Citizens Oppose Pima County’s Negotiations with Monsanto

by Melissa Diane Smith

comments-to-supervisorsAt the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting on October 18, 2016, roughly half a dozen citizens spoke, giving the supervisors information about Monsanto’s terrible history and record and pleading with them not to approve a tax break for Monsanto to build a greenhouse and land operation facility in Avra Valley.

Watch a video of three of the people who gave their comments, including a man who had worked in suicide prevention who gave a very heartfelt plea to the supervisors. (Bear in mind that it’s not the best quality video, but it’s the only video of the proceedings that I could find!)

Below are the written words of what Martha Dominguez of Rising Tide Tucson, I, and farmer Anne Loftfield of High Energy Agriculture said.

Loftfield’s comments unfortunately are not on video, but please make sure you read what she said. Her comments raise important points about Pima County not doing something short-sighted so that Tucson jeopardizes its recent City of Gastronomy designation and that we all lose the sustainable agricultural system so many people and organizations in Pima County have been building for years.

 

Comments by Martha Dominguez of Rising Tide Tucson:

My name is Martha Dominguez. I’m a grandmother and a member of Rising Tide Tucson.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry signed a confidential agreement with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the front for Monsanto, then Mr. Huckelberry stated the agreement with this private company did not allow for information to be given to the public. This is also an example of economic growth based on money and a few jobs, and this is not acceptable as climate changes affects our earth. A sustainable economic development is what is needed.

For Pima County to consider approving a tax incentive package for Monsanto corporation is a serious concern as Monsanto products have been banned all over Europe. The Convention on Biological Microbiologists studies have found that Monsanto laboratory-produced seeds are sterile, not able to produce seeds as natural plants do. Made in the laboratory, GMO seed use is damaging to the farmers as they need to purchase more GMO seeds. Excessive use of these seeds creates an imbalance of the soil. There is an increase use of more pesticides increasing toxic chemicals. This results in Monsanto products causing a debilitated immune system, increases potential for different cancers, allergic reactions and liver problems in children, elders and people. Contamination travels because birds, insects, rain carry GMO seeds/pesticides to other farms. If schools are near the contamination, the contamination affects the land and playgrounds and community lawns. We Say NO to Monsanto being in Marana!

 

Comments by me, Melissa Diane Smith, health and nutrition journalist and author of Going Against GMOs:

I’m here as a citizen who is outraged about the secret negotiations with Monsanto without public input and also as a health and nutrition journalist and the author of Going Against GMOs.

I wrote a guest opinion piece for the Star about why Pima County shouldn’t do business with Monsanto at all. It wasn’t published, but I have a copy for each of you supervisors.

Monsanto has become the poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology. The company is known for lying about its products and business, and for polluting the environment.

GMO corn could easily spread and contaminate pesticide-free cornfields in the area, and Monsanto has a history of suing farmers for patent infringement and putting them out of business.

Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared the active ingredient in Roundup that Monsanto sprays on everything, that gets into the air, water, and of course the food, a probable human carcinogen – and the herbicide is not only linked to cancer, it’s also linked to increases in birth defects and chronic respiratory problems. If Monsanto is allowed to build its facility in Avra Valley, people will stop buying food grown in that area just to protect themselves.

Pima County should learn from what has happened in other communities where Monsanto comes in. In Hawaii, Monsanto and other biotech companies brought so much health and environmental damage to the first few Hawaiian Islands it came to that in 2013 the mayor of the Big Island of Hawaii signed a law that banned future plantings of GMOs and prohibited biotech companies from operating on the island. Why did Hawaii take action to ban biotech companies from operating there? Because they realized that it’s not worth the terrible price paid to work with Monsanto.

I implore you to educate yourselves about Monsanto’s record for the good of our community. To help start that process, I have a copy of my short opinion piece and a copy of my Going Against GMOs book to give to each of you. And I’d like to extend an open invitation for me to answer your questions, to give you more information, to give presentations or to show “The World According to Monsanto” documentary, and to be involved in public discussions on this deadly serious issue that has so many ramifications for the future of Pima County. Thank you.

 

Comments made by farmer Anne Loftfield of High Energy Agriculture:

In December last year, Tucson was honored by UNESCO as the first city in the US designated as a World City of Gastronomy. Many organizations and individuals came together to make this a reality including Gary Nabhan at University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, UA, the city of Tucson, the Pima County Food Alliance and numerous businesses and non-profits. How did Tucson make the cut?

As one of 18 Cities of Gastronomy worldwide, Tucson’s 4,000-year history of agriculture is the longest of any city in North America. An organization known by many of you, Native Seed Search has for 30 years been collecting and preserving seeds that fed the various cultures since that time and because of their efforts still feed us today. San Xavier Cooperative Farm has been working diligently in hopes of bringing to life again the lush, verdant Santa Cruz Valley where the river once ran year round. The corn, squash and tepary beans that used to grow there kept their people healthy and vibrant and could do so again, but now their people struggle with diabetes and other health concerns. Our Community Food Bank not only feeds thousands of our citizens excess food, some of it donated by small local farmers and backyard gardeners, they help start those backyard gardens and sponsor classes to learn irrigation, pest control and how to sell excess produce at the Food Bank sponsored Abundant Harvest Cooperative. A grant enabled them to successfully explore the feasibility of aggregating produce for institutional buyers like hospitals and schools to provide them with healthy, chemical-free, local foods while offering small local farmers another income source, a win-win situation all around. Caridad Kitchen under the auspices of the Food Bank trains unemployed citizens in culinary skills for employment in local restaurants along with providing meals for various non-profit organizations and catering to give the students business skills. Many other groups encourage and expand economic development in our community but the Food Bank is a shining star and I believe one of the top 5 Food Banks in the country. This organization is the epitome of creative urban development. And together all these groups are creating a thriving, sustainable food culture to lead the current worldwide movement toward food security for us all.

Why am I telling you all this? For over a year, an unknown group has been negotiating a deal in secret to give tax breaks to a billion dollar company. (If it were a country its GDP ranking would be 115 out of 190 countries.) When Monsanto merges with Bayer, the ranking moves up to 77. Claiming that its revenues will make up for the lost taxes is fuzzy math at best. When my taxes for a very modest home built in 1975 are half the cost of the interest and principal of my mortgage each year, I see no reason to reduce the tax for such a corporation.

This corporation has an admirable marketing and public relations department, which has convinced too many public officials as well as many citizens that we need its genetically engineered seeds to feed the world and in the bargain they are reducing the amount of chemicals needed to grow the food. In fact, 40% of the food grown in the US is never eaten, we grow too much including corn and soybeans. Perhaps the problem is quality. Think about it: why would a company whose main source of income is chemical products develop seeds that require less of the income producing chemical? They don’t dispute the fact that the weeds are growing more resistant year by year so that new stronger more toxic herbicides must be developed. Seems like more fuzzy math and wool over our eyes. Other farmers in other areas have been sued successfully by Monsanto for being in the wrong place when Monsanto’s pollen crossbred their organic crops. Shouldn’t Monsanto pay for destroying someone’s livelihood?

Mr. Huckleberry thinks Monsanto’s record should not be an issue here; I beg to disagree.

As a nearby farmer, I am unwilling to take a chance with Monsanto’s record. And I don’t think Tucson should jeopardize its City of Gastronomy designation or all the years of time, money and effort expended by all the hard-working organizations I mentioned to grow a healthy, chemical-free food culture here in Pima County. Thank you for your time and reflection.

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