Organic Farm Supporters Adapting the Occupy Framework

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February 12, 2012; Source: Nation of Change | The concept of the one percent is not simply a characterization applied to the nation’s economy, but to almost all parts of our society, including the nonprofit sector. In this article, independent journalist Jane Ayers notes that the “occupy” notion fits subsectors of the economy—in this case, “Occupy the Food System.” Ayers equates this Occupy movement with Food Democracy Now, which is leading the support for a lawsuit by 300,000 organic family farmers against the agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto. The farmers say Monsanto has threatened them with “patent infringement” if even a trace amount of genetically modified (GM) seeds can be found in any organic farmer’s produce. Monsanto is apparently equally aggrieved with organic farmers’ potential traces of its herbicides in organic produce.

Certified organic farmers aren’t particularly interested in using Monsanto products. But they face the problem of contaminated seed and herbicides being carried to their crop lands by the wind, and physical buffers don’t necessarily work all the time. Monsanto’s “patent infringement” threats force small organic farmers to prepare for harassing lawsuits from a corporate behemoth with deep pockets to absorb the legal costs. 

It doesn’t help organic farmers that President Obama appointed Michael Taylor, a former VP of Monsanto, as senior advisor to the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Organic farmers haven’t been thrilled with President Obama’s policies on their issues of concern, particularly in regard to trade-oriented policies promoting the interests of the big agribusinesses.  Why is Monsanto ticked at the organic farmers? Perhaps it’s because the organic small farms represent a healthier alternative to the kind of genetically modified agriculture presented by Monsanto and its ilk. 

A small slice of the U.S. economy dominates politics and the courts, a powerful one percent with the ability to outmuscle its competition, but nonprofit advocacy organizations such as Food Democracy Now have adapted the nomenclature and narrative of the Occupy movement to speak up for the interests of the 99 percent. –Rick Cohen