Millions Against Monsanto: Chicago to Seattle, on to Boulder, New York & Your Town

May 18, 2011 | Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director

Organic Consumers Association

Millions Against Monsanto – Greetings From Chicago!

Chicago was great! Lots of pro-organic/anti-GMO energy here!

On Friday, I went shopping for GMO foods at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods with a reporter from the Chicago Tribune and Rhys, a fantastic Millions Against Monsanto activist in the IL-7 Chapter. We bought a bunch of GMO foods to display in the booth at the Green Festival.

Click here to see pictures of our Millions Against Monsanto booth. Thanks to Howard (Millions Against Monsanto IL-9 Chapter) for taking the pictures!

On Saturday morning, I was on the Mike Nowak Show. Click here to listen.

On Saturday and Sunday, we had tons of interested visitors to our booth and got nearly 1000 new signers on our Millions Against Monsanto petition thanks to the intelligent and enthusiastic work of our Millions Against Monsanto vomunteers.

These folks are inspiring leaders and I encourage you to connect to the coordinator in your congressional district. If you don't know which district you're in, click here.

On Sunday, we had a productive Millions Against Monsanto activist strategy session with Cassie Green of Chicago Green Grocer.

On Tuesday, a dozen Illinois Millions Against Monsantoactivists staged a "GMO Food Dump" outside the Lincoln Park Whole Foods Market in Chicago to press the store to stop selling unlabeled GMO foods. We brought banners, signs, leaflets and petitions. We wore white coveralls and face masks. We carried a large trashcan with a big biohazard symbol on it and shopping bags full of non-perishable packaged foods purchased at Whole Foods that we suspected contained GMO ingredients and planned to return to the store.

We tried to get close to the store's entrance, but respected a request from employees to move from the store's property to the public sidewalk. We moved away and started setting up on the sidewalk near the driveway leading into the parking lot. Two activists started dumping the GMO food into our "biohazard disposal facility." Our local organizer Mike Durschmid was holding a banner behind them and I walked across the driveway seeing how the tableau looked from the perspective of the TV cameras and photographers. I didn't notice the cops until I saw one reach for his handcuffs and grab Mike from behind. I rushed over saying, "We don't want to get anyone arrested!" thinking I could negotiate an acceptable location for the demonstration, but before I could say another word, the cuffs were on us both and Mike and I were dragged off to jail.

Thanks to the rest of our action team who kept the demonstration going after we were gone! They continued with the food dump, passed out lots of "Monsanto Out of Whole Foods" leaflets and got Whole Foods customers to sign our petition for mandatory GMO labels.

And special thanks to the many of you who gave us your support and good wishes while we were being held in jail.

Whole Foods Market claims that they didn't call the cops (after they stopped claiming we hadn't been arrested at all), that they aren't seeking prosecution (we're ordered to answer to charges of disorderly conduct on June 7), that they agree with our demand for mandatory GMO labels, and that they are trying to increase the availability of organic and other non-GMO foods.

If that's true, this is what they need to do:

1. Respect their customers' right to know about GMOs by labeling all genetically modified foods sold in Whole Foods Market .

2. Give up the idea that organic can "coexist" with Monsanto's genetically engineered crops.

Until Whole Foods Market, companies that use organic ingredients and organic consumers fully boycott Monsanto, we are aiding and abetting the genetic contamination of organic. And, until Whole Foods Market puts genetically modified ingredients (including ingredients from animals raised on genetically engineered feed) on their list of Unacceptable Ingredients, they are tacitly endorsing Monsanto's products and allowing consumers to wrongly believe that GMOs are safe, natural, and environmentally sustainable.

3. Stand up for freedom of speech.

As I begin organizing next week's protest at Trader Joe's in Seattle, I see the chilling effect that my arrest has on activists' willingness to exercise their freedom of speech and stand up to companies that sell unlabeled genetically modified foods. Already, several Millions Against Monsanto activists in Seattle have backed out of our Tuesday action with fears that they might be arrested.

If Whole Foods Market agrees that Mike and I were wrongly arrested and that the public sidewalks of this nation should be open to peaceful demonstrations against GMOs, their employees and executives should contact the Chicago prosecutor's office at 312-325-9200 to say, "Drop the disorderly conduct charges against Alexis Baden-Mayer and Mike Durschmid and revoke the order for them to appear on these charges on June 7, 2011."