Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Battle Moves North

from Earth First News

From Locals Supporting Locals:
Monsanto coming to Richmond to try to overturn Council decision
This Tuesday Richmond Council voted unanimously at a general meeting, with the Mayor and all Councillors present, to pass a resolution to make Richmond the eighth GE free crop zone in B.C. The wording of the resolution is on the Richmond Council website, at
Ten people spoke in favour of the resolution. This now has to go through the formal process of being passed at a Council meeting, which will happen on the 28th May at 7 p.m. at Richmond City Hall.
We've been informed that Crop Life, the Public Relations wing of Monsanto and other biotech companies, will be coming to the Council meeting on the 28th May. They have already begun their lobbying efforts to try and get Richmond Council to change its mind.
If you are in or near Richmond, please turn out for the meeting. Some Councillors may waver under corporate pressure, and a big turn out of the public will make all the difference and hold them firm to their decisions. Several Councillors spoke passionately about their concerns with genetic engineering, and a big public showing will give them more courage.
If Richmond becomes a GE zone this will have a really big impact on other parts of the Province. As a large municipality with about 200 farms and where GE corn is being grown, people will see that if this can be done in Richmond, it can be done anywhere in the Province. GE Free BC is already getting emails from other municipalities where environmental activists want to get a GE Free resolution passed. This is why Monsanto is sending in the PR guys.
At the same time, apparently the BC government is tryining to slide through an Ag Gag law.

Legislation being proposed by the BC's Liberal government will make it illegal and punishable for a person, including citizens or journalists, to disclose information relating to reportable animal disease in the Canadian province. Bill 37, The Animal Health Act, over-rides BC's Freedom of Information Act, making it unlawful for the public or the press to speak publicly about an agriculture-related disease outbreak or identify the location of an outbreak such as the deadly bird flu or a viral outbreak of IHNV at a salmon aquaculture feedlot.
Who would this affect? Anyone. My significant other, author Paula Johanson, recently wrote a book titled Fish: from catch to the table which addressed the safety of farmed fish--this law would have affected her work.

Fake Foods by Paula Johanson
Or the work she did in Fake Foods.Not because anything she said was wrong, but that she said anything at all.

Photo from Living Food FIlms website
 We've seen this sort of thing before, in the Howard Lyman case in Texas:
In April of 1996, Mr. Lyman (former cattle rancher and now President, Voice for a Viable Future)) was invited to appear on Oprah to discuss Mad Cow disease, food production, and the rendering process. He was part of a discussion of experts, including an expert from the beef industry, about food safety in the U.S. This included a discussion of potential health risks from e-colii and mad cow disease (which only weeks before was making headlines in Britain and throughout the world). When Mr. Lyman explained that cows are being fed to cows, Ms. Winfrey seemed to be repulsed by this thought, and exclaimed that it had just stopped her cold from eating another hamburger
Lyman was sued under an Ag Gag law, the Texas Food Disparagement Act, and it took four years and a heap of money to end the lawsuit brought by a Texas beef ranchers organization. Since then, there has been a pause, but these laws are back.

From Food Safety News:
This means there are at least five states that now make illegal the sort of undercover work conducted by several major animal welfare groups, which involves sending someone in as an employee to record what is actually going on.

In North Dakota, it is a class B misdemeanor to enter an animal facility and use or attempt to use a camera, video recorder, or any other video or audio recording device. It is defined as "unlawful interference with animal facilities" and as "prohibited activity."  Violators face jail terms of 30 days.

Kansas's law makes it  a class A, nonperson misdemeanor  to enter an animal facility that is not open to the public and take pictures or video. The law is part of the state's "Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act."

Montana's measure makes it unlawful to enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with intent to commit criminal defamation, and to enter an animal facility if the person knows entry is forbidden.

All three of these laws were passed in 1990 and 1991.

Now, after a 20-year lull,  there's been a surge in the introduction of ag-gag bills and Iowa and Utah enacted new laws, meaning five states have imposed these restrictions.

Farm states have long made it a crime to mess with someone's animals.  At least 28 states have laws on the books declaring it illegal to exercise control over animals or their facilities without permission, according to the Michigan State University College of Law's Animal Legal & Historical Center, which tracks animal law.

In the last five years, animal welfare groups have sent members into large-scale farms as employees, who then videotaped incidents of animal cruelty and mistreatment.

States adopting ag-gag laws simply want to "silence whistleblowers," according to Farm Forward, an Oregon-based group opposed to factory farms.   

The new Iowa and Utah laws are specifically written to block undercover whistleblowers.The Iowa law, for example, addresses obtaining employment under false pretenses as one element of a crime that could put the violator in jail for up to two years.

And the current crop of new ag-gag laws may not be over. So far, in 2012, the animal agriculture lobby has two wins, three losses going with five contests still outstanding.

Iowa and Utah enacted new laws, while ag-gag bills were killed in Florida, Illinois and Indiana.    Ag-gag bills remain pending in Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

The animal agriculture lobby is having success in the current election year it did not experience last year when proposed video fans first resurfaced in four states.  Last year, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and New York all rejected ag-gag bills.
And now these restrictions on public discourse are moving north into Canada. Given their druthers, agricultural science companies would prefer to have no public discussion of their work. Phrases like "frankenfish" used to describe genetically modified salmon.
From Canadian Geographic online

From Canadian Geographic's more detailed article:
Often dubbed “Frankenfish,” transgenic salmon have had DNA segments spliced into their cells — for instance, genes coded for anti-freezing proteins or growth hormones. Absorbed by the fish’s eggs, these stowaway genes enable the salmon to grow faster and to survive in colder water
One of the major reasons for the BC government proposing this new law is Alexandra Morton. Alex Morton is a marine biologist who has been working in the Broughton Archipelego for over thirty years.
Photo from Pitt Meadows Today

Earlier this year, she went to a couple of T&T markets in and around Vancouver, and bought some farmed BC salmon. She submitted them for virus testing and "receiv[ed] positive test results from an OIE reference lab for ISA virus in BC farmed salmo, report[ing] the HPR7b and HPR5 mutations." She sent these results to the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) who had been reporting to the Cohen Commission that they had never seen positive results in BC farmed salmon.She also released this information to the media, and blogged about it, at the same time. To say the least, the CFIA, BC salmon farmer's lobby group, and both the BC government and the federal government were pissed. The response has been about what you'd expect from the axis of industrial food: "You there! Shut the hell up!"
And this is one of the major problems with the industrial food complex; a complete lack of transparency when it comes to the stuff of life. We've seen it with oil companies, private nuclear energy firms (and government operated ones as well), pharmaceutical companies (remember thalidomide?). Governments, particularly under the Harper Regime, are more than happy to jump on board, violating basic democratic rights to satisfy the desires of the powerful, connected, and wealthy. Enough is enough.

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