Monsanto protesters arrested

CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

A fight for environmental social justice results in trespassing charges

On Oct. 15, eight environmental and social justice protesters were arrested by Yolo County sheriff deputies outside of the Woodland Monsanto/Bayer Plant. Among the arrested were Michael Kerr, Susan Roberts, Pamela Osgood, Carmen Mateo and James Lee Clark Sherly.

The protestors were charged with trespassing on the Monsanto/Bayer Plant. They were released from custody the same day and are scheduled to return on Jan. 22, 2019 for a court date in the Yolo County Superior Court.

“We wanted nation[al] attention,” said Mauro Oliviera, a member of the March Against Monsanto group. “[The] same group has been doing it all year. We were on the Pacifica news network every weekend. We would like to get up the food chain within our democracy.”

At 5 a.m. on Oct. 15, an estimated 50 activists flooded the gates of the plant, blocking entrance to the facility. They were seen waving banners, calling attention to glyphosate and other chemicals produced by Monsanto. Some even brought out traditional Native American drums and sang folk songs.

“We have to strike while the iron’s hot because behinds the scenes, deals are going on,” said Bob Saunders, a member of the March Against Monsanto group. “They’re gonna try to reverse the decision [Johnson v Monsanto] or repeal it, and it could get tied up in courts forever. We just felt that it’s really timely.”

Monsanto is an agriculture and biotechnology company that specializes in pesticides and conducts experiments with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As of 2013, the company has planted seeds on over 252 million acres worldwide. It holds thousands of U.S. patents for various seed varieties and other agricultural technologies. 

With the recent merge of Monsanto with Bayer, a German drug-making and chemical company, Bayer sought to remove the name of “Monsanto,” as it believed that it was viewed as a negative influence on the company.

“Monsanto is evil,” Oliviera said. “We want to remind people that they and Bayer are one on the same.”

Protestors were most concerned about the company’s use of chemical pesticides, especially glyphosate, a chemical found in the pesticides and in the product Roundup. 

“They’re spraying glyphosate in schools there [Woodland School District],” Saunders said. “The more pressure we put on, sometimes it has a positive effect. “Essentially, it’s to bring attention on the use of pesticides [that] are sprayed on farm fields, on public parks and school grounds with children’s families.”

Monsanto argues that its programs are safe and beneficial to both farmers and the environment. The company’s GMOs “use resources efficiently,” as they not only give crops longer growing seasons, but also assist crops in fighting diseases and pests, according to Monsanto’s official website. The company also states that its use of glyphosate works “really well on weeds” and helps farmers “grow crops more sustainably.” Monsanto has stated that glyphosate is an efficient tool in managing and resisting weeds, though if used too often, may create some environmental risks.

The California Aggie reached out to Monsanto, but did not receive a response before the time of publication.

“We have bare bones research,” said Sharon Strauss, an evolution and ecology professor at UC Davis. “What are the effects in human health and what are the actions that [a] human takes to having GMOs? You need to have adequate research and adequate techniques. Having ready crops is obviously good, but it if increases Roundup [use] and creates super weeds, then that would be a bad outcome.”

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency published a first draft stating that “glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The Agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label.” The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to publish its interim registration review in 2019. In the meantime, the March Against Monsanto group encourages community members to fight for the environment.

“I would encourage people to do thing[s] that we are doing,” Oliviera said. “We always felt that things would get better with more numbers […] We need to look at the corruption and clap down on the corruption. We don’t have time. The number of species are dying at an alarming rate.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Monsanto controls 92 percent of the world’s seeds. That is incorrect. A previous version of this story also stated that California passed a law in 2013 banning the use of glyphosate. That is incorrect. The story has been updated to reflect these changes. The Aggie regrets the errors.

Written by: John Regidor — city@theaggie.org

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