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Blog Posts: Monsanto

January 15th, 2015

Citizens United 101

By Briana Kerensky and Mitch Jones


Take action: Tell your members of Congress to overturn Citizens United!

Next week marks the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. Since 2010, corporations have been legally able to use their deep pockets to influence politics, to a destructive degree. According to the Supreme Court, corporations have the same First Amendment right to free speech as people, and as such are allowed to give as much money to political campaigns as they want. But whereas the average Joe or Jane might donate up to a few hundred dollars, corporations have the ability and resources to put millions of dollars into a campaign and change the course of an election.

What does this terrifying concept mean for our work to protect the food you eat and the water you drink? Read on for Citizens United 101, where we break down the landmark case, how it’s changed the electoral process and what it means for the safety of your food and water.

What is Citizens United?

In a nutshell, Citizens United is a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows for unlimited campaign contributions in the U.S. electoral system. Corporate donations to elections are now supposed to be protected as free speech. There are three big takeaways from the ruling:

  1. Citizens United established that free speech rights are solely about speech, and not the speaker.
  2. Citizens United didn’t create corporate personhood (the idea that businesses have the same rights and protections as humans), but it claims that corporate personhood extends to the First Amendment.
  3. Since political speech is a fundamental First Amendment right, any constraint on it has to be limited. For a long time the U.S. didn’t allow corporations to spend money on political campaigns, in order to avoid political corruption. What Citizens United ruled, though, is that avoiding corruption puts a damper on free speech rights.

What does Citizens United mean for corporate control?

Citizens United opens up the ability of corporations to spend money on political campaigns. So in terms of control of our political system, it allows corporations the ability to take much more overt control of funding of campaigns and pushing through their agenda. It helps corporations make sure that legislative bodies, whether at the federal level or state level, governorships, attorney generals, and even in some instances judges, are aligned with their interests.

What does Citizens United have to do with Food & Water Watch’s work?

Citizens United allows corporations to have yet another avenue for gaming the political system. Corporations have more money to spend than the average citizen or most non-profits, making it more difficult for organizations like Food & Water Watch (which doesn’t accept donations from corporations or the government) and our allies to advocate for legislation that protects our food, that stops damaging trade deals and that bans fracking. Citizens United allows corporations to use their political influence to essentially buy themselves a government that is willing to implement their agenda.

What’s the relationship between Citizens United and the DARK Act, which would allow corporations like Monsanto to keep GMO ingredients off food labels?

The free spending on political campaigns that Citizens United allows certainly makes bills like the DARK Act harder for Food & Water Watch and our allies to defeat. “Thanks” to the 2010 ruling, there is now a large amount of money (think billions) being spent in support of political candidates who support the DARK Act, as well as other Big Ag, Big Oil and Gas, and free trade agendas. As long as Citizens United remains in place, it makes it more likely that pro-corporate candidates will get elected, then introduce and vote for legislation like the DARK Act.

What is Food & Water Watch doing about Citizens United?

Food & Water Watch is working with a group of partner organizations from the environmental community, the faith community and organized labor to push for a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress and the states the power to regulate the amount of money in federal and state elections – reversing some of the problems with Citizens United.

What can I do to help?

In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court gave corporations massive power over our democracy, treating them just like people… except that, in the case of corporations, protecting their supposed “freedom of speech” means allowing them to make unlimited political donations and effectively buy campaigns.

That’s no way for democracy to function. Corporations shouldn’t control our food supply or our political process. Tell your members of Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to take back democracy for the people and overturn Citizens United!

August 12th, 2014

A “Science-based” Look at GMOs

By Tim Schwab

As the National Research Council (NRC) sets out on an 18-month, “science-based” study into the safety, benefits and drawbacks of GMOs, it will be interesting to see which science—and which scientists—the NRC will be consulting. 

The initial indications aren’t great. While the NRC boasts that it is aiming to “provide an independent, objective assessment of what has been learned since GE crops were introduced,” several of the scientific experts it has selected to direct the new report have substantial ties to industry—and are clearly in a position to advocate on behalf of biotech companies. 

The reason this matters is because the biotech industry has long had an outsized role in shaping the science surrounding GMOs, with tactics including funding and authoring countless studies, censoring or restricting independent research and attacking unfavorable findings. The result of this influence is a body of scientific literature with substantial industry bias and major gaps—especially in safety research. Industry also uses its unparalleled financial resources to bulldoze the public debate on GMOs, including spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress. Do biotech companies really need another platform to advocate their pro-GMO stance? Read the full article…

January 28th, 2014

The Risky Business of Being a Monsanto Shareholder

Monsanto Super FundBy Anna Meyer

When readers of the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch opened their papers yesterday morning, they saw a full-page ad welcoming Monsanto shareholders into town and asking them to vote for full disclosure of the true costs of genetically modified foods (GMOs). The ad depicts the quintessential American farm (red barn and all), and is very similar to many of the ads that Monsanto released implying that the chemical giant has a rosy relationship with farmers. But the veneer of Monsanto’s advertising has worn thin and shareholders are questioning that very relationship and looking for honest answers as to the impacts that GMOs are having on farmers.

Monsanto is generally seen as the most nefarious and targeted corporation in the food movement. The past few years have seen multiple states fight for the right to know what is in their food, international bans on GMOs and increasingly visible negative environmental impacts. Now, even Monsanto’s own shareholders are demanding answers about their controversial products and practices. Read the full article…

November 4th, 2013

The Ongoing Farm Bill Saga

By Jo Miles and Anna Ghosh

Of all the spectacular ways Congress has failed lately, the current Farm Bill is one of the biggest and longest running sagas (we’ve been reporting on this particular farm bill mess since 2011). It’s also the most critical for the people who grow our food, families who struggle to keep food on the table, and of us who care about where our food comes from.

The Farm Bill is a massive law that makes the rules not only for farmers, but for almost all aspects of our food, affecting everything from the price of milk, to subsidies on factory farms, to food stamps for families in need. Congress was supposed to renew this bill back in 2012, but the House and Senate can’t agree on what the new bill should look like, so they’ve just let is expire. Twice. But this tortured process may finally be coming to a close. Like Slate, we’re hopeful that the silver lining to Congress’s dysfunction is that it’s running out of ways to fail.   

The House and Senate both managed to pass a Farm Bill this summer but their versions of the bill are light-years apart. Now a special committee is reconciling those bills but all of Congress needs to feel pressure from concerned citizens to keep the essential protections for farmers, organic standards and everyday people who need access to safe, healthy, affordable food in tact. That’s what the Farm Bill is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to level the playing field for family farmers, so they can compete with Big Agriculture and provide the fresh, local food that’s needed. It’s supposed to protect the safety of our food and the environment from abusive practices by big corporations. And it should make sure that all American families, regardless of their income level, never have to go hungry.

The biggest risk is that the new Farm Bill might gut the food stamp program that millions of low-income Americans rely on to feed their families. But lots of other areas that we care about are at stake, too. It could damage our hard-won victories like Country of Origin Labeling, weaken food safety standards, remove vital rules that protect small farmers from abusive corporations, and more. You can be sure that corporations like Monsanto are pressuring Congress to pass a Farm Bill that’s friendlier to them at the expense of folks trying to know what’s in the food they’re feeding their families. That’s why your voice is so important. Let your Members of Congress know that you want a Farm Bill that protects ordinary Americans, not big corporations.

October 11th, 2013

March Against Monsanto

March Against Monsanto in NYC

By Anna Ghosh

Last May, more than two million people in over 400 cities spanning six continents marched in opposition to the chemical and agribusiness giant Monsanto – read our recap of the event here. Tomorrow, Oct. 12, activists will once again March Against Monsanto, calling for the boycott of genetically engineered (GE) foods and other harmful agro-chemicals.

Food & Water Watch organizers are proud to support activists’ efforts in Manhattan; Hartford, CT; Princeton, NJ; Des Moines, IA; and Albuquerque, NM.  In Florida, we’re supporting marches in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Tallahassee, West Palm Beach and across the state – 19 in all.

In Ohio, we are supporting the Cincinnati march and working with our allies on a call-in day to ask Senator Sherrod Brown to co-sponsor federal GE labeling legislation. 

And a related global movement is also underway – Vandana Shiva’s Fortnight of Action for Seed Freedom. Dr. Shiva calls on people around the world to stand up against unjust seed laws through creative, peaceful actions in the spirit of Gandhi. Find out how to get involved here.

Can’t get to a march? March where you are. But whether or not you’re planning to March Against Monsanto this weekend, arm yourself with the facts. Food & Water Watch reports, fact sheets, blogs, press releases and sharable images can all be found here:, and more information on GE foods here:

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September 21st, 2013

Farm Bill Update: Insulting the Poor While Complimenting Monsanto

Food Policy Director Patty Lovera

Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera

By Patty Lovera

Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to cut almost $40 billion over ten years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the main food assistance program that used to be called food stamps. The bill passed 217-210, largely along party lines, although 15 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it. The New York Times editorial board captured what the vote means pretty well with the headline “Another Insult to the Poor,” since the cuts passed by the House would kick an estimated 3.8 million people out of the program next year. 

Thursday’s vote completed the House’s work on its version of the Farm Bill – mostly. They still need to finish some procedural steps to combine yesterday’s nutrition cut bill with the farm policy portions of the bill passed earlier in the summer. After that is figured out, the Senate and House can start the conference committee process to reconcile their different versions of the Farm Bill.

And there is a lot for the conference committee to figure out. The biggest is the SNAP program. The Senate bill cut $4 billion from SNAP, while the House bill cut almost $40 billion. This is a huge sticking point and Senate Democrats have vowed not to accept a cut that large and the President has threatened to veto any bill with such a cut. This issue alone will make it hard for the conference process to be completed.

The clock is ticking – the current farm bill (which was passed as quickie extension at the end of last year’s drama over the “fiscal cliff”) expires at the end of the month. And between now and then, Congress also has to deal with the small matter of keeping the federal government running past October 1, when the federal budget expires. Read the full article…

September 14th, 2013

Yes on 522: I’ll have the non-genetically engineered apple pie, please

By Katherine Cirullo

One thing I associate fall with is food. When I was eight years old, my favorite fall treat was probably Halloween candy. Now, it might just be my grandmother’s Thanksgiving cornbread stuffing. Or, maybe her apple pie, made with freshly picked Braeburn apples from the small orchard in her backyard just outside of Seattle. Lucky for me, I know for a fact that her apples were not grown using genetic engineering, but not everyone in Washington has a grandmother with an orchard.

 And it’s not just apples – no one knows if the candy corn or Thanksgiving cornbread they will eat this fall was produced using (GE) corn, soy or sugar beets. This is because the United States, including Washington, does not yet require producers to label their products if they contain genetically engineered foods.

However, things could soon change in the Evergreen State. This coming November, Washington state will vote on I-522: a ballot measure that would require most raw and processed foods in Washington to be labeled if they were produced using genetic engineering. This initiative is monumental. If passed, Washington would be the first state to implement GE food labeling, as Connecticut and Maine are currently relying on additional states to pass a bill in order for their legislation to be implemented. Its passage would hopefully inspire other states to implement similar initiatives so that all U.S. consumers have a right to decide. Read the full article…

August 19th, 2013

Pesticide Drift and Real-Life Harms

airplane spraying pesticideBy Genna Reed

Pesticide drift is a common occurrence and is the simple result of wind carrying airborne chemicals onto unintended areas, like a neighbor’s farm. The impacts of drift can be extremely profound.

 Indiana Public Media dove into the issue in a three-part report (Part I, Part II, Part III) on the risks involved with drift including financial harm from crop yield loss, health impacts associated with pesticide drift exposure and how the pipeline of genetically engineered crops able to withstand spraying with volatile herbicides (like 2,4-D and dicamba) will only worsen the drift problem. Read the full article…

July 30th, 2013

One Year Later: A Rocket Docket Update

Credit: NASA

By Genna Reed

The USDA really wasn’t kidding when it said it would be speeding up its regulatory process. On July 19, three crops whose petitions were just submitted to USDA within the last year have already been given preliminary determinations of non-regulated status—meaning they are one step closer to approval with only draft environmental assessments prepared.

Before 2011, the approval process for genetically engineered (GE) crops gave the public a better opportunity for review and comment and gave the USDA more time to review the petition and incoming comments at various steps in the process. Now, in just a year since their petitions were introduced, three GE crops have advanced in the new process and could be approved in a matter of months.

The crops in question, and up for comment for 30 days, are Genective’s glyphosate-tolerant corn, Monsanto’s glyphosate-tolerant canola and Monsanto’s glyphosate-tolerant corn. Just what the world needs: three more Roundup Ready crops to spur the resistance of acres and acres of superweeds. Read the full article…

May 31st, 2013

Wrapping Up the March Against Monsanto

By Walker Foley

As the days heat up for another hot summer, so does public ire for Monsanto. Report after report about the biotech company’s shady dealings — running the gamut of contracting paramilitary group Academi (formerly Xe, formerly Blackwater), killing crop-pollinating bees globally, heightening the suicide epidemic on bankrupted Indian farmers, sci-fi wheat of mystery origins, using U.S. embassies as a global marketing platform, to name a few — are fueling the fire of massive global protests.

This past Saturday, 25 May, global citizens took to the streets in the March Against Monsanto, one of the largest protests ever staged. More than two million people in over 400 cities spanning six continents staged protests of the corporate giant Monsanto.

In Washington, D.C. the protest I attended was several hundred strong, initially gathered on the north side of the White House, with an Occupy-style open mic for anyone who cared to voice their own afflictions with the agri-giant. People-sized bees buzzed through the crowd, handing out heirloom seeds and extolling the virtues of local food systems. Alternative news vendors peddled their broadsheets. National figures like Medea Benjamin attended. We marched into Washington’s wide boulevards all the way to Monsanto’s D.C. lobbying HQ.

Food & Water Watch stands in solidarity with the March Against Monsanto. Our organizers and supporters engaged in several marches elsewhere in the U.S. on Saturday.

Read the full article…

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