Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Munchable Soapbox: Occupy

You know all those folks camped out in the downtowns of major metropolitan areas, such as the Wall Street area of Manhattan? Well, even though most of the camps have been disbanded, the Occupy movement has asserted its influence over many aspects of life. Just last Friday, I learned about the Occupy Our Homes campaign that is gaining steam here in DC. And only two days ago, Monday marked the Global Day of Action for Occupy Our Food Supply. The mantra of this effort, spearheaded by the Rainforest Action Network (yes, I was surprised this was a product of RAN), is essentially a local, sustainable, and just food supply.

Targeting the large agri-giants like Dupont, ADM, and Cargill, the Occupy Our Food Supply movement has widespread appeal. If you are all about urban farming, great. Food justice activist, fantastic. Animal welfare proponent, this is for you. In fact, this Day of Action is very timely, as a major lawsuit by organic farmers in the State of New York against seed company, Monsanto, was dismissed on Monday!

Monsanto, of genetically engineered seed infamy, holds the intellectual property rights to its seed technology. This in and of itself is a little disturbing, although not uncommon for companies to be able to patent biological traits (beginning with an oil-eating bacterium in 1981). Because Monsanto holds these rights, the company is legally eligible to sue farmers who "use" its technology without permission or payment. The lawsuit that was dismissed, pitted thousands of organic farmers against the agribusiness, in attempt to ensure that Monsanto could not sue them if the GMO genes were found in the farmers' fields. More than the threat of being sued, organic farmers fear the impact on the value of their crops if contaminated with GMO pollen (which is not allowed in organic production).

Despite the reasonable argument and legitimate concerns by the farmers, the case still was deemed to hold no water. If this is not indicative of the need for an Occupy movement for our food systems, I am not sure what is.

Oh, by the way, happy Leap Day! Hope you all enjoyed February...

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