Letter from Langdon: The Gag’s on Us

[imgbelt img=marching-monsanto.jpg]Big Ag hides behind the picket fence and lets the little guys fight their battles. Why are farmers siding with multinational corporations like Monsanto, which seems to be a law unto itself?

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Ag Gag is the short name for laws muzzling people against talking about or showing Agriculture in an unfriendly light or challenging corporate agribusiness practices.

Here in Missouri we adore CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism). Our General Assembly has worked tirelessly to pass an Ag Gag law any corporation would love. That’s become an annual effort in our capital, Jefferson City. Understandably a few people have gotten wise, so for the last couple of years stealth has been replaced by Agriculture public relations.

Citizens and groups opposed to Ag Gags stood directly across from most commodity producer groups working on behalf of Agriculture.

Exposed to the light of day, the rather toothless result showed only that the General Assembly was committed to doing something even if it’s wrong.

by passing a law allowing Big Pig to eat their neighbors, so to speak … without penalty.

When the Missouri legislature voted to limit lawsuits against Smithfield and others, I thought they’d handed over our private property rights to U.S. corporations. Boy was I wrong. The giveaway was actually on an international scale, because Smithfield has been purchased by a Chinese corporation in the biggest Chinese/U.S. takeover ever.

Well known for humanitarian beliefs and adherence to the law, China should be a great partner for Agriculture.

Ag Gag can have more than one meaning. I definitely choke up over GMOs but it’s nothing to laugh about. Most of the time, Ag law is pretty clear cut. There are reasons for the way we do things. For instance, take cattle.

I must keep my livestock penned on my farm. If they get out, I owe my neighbors for the damage my cattle do to their property– things like eating crops or wrecking someone’s car on the highway. If my bull gets out and breeds the neighbor’s cow, the calf is his. No questions asked.

Photo by Liz O. Baylen/AP

Hundreds of protesters take to the streets as part of a global series of marches against seed giant Monsanto Co. and genetically modified foods on Saturday, May 25 at City Hall in Los Angeles. “March Against Monsanto” protesters say they wanted to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it.

But for Monsanto, if their patented GMO pollen gets out, whatever it impregnates is theirs. It’s spooky. Anything they touch becomes their property. And while Smithfield’s neighbors in Missouri can’t collect punitive damages, Monsanto always does.

If farmers’ crops contain Monsanto’s genes, then the farmers in question are routinely penalized. No one knows for sure how much, because with gag orders imposed in plea agreements with Monsanto, nobody talks about it. This is justified they say because it’s what Agriculture needs.

In this case Agriculture is Monsanto.

Applied to the cattle business, the “Monsanto Protection Act” recently passed by the U.S. Senate  would allow a disreputable cattleman to release thousands of bulls to impregnate as many cows as possible wherever they are, claim the entire calf crop and sue his neighbors for damages.

Now a gene Monsanto placed into wheat that was never approved for sale has found its way into the food system.  No one knows what to do. Buyers don’t want GMO wheat, but Monsanto’s bull ran wild and made a wreck.

There’s not much point in looking to the law for help. Looks to me like big corporations in Agriculture are sue-proof.

It’s definitely an Ag Gag, and the joke is on us.

Richard Oswald, a fifth generation farmer, lives in Langdon, Missouri, and is president of the Missouri Farmers Union.

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