If Monsanto Were a Person

March 29, 2012 | Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director

Organic Consumers Fund

The following video is from the March 16, 2012, action that shut down a Monsanto research facility in Davis, CA. In the video, a young boy, Ci Yin Oliveira, tells Monsanto's story as if (as the Supreme Court has ruled) Monsanto were actually a person. Click here for a transcript of Oliveira's speech. Please watch the video, then read on to learn more about the problem of giving corporations the legal rights of people and what we can do to control corporations like Monsanto.

Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, big corporations like Monsanto are allowed to spend obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government. They use their clout to block popular, common-sense regulations needed to protect human health and the environment. With corporate money flooding our electoral and legislative system, even minor reforms, like labels on genetically engineered food — a cause supported by more than 90% of the voting public — are blocked.

When it comes to elections for public office, the choice between Democrats and Republicans can be very narrow. Neither political party is going to take a stand against genetic engineering or dangerous pesticides, as long as companies like Monsanto ply candidates from both parties with campaign contributions and incessant lobbying.   

But there is still one venue in this shredded democracy where the one-person-one-vote ideal still holds sway: direct democracy. Initiatives, Referendums, and Recalls can launch a Ballot Box Insurgency that begins at the local, municipal and county level, and then moves to the state and even federal level.

A Ballot Box Insurgency, reinforced by direct action, along with grassroots organizing, will enable our forces to gradually replace most of the nation's indentured politicians with new leaders and public servants who truly represent the people, not the economic royalty. Such an electoral insurgency cannot be sparked by humdrum partisan politics. It requires electoral campaigns that offer real solutions to our real-life problems, that educate and mobilize grassroots forces, that change the balance of power away from the corporate elite, and return real power to the people.

This year in California, we have a chance to win back, from Monsanto, our right to know what's in our food by taking Label GMOs' ballot initiative to label genetically engineered food to the voters in the November 2012 election.

Here are a few more inspiring uses of Initiatives, Referendums, and Recalls, along with more ways the 99% can take our democracy back from the richest 1%:

Nuclear-Free Zones – In 1978, Missoula, Montana, became the first U.S. locality to establish itself as Nuclear-Free Zone. By 1985, 91 nuclear-free zones had been established throughout the United States. By 1989, there were 4,279 nuclear-free zones globally. The cause is being renewed this year in a statewide California ballot initiative to shut down the state's two nuclear plants.

GMO-Free Zones – In 1986, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors made their county the first locality to take action on genetically modified organisms by banning trials of GMO crops. In 2004, by popular vote, Mendocino County became the first GMO-free zone by enacting a ban on the planting of GMO crops in the county. At least five counties in California, as well as localities in Hawaii and Maine, adopted bans. In Massachusetts, six towns passed anti-GMO resolutions. Of the 255 localities in Vermont, 83 passed anti-GMO resolutions.

Corporations Are Not Farmers! – In 1982, the citizens of Nebraska added, by popular vote, an amendment to their constitution that said that only real people could be farmers in the state. The constitutional amendment prevented corporations from buying or farmland and engaging in farming or ranching.

Corporations Are Not People! – In 2002, with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Porter Township in Clarion County, a municipality of 1,500 residents an hour north of Pittsburgh in Northwestern Pennsylvania, became the first local government in the United States to eliminate corporate claims to civil and constitutional privileges. Initially used to protect Pennsylvania communities from polluting factory farms and and toxic sewage sludge, localities across the country have used the same strategy to regulate dangerous chemicals, food safety, gas drilling, uranium mining, big box stores, sustainable energy and local water resources. Over 125 communities have adopted Legal Defense Fund-drafted ordinances.

Community Rights Now! – From water withdrawal to polluting refineries, toxic sludge spreading, GMOs and more, the corporate few wield the law against our communities, endangering our health, safety and the environment. When corporate executives decide to site an unwanted project in our communities, we are told we cannot say "no," because that would be a violation of the corporation's Constitutional rights. Global Exchange's Community Rights Program, in collaboration with CELDF, runs Democracy Schools that teach communities how turn this around by giving the Rights of Nature legal significance while stripping corporations of their power and personhood.

Amend2012.org –  The Amend 2012 campaign wants as many states as possible to pass ballot resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment stripping corporations of constitutional rights.

FairVote.org – To be a truly fair, open, and equitable democracy, we need to break the stranglehold of the two major parties — and the corporations like Monsanto that control them — and make sure that every vote counts. This can be achieved through reforms like Choice Voting, a National Popular Vote for President, Instant Runoff Voting, a Constitutional Right to Vote, and Universal Voter Registration.

OccupyTogether.org – The Occupy Movement is changing — and saving — the world. Through the astonishing power of creative nonviolence, it has the magic and moxie to defeat the failing forces of corporate greed. Occupy has been actively campaigning against Monsanto, and led the Shut-Down Monsanto actions on March 16, 2012, that targeted Monsanto locations worldwide.

Fully Prosecute Corporate Crime! – Human beings charged with serious crimes can get plea bargains, but they have to admit their guilt and accept the punishment. Corporations charged with serious crimes get special treatment. They get to bargain for their punishment without admitting guilt! This is how Federal Prosecutors dealt with Monsanto when it was caught bribing giving an Indonesian regulator $50,000 to drop a requirement to conduct an environmental review before authorizing the cultivation of genetically modified crops.

Stop the Privatization & Financialization of Nature! – We've seen what the banks and the speculators have done with mortgages. Now companies like Monsanto, Nestle and Cargill are adding patented plants and animals, staple foods, farmland, forests and water to their casinos. Just as they drove millions from their homes, they're now leaving billions without clean water or enough to eat.