States Move to Criminalize Whistleblowing on Food Fraud and Animal Cruelty

In today’s America it’s no longer about doing the right thing.  It’s about covering up the wrong thing.  It’s about protecting the rich and powerful at all costs and criminalizing and destroying those that dare to challenge them. With all the recent food fraud recently and the realization that there appears to actually be no such thing as “white tuna,” you might expect to see new regulations that ensure food safety and better practices within the production chain. Not so.  In fact, some states are moving in the complete opposite direction.  From Think Progress we learn about so called “ag-gag” bills:

As state legislatures begin their 2013 sessions, a flurry of new “ag gag” bills to protect factory farms from potential undercover whistleblowers have been introduced in 5 states. This week, the Indiana Senate is debating a proposal to criminalize taking photographs or videos inside an agricultural or industrial operation without permission.

Senate Bill 373 is the first of two ag gag bills introduced during Indiana’s 2013 session. New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wyoming and Arkansas are also considering them.

Since trespassing is already illegal, ag gag laws can only have one clear motive: to punish whistleblowers, advocates, and investigative reporters who use undercover recordings to reveal the abysmal conditions in which our food is produced. Undercover investigations have captured factory farms all over the country abusing livestock, passing off sick cattle as healthy, and discharging unregulated amounts of animal manure, which the US Geological Survey identified as the largest source of nitrogen pollution in the country.

Indeed, factory farms have largely escaped regulatory and legal scrutiny. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency abandoned an effort to require these operations to report even basic information like location, number of animals, and amount of manure discharged.  Meanwhile, the meat lobby’s grip on lawmakers is so powerful that the USDA was pressured into apologizing for an internal “Meatless Monday” last year by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who claimed the optional vegetarian day was a full-scale attack on agriculture.

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A 75 Year Old Indiana Farmer Takes on Monsanto

From what I have read about Monsanto over the years, I have a very negative opinion on the company.  Not only do I think their products are doing more long-term harm than good to the environment, but I find the way they attack small farmers to be ruthless and morally indefensible.  As of yesterday, many of the controversies are coming to a head with the case Bowman v. Monsanto coming in front of the Supreme Court.  Fortunately for the company, Clarence Thomas was a former Monsanto attorney and the Obama Administration is also actively siding with them.  Banana Republic 101.  From Think Progress:

Monsanto is notorious among farmers for the company’s aggressive investigations and pursuit of farmers they believe have infringed on Monsanto’s patents. In the past 13 years, Monsanto has sued 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses, almost always settling out of court (the few farmers that can afford to go to trial are always defeated). These farmers were usually sued for saving second-generation seeds for the next harvest — a basic farming practice rendered illegal because seeds generated by GM crops contain Monsanto’s patented genes.

Monsanto’s winning streak hinges on a controversial Supreme Court decision from 1981, which ruled on a 5-4 split that living organisms could be patented as private property.  As a result of that decision, every new generation of GM seeds — and their self-replicating technology — is considered Monsanto’s property.

Unfortunately, second- and third-generation seeds are very hard to track, which may explain why Monsanto devotes $10 million a year and 75 staffers to investigating farmers for possible patent violations. Seeds are easily carried by birds or blown by the wind into fields of non-GM seeds, exposing farmers who have never bought seeds from Monsanto to lawsuits. Organic and conventional seeds are fast becoming extinct — 93 percent of soybeans, 88 percent of cotton, and 86 percent of corn in the US are grown from Monsanto’s patented seeds. A recent study discovered that at least half of the organic seeds in the US are contaminated with some genetically modified material.

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