Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Millions against Monsanto" - people rallying March 26th in the US

Just a few short years ago it seemed for those in countries privileged with seemingly plentiful food supplies and cashed up to spend ... FOOD was the big buzzword for entertainment .... cookbooks flooded the market with constant demand for new titles, celebrity chefs and TV programs galore, travel designed around cuisines of every kind ... and that nothing could come between us and our penchant for pleasing our palates!

.... all that seemed such a long way from issues like FOOD SECURITY and FOOD SOVEREIGNTY and the even more obscure SEED COPYRIGHT.

Dr Vandana Shiva - Indian Seed activist - winner of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

Times have changed... and the issues that some were trying to get our focus on years ago have now mushroomed into far greater challenges in 2011. The cook books still fill the shelves... although the book stores are closing, the TV plays endless cooking shows, celebrity chefs are the new movie stars it would seem ... and many talk FOOD like there's not a whimper of change afoot!

Like so many other topics debate around food gets very polarised these days... its hard to get people's attention so the more sensational arguments surface and the effort to discover what is fact and fiction is often not made.... and to be truthful...its a hard task to get to the bottom of it!

This Saturday's rally in the US: "Millions against Monsanto" is something I wanted to bring to your attention... it will take place in a number of regions as well as Washington DC ... and will be the forerunner to a bigger event planned for WORLD FOOD DAY 16th October 2011.

I'm glad to see this kind of people's lobby growing ... most importantly I believe people need to come to terms with their region's Food Sovereignty whether they live in India, Chili, Northern America or anywhere else .... whilst understanding how it all works as a whole.

"Food sovereignty" is a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996 [1] to refer to a policy framework advocated by a number of farmerspeasantspastoralistsfisherfolkindigenous peoples,womenrural youth and environmental organizations, namely the claimed "right" of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces

I would argue that people NEED TO KNOW more than the slogans, more than the sensationalist  claims  from either side... to see more clearly what is at stake when 6 or so transnationals own most of the worlds traded seeds, and are winning copyrights on more seeds all the time.

The movement against the few corporations swallowing up a significant percentage of the world's seed heritage and working against our global right to grow what we need as we wish would be far greater if people had access to better information and read more widely. The organic debate is part of the story.... but its actually only one part of it!

You'll find quite a lot on this blog that covers this ... there are reputable sources of information and watchdogs.... do the homework... its worth it.

image found at Canadian Farmers Market website - testing carried out by Prairie Diagnostic Seed Testing

I realised whilst on residency last year that some people were lumping the Plant Science carried out by the Millennium Seed Bank Project (set up by Kew Gardens: Royal Botanic Gardens, London) with that of companies like Monsanto. In 2011 such a serious lack of information from those wishing to support Eco-sustainability is problematic and can work against the cause. There's much material to post on to get this message across... tonight is not the time.

This rally signifies people not being happy to sit by and watch Govts ignore their questions. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that people step up and demand answers. But I would urge anyone to keep in mind that in my effort to research things I hear about seeds and such at this blog Ive been caught out once or twice by serious misinformation generated by organisations that have a strong eco-future orientation but are using sensationalised or false info to "win" over their audience.

Read about the rally on facebook or at this website

I just found this article below when seeking more info on the US rally this weekend. Read carefully ...
it basically describes how Monsanto and Co are realising the need to get onto Social Media ... It comes out of St Louis, Missouri which is the headquarters of Monsanto... so this newspaper would be most unlikely to rock the boat ... how many from this area work for this corporation I wonder.
The article is worth a read if you are curious like me and wish to peek into how this company might be positioning itself and its attempt to find its "voice" in the world of social media. There are quite arange of views provided.

Read here if you want to see Monsanto's website pledge.

Monsanto Planting Cyber Seeds

by Jeffrey Tomich click here.
Earlier this month, a blogger named Brad fired a virtual salvo at Jeffrey Smith, the author of"Seeds of Deception" and one of the most vocal crusaders against genetically modified foods.
In a 600-word post, Brad questioned the credibility of an online petition on Smith's website, urging the administration of President Barack Obama to require labeling of biotech foods. He called the petition "sheer political theater" and prodded the activist for purportedly being a yogic flying instructor.
More than 30 comments followed in the next few weeks. On one level, the exchange was just another online debate about GMOs. But this one was notable because of who initiated and hosted it: Monsanto Co.
For years, environmental and food activists have made good use of YouTube video and Facebook to skewer Monsanto in the blogosphere. Now, the biotech giant is turning the tables.
The company's blog, Monsanto According to Monsanto, made its debut Feb. 10, and it is the company's latest tool to engage critics on hot-button issues such as food labeling. The title spoofs a documentary by French journalist Marie-Monique Robin that has been viewed more than 47,000 times on YouTube.
Beside the blog, Monsanto has hired a full-time social media specialist, Kathleen Manning. It has almost 600 followers on the Web-based short messaging system Twitter, started a YouTube channel and launched a Facebook page. The company is also developing a version of its website for cell phones and Blackberries and is creating MonsantoTV.
Glynn Young, a Monsanto manager in his second stint with the company, is heading the effort. Before rejoining the company in 2004, Young, 57, worked for St. Louis Public Schools, where he had a trial by fire in crisis management earlier this decade after the district slashed its budget, cut staff and closed schools.
Monsanto's presence on the Web has evolved during the last few years. But only last year did the company decide to delve into social media as it witnessed the upheaval of traditional media and realized that its existing outreach vehicle - news releases - wasn't enough.
"We asked ourselves, 'Is this a space we should be participating in?' The answer was 'yes,'" Young said.
While some consumer companies have used blogs and Twitter to promote their products, Monsanto views social media as a forum to discuss key issues with critics, investors and customers.
"There was this big conversation going on (on the Internet), and we weren't a part of it," said John Combest, a manager in public affairs at Monsanto and one of the bloggers.
There was one particular instance that opened the company's eyes to the power of social media. It happened at last summer's Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, when the company learned, much to its surprise, that some Wall Street analysts had been following an agronomist's blog that chronicled the progress of Monsanto's "Golden Acre" plot, which showcases some of its crops under development.
But just Google the company's name and it quickly becomes obvious that blogs and social media haven't been kind to Monsanto, based in Creve Coeur.
Monsanto has been in the cross hairs of social activists for decades, going back to its days as a maker of Agent Orange and PCBs. That didn't change with the company's new focus on biotech and agriculture.
A decade ago, activists expressed themselves by torching fields of genetically modified crops and throwing tofu cream pies at Monsanto's chairman. These days, activists are challenging the company through the use of YouTube videos and countless blogs that demonize GMOs.
Facebook, the social networking site, is full of anti-Monsanto groups, including one, Millions Against Monsanto, with more than 22,000 members. Another group's avatar depicts CEO Hugh Grant with a handful of soybeans. Below the words: "No Food Shall Be Grown That We Don't Own." It seems there's a way to revile the company in any language.
Nora Ganim Barnes has studied corporate use of social media at the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and urges companies to not let online criticism go unchallenged.
"We advise companies to listen to what's being said about them in social media and get into social media to reply," she said.
One example of a company that effectively did that is PC maker Dell Corp. Dell-bashing escalated a few years ago, giving rise to the term "Dell Hell." When the company finally started its own blog, it became the forum of choice for critics.
Monsanto similarly appears to be trying to steer discussion about critical issues to its blog so it's easier to influence the debate, Barnes said.
"Now they're controlling the posts, they're answering the questions, they're directing them to different places within Monsanto and maybe another site," she said. "They've taken control of the situation."
The company and its critics agreed on one thing: Food is an emotional issue. Knowing that, Monsanto hopes using social media will help put a human face on the company and connect with people who might perceive it as a monolith trying to dominate global agriculture.
Bonnie Azab Powell, a food politics journalist in California and co-founder and editor of The Ethicurian (, a three-year-old blog about food, sees that as a challenge.
"I admire their effort and I'm sure they have a lot of money to spend," she said. But "the hostility toward the company is very real, and it's not going to be corrected by investing heavily in social media."
There are six dedicated bloggers at Monsanto. But any employee is allowed - even encouraged - to participate. A frequent contributor is Daniel Goldstein, a pediatrician who works as Monsanto's senior scientist in residence.
The "official" bloggers go by their first names and are represented by personalized South Park avatars. That decision, Young said, "engendered a lot of discussion at levels above me."
Comments on the blog ( are patrolled and answered, but they'll be permitted to stand unless they contain profanity or personal attacks. That's true even if they criticize the company, Young said.
"As long as it's trying to engage in a civil way, that's fine," he said. "But we're not going to let unsubstantiated vitriol go unchallenged."
Bloggers also watch what is said about the company on other agriculture and biotech-themed blogs, such as
Just last week, Monsanto made a splash at The company cross-posted three of its blog posts on the liberal website. Also last week, the site's editor and publisher, Robb Kall, posted a poll for readers asking them if the company should be allowed to cross-post its blog entries.
"One could argue that getting them into a conversation is a good thing," he wrote. "Or one can argue that they have billions to promote their message and OEN should not help them sell their propaganda." As of Friday, 420 readers had responded; 236 of them voted against letting Monsanto post articles on the site.
To be sure, Monsanto acknowledges it is still feeling its way around in the world of Web 2.0. "It's a sea change for us," Young said. "We're kind of going at this in baby steps."
In the end, the company knows it might not win over its critics. But it will continue to engage them.
"We're not asking people to love us," Young said. "And we don't mind critics, but we'd like more informed critics."


How Carrots Became the New Junk Food

BY: DOUGLAS MCGRAYMarch 22, 2011

This is one of the reasons the organic industry really appeals to me... an article on an industry that would turn something like a humble carrot into a mass-market product. And how!!!!
Read on here!

NB I posted on this last night and as I was mulling on things going to sleep I thought about how 25 years ago in Australia a lot of our food was still purchased without much or any packaging and advertising and when I was a child in the 60's the supermarkets where I lived were smallish and basic...  and one had relationships with one's butcher, baker grocer etc... and main street and strip shopping were lively and interesting and social hubs!

For the sake of our convenience we accept the packaged baby carrots and the rest as normal and necessary whilst we run to the careers/jobs that we often feel so jaded by to live in the mortgage belt we hope we can pay for.... or if not that scenario ... we are balancing other challenging circumstances ... so we grab what is convenient.

If you think about the whole rationale behind the carrot story long enough it will may well  disturb you as it did me .... for the loss of meaning, culture and probably nutrition this story represents.... for the masses of money tied up in its"invention" and packaging. I know we are supposed to be cheering that a "healthy" real product has ended up in the junk food category ... but all I can think is "Help... get me off this nutty planet!"


Please tell me its not that bad!


rosaria said...

I have seen nothing about this protest! Wow! So glad I found you! Do you have a Facebook account? If not, can I share this on my Facebook page? Let me know.

Anonymous said...

That website for "Millions against Monsanto' has all the venues, cities it will take place...

I'm on twitter... you can share the whole article or whatever you like Rosaria ... Im happy for anything at homage blog to be passed on...
click at the bottom of the post to send to facebook...I just sent it to twitter...and now must be off to grab some sleep... its very late ... but this felt important!
thank you for passing it on!

rosaria said...

Thanks!~ I clicked on Facebook and voila'.
That's so important.

Robyn said...

Well done Sophie.... I'm going to post about this too xx love your work xx

Sophie Munns said...

Im glad Rosaria ....
well done...I visited your maun blog last night and noticed you clever person ... you have almost 700 followers....thats a lot of people to potentially hear about this rally through you spreading the word!

Maybe Ill make the facebook/website links larger so people notice!

Hi Robyn,
that would be wonderful..,
your'e definitely a Star!
S xo

iNdi@na said...

i'm truly grateful for your foragings and postings, Sophie
thanks again for drawing attention to something really important that had slipped under my radar

ronnie said...

spectacular post sophie!

just this morning I was sharing a whinge and a WTF with permaculture friends in fb about monsanto's concerted webby campaign to appear all warm and fuzzy and green (WTF!!!!) - here's the website of prime concern:
..... this sort of blatant appeal to seem caring and sharing through mis-information must be seen for what it really is

a big.fat.lie.

keep spreading the good stuff

jo said...

thank you sophie for sharing your passion and all the info above - shall pass it on to my friends to get them into action too - love your work as well

Sophie Munns said...

THanks all for the great comments...

As one who set up a twitter site well over a year ago and then could not figure what the hell one did with it I'm ever so glad that this january I suddenly "got it" I am far more likely to get info as it goes public globally... and in the realm of seeds and related matters that is critically helpful.

Very glad to have you visit and comment ...Im keen to see matters such as this rally go viral... lets get things trending that actually really matter!

India ... its wonderful to pass it on... you're a lighthouse for navigators ...pointing people this way and that...! Thank you!

very glad the dots connected between your conversation and elements of this post! Ive been examining the language said company uses and find it remarkably honed to appear warm and fuzzy with actually no substance...
Can you imagine their legal dept? Every word written in their name I reckon passes through a ruthless conveyer belt of people with red pens!
Their posts on World Water Day read like a grade 4
kid's assignment "water is very important to farmers"

Big thanks for the link to that website ... do keep in touch... lots of critical info needs to get out there ...great to read tyour comment

Jo ...
Glad tyoulll pass it on ...thast great to keep the conversation going and VERY glad to haer form you!

cheers all,

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