables (released by WikiLeaks in 2010) of correspondence between the State Department and embassies in more than 100 countries, details how the State Department promotes the genetically modified seed industry's global agenda. According to the report:

"…in the past decade, the United States has aggressively pursued foreign policies in food and agriculture that benefit the largest seed companies. The U.S. State Department has launched a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology, often over the opposition of the public and governments, to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives.

"The U.S. State Department has lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws, operated a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology and challenged commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules — even including opposing laws requiring the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods."

The report reveals startling moves made by the US government to protect companies like Monsanto and put biotech-friendly policies in place worldwide. For example, according to the report:

  • The State Department targeted foreign reporters and hosted and coordinated pro-biotech conferences and public events to improve the image of agricultural biotechnology overseas and overcome widespread public opposition to GM crops and foods
  • The State Department promoted pro-biotech policies and the products of Monsanto and others while encouraging the cultivation of GM crops around the world, especially in the developing world
  • The State Department implemented a "coordinated effort" to pass GM-friendly regulations in the developing world, including lobby campaigns in Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria
  • The State Department works with the U.S. Trade Representative to "promote the export of biotech crops and to force nations that do not want these imports to accept U.S. biotech foods and crops"

US Government Wanted to Retaliate Against Europe for Refusing to Use GM Seeds

The European Union (EU) has historically taken a strict, cautious stance regarding GM crops, much to the chagrin of Monsanto and in stark contrast to the US, where the government has been aiding and abetting Monsanto's tireless and often ruthless quest to control the world's food crops.

US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks even showed the US government conspired to find ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use GM seeds, mainly by engaging in aggressive trade wars against reluctant nations.6 The Food & Water Watch report even noted:

"The State Department recognized the global weight of the EU opinion and tried to 'limit the influence of EU negative views on biotechnology.'"

The EU has been under heavy pressure to add some slack to their GM regulations, as they once had a zero tolerance policy regarding GM contamination from unapproved GMOs in animal feed, and they also dropped the policy of zero tolerance for unapproved and untested GMOs in food. The moves didn't come from public opinion but rather, as GM opponents correctly noted at the time, from pressure from the US government, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the biotech industry. In yet another leaked cable from 2007, Craig Stapleton, who was the US ambassador to France at the time, commented on France's plan to ban the cultivation of GM corn, and stated that retaliation would occur:

"Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy, and even the [European] Commission... Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voice.

...Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory."

The Food & Water Watch report further expanded on the US government's intense targeting of the European Union over their precautionary stance against GMOs:

"The State Department has targeted the European Union's reluctance to allow the cultivation or importation of biotech crops or foods as the key to forcing developing countries to accept agricultural biotechnology. The EU had approved 18 biotech crop varieties for cultivation and sale by June 1999, when five EU member states (Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, and Luxembourg) effectively declared a moratorium on new authorizations until the European Commission introduced legislation on labeling and traceability.

… In 2003, the United States, Canada, and Argentina challenged the EU's biotech approval process and the member state moratoriums at the WTO. While the WTO was considering the dispute, the United States continued to push for the EU to drop its biotech rules. In 2006, the WTO… ruled that individual EU member state bans violated trade rules and were unjustified without adequate biotech risk assessments. The State Department recommended leveraging the successful WTO ruling to convince countries in the developing world that they ultimately would be able to export biotech crops to the EU."

Monsanto Will Fight Against GMO Labeling, But the Tide Is Still Turning

Monsanto is not going to let GM labeling happen without a fight. Last year the company donated nearly $5 million to the anti-labeling campaign in Washington State, and in 2012 they donated more than $7 million to help defeat California's Proposition 37. Curiously enough, Monsanto is more than willing to "support" GMO labeling once they run out of options. They even ran an ad in the UK letting British consumers know how much the company supports the mandatory labeling of their goods—even urging Britons to seek such labels out—ostensibly because Monsanto believes "you should be aware of all the facts before making a decision."

Even in the US, however, the tipping point of consumer rejection of genetically engineered foods is almost here. A clear sign of this occurred in 2012, when the president of Whole Foods confessed that when a product becomes verified as Non-GMO or GMO-free, sales leap by 15-30 percent. Of all the categories of health and wellness claims, such as "gluten-free," etc., "GMO-free" products have the most rapid growth in sales.

Whole Foods has announced they will make labeling of GM ingredients mandatory in its American and Canadian stores by 2018. Besides that, Target has announced that its own brand will be non-GMO in 2014. Ben & Jerry's became non-GMO at the end of 2013, and while Chipotle's restaurants are working toward a non-GMO menu, they voluntarily started labeling in the meantime. There's also been more news coverage on the dangers of GMOs. Other vital signs of progress in the movement against genetically engineered foods include:

  • The March Against Monsanto in 52 countries by more than 2 million people
  • Labeling laws proposed in more than two dozen states, which subsequently passed in Connecticut and Maine
  • Hundreds of companies have enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, and some non-GMO companies fret they may lose their sources of non-GMO ingredients to the newcomers
  • Farmers now receive more non-GMO premiums
  • Some companies are already going overseas to get non-GMO ingredients

Food Companies Will Only Use GMOs if You'll Buy Them

The rapid and dramatic rise in sales of products that are Non-GMO Verified really demonstrates the power you have as a consumer. And this is how we will ultimately eradicate GM foods, because most food companies don't have a particular pro-GMO agenda. They're just selling what people will buy, and by using the most inexpensive ingredients possible, they can increase profits. But if their profits go down due to an undesirable ingredient, they will change it, as evidenced by General Mills' recent reformulation to make Cheerios non-GMO.

So, to keep the momentum going, I urge you to purchase organic or Non-GMO Project Verified foods, and to tell your friends and relatives to do the same. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beets, soy, corn, or any of their derivatives.

If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as certified organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.

+ Sources and References