Cor­po­ra­tions Block Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments from Ban­ning GMOS

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The Cor­po­rate-state Con­spir­acy known as the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil (ALEC) has now ac­com­plished what many feared. Lo­cal bans on GMOS are now il­le­gal in 29 states, and the list is grow­ing.

As of the mid­dle of Au­gust 2017, the en­tity called ALEC – along with quite will­ing state rep­re­sen­ta­tives – has man­aged to pass 29 laws be­ing re­ferred to as “seed-preemp­tion laws”. Th­ese laws, all very sim­i­lar to each other, take any con­trols over farm­ing out­side of lo­cal hands.

What th­ese new laws were try­ing to stop was for GMO bans such had al­ready popped up in Boul­der County, Colorado, and Jack­son County, Ore­gon, not to spread any fur­ther.

The use of ge­net­i­cally-mod­i­fied crops and their po­ten­tially even more harm­ful part­ner pes­ti­cides and her­bi­cides can now be reg­u­lated in th­ese states only at the state level. If a city or county at­tempts to, for ex­am­ple, ban the use of GMOS be­cause it is a threat to other crops in their area, or wishes to block use of her­bi­cides such as Mon­santo’s Roundup be­cause its key in­gre­di­ent, glyphosate, has been iden­ti­fied as a car­cino­gen, they will not be al­lowed to do so.

If th­ese laws had orig­i­nated from state-based ac­tivists and legislators, per­haps the laws would have been eas­ier to ac­cept. In­stead, all th­ese laws have their ge­n­e­sis in what is called a “model bill” drafted by the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil (ALEC) in 2013.

The orig­i­nal forms of th­ese laws come un­der two dif­fer­ent names, in­clud­ing:

The Right to Farm Act: This uses the lan­guage of free mar­kets to leg­is­late that farm­ers should be able to do what they want, with­out be­ing iden­ti­fied as “a pub­lic or pri­vate nui­sance” if their farms may have been changed in any way. The law is com­pli­cated in lan­guage, but most no­table is per­haps its Sec­tion C, which stated that, in the model law, “A farm or farm op­er­a­tion… shall not be found to be a pub­lic or pri­vate nui­sance as a re­sult of … adop­tion of new tech­nol­ogy.” The words about “pub­lic or pri­vate nui­sance” are care­fully cho­sen to match what those at­tempt­ing to block farms which are con­vert­ing to GMOS from be­ing able to pro­ceed. The words about ‘new tech­nol­ogy’ al­low for many po­ten­tially harm­ful agribusi­ness in­ven­tions such as GMOS to pro­ceed with­out check, and with­out re­gard for the dam­age they, their pes­ti­cides, and the seeds they may spread onto ad­ja­cent farms may do

to our col­lec­tive health and that of the in­dus­try they’re made for.

The State Pes­ti­cide Pre­ven­tion Act: This uses equally clever pro­pa­ganda to cover its true mis­sion. As ALEC’S own sum­mary of the model law in­volved here said, the law is “de­signed to en­sure the safety of Amer­ica’s food sup­ply through the pre-emp­tion of city, town, county, etc., pes­ti­cide or­di­nances”.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion be­hind th­ese laws, ALEC, is in al­most all re­spects a lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion. It serves the needs of cor­po­ra­tions by craft­ing laws it pre­pares for state legislators to pass on a state-by-state ba­sis. The rea­son they choose the states rather than the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment as the place for such leg­is­la­tion is both be­cause it is eas­ier to get them passed there (with less pub­lic­ity in­volved and tougher places for anti-leg­is­la­tion lob­by­ing to take place), as well as be­cause few pay much at­ten­tion to what gets passed within the states. Yet by hav­ing the same law in large num­bers of states, it is like hav­ing a fed­eral law.

How ALEC does this is – in one word – sneaky. As As noted by Dr. Gor­don Lafer, of the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon’s La­bor Ed­u­ca­tion & Re­search Cen­ter and au­thor of the 2017 book The One Per­cent So­lu­tion: How Cor­po­ra­tions Are Re­mak­ing Amer­ica One State at a Time, dur­ing Tril­lions’ in­ter­view with him from the May 2017 is­sue:

“What ALEC does, in brief, they meet sev­eral times a year in re­sorts, where they sit in com­mit­tees where they’re com­posed half of state legislators and half of cor­po­rate lob­by­ists. They write model bills, which have to be ap­proved by an all-cor­po­rate board [and] which are then in­tro­duced in cookie-cut­ter fash­ion in state af­ter state across the coun­try. Which is how you see the same laws pop­ping up in very dif­fer­ent places.

“And then the com­pa­nies which help to write the laws fund those same can­di­dates’ cam­paigns, fund in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­ture cam­paigns on is­sue ads or can­di­date ads and fund state-level think tanks that pro­duce white pa­pers and ex­perts to be on TV for those is­sues. So it’s a very well-co­or­di­nated, well-funded, smart, very am­bi­tious 50-state cam­paign to try to re­make a lot of the laws gov­ern­ing eco­nom­ics, gov­ern­ing pub­lic ser­vices, gov­ern­ing tax­a­tion and gov­ern­ing em­ploy­ment.”

ALEC does all this un­der the pro­tec­tion of be­ing a 501(c)(3) non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, which al­lows it to re­main tax-ex­empt while also freely re­ceiv­ing grants from cor­po­ra­tions, foun­da­tions and in­di­vid­u­als. The ALEC Ex­posed web­site points out the truth of the fund­ing in­volved, say­ing that, “More than 98% of ALEC’S rev­enues come from sources other than leg­isla­tive dues, such as cor­po­ra­tions, cor­po­rate trade groups, and cor­po­rate foun­da­tions. Each cor­po­rate mem­ber pays an an­nual fee of be­tween $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a cor­po­ra­tion par­tic­i­pates in any of the nine task forces, ad­di­tional fees ap­ply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year.” Grants help­ing sup­port the or­ga­ni­za­tion have come from places such as Exxonmo­bil, the Koch fam­ily Charles G. Koch Foun­da­tion, the Koch-man­aged Claude R. Lambe Foun­da­tion, the Scaife fam­ily Al­legheny Foun­da­tion, and the Coors fam­ily Cas­tle Rock Foun­da­tion, ac­cord­ing to ALEC Ex­posed.

Among ALEC’S cur­rent cor­po­rate mem­bers are the agribusi­ness back­ers the Koch broth­ers and Mon­santo, Bayer, and Dupont, some of the largest seed-chem­i­cal and ge­net­i­cally-en­gi­neered seed com­pa­nies in the world.

ALEC op­er­ates claim­ing it is not a lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion. Some of its jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is be­cause the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the state legislators hap­pens on ALEC’S own premises and host lo­ca­tions, rather than with the lob­by­ists vis­it­ing the states di­rectly. Whether that ar-

gu­ment will stand up legally over time is yet to be seen, but with such big money be­hind it one can as­sume the le­gal pro­tec­tion bankroll for the group is equally huge.

ALEC and its back­ers should be quite proud of the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion, which has spread what their side has re­ferred to as “ag-gag” laws even faster than the GMO mak­ers’ seed and re­lated her­bi­cides and pes­ti­cides. There are now seed-preemp­tion laws in 29 states in­clud­ing Ore­gon, Cal­i­for­nia, Iowa, Colorado, Mon­tana and Texas. This takes the top three agri­cul­tural states in terms of pro­duc­tion out of the run­ning for lo­cal­ized bans, now that num­ber one pro­ducer Cal­i­for­nia, num­ber two Iowa, and num­ber three Texas have pro­tec­tion. Ore­gon, one of the U.S.’S top five seed-pro­duc­ing re­gions, passed its law in 2014, fol­low­ing a $500,00 fight funded by GMO pro­duc­ers Syn­genta and Mon­santo against the Jack­son County ban.

The Texas bill that was passed even goes well be­yond the model bill, cov­er­ing not just seeds and tech­nol­ogy, but also any reg­u­la­tions re­lated to “cul­ti­vat­ing plants that af­fect seeds”. This the­o­ret­i­cally al­lows for the state to block any lo­cal re­stric­tions on things such as fer­til­izer, for ex­am­ple. It also could have cov­ered lo­cal ir­ri­ga­tion reg­u­la­tions, but that was pre­vented thanks to work by ac­tivists from the Farm and Ranch Free­dom Al­liance forc­ing an amend­ment to that Texas law. Though the ac­tivists could not stop the over­all law from pas­sage, the amend­ment should guar­an­tee the right to im­pose lo­cal wa­ter re­stric­tions when needed, which is of spe­cial im­por­tance in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions where the state may not act quickly enough or at all.

That fight con­tin­ues now in Hawaii, where the same GMO pro­duc­ers were joined by Dow Agro­sciences is spend­ing over $6.9 mil­lion op­pos­ing anti-gmo rules that could have passed in three sep­a­rate coun­ties in the state. Many dol­lars were also spent in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions there, to en­sure that enough legislators will­ing to back a state-level ban on such lo­cal reg­u­la­tion were elected.

It is also im­por­tant to note that the laws cov­er­ing the tech­nolo­gies used in farm­ing are not just about GMOS or the her­bi­cides and pes­ti­cides di­rectly tied to them. Th­ese laws also al­low for states to be the only point of con­trol of all forms of pes­ti­cides, in many cases. Th­ese in­clude neon­i­coti­noids, a dan­ger­ous cat­e­gory of pes­ti­cides which sci­en­tists be­lieve are a ma­jor cause of the colony col­lapse dis­or­der hap­pen­ing with bees across the United States. For those think­ing that the gen­eral na­ture of the law was never in­tended to pro­tect against the use of th­ese par­tic­u­lar chem­i­cals, the new Texas law leaves no doubt. It specif­i­cally says lo­cal gov­ern­ments can­not ban the use of neonic seeds, seeds tough­ened to with­stand the ef­fects of neon­i­coti­noids, even if ban­ning their use might pro­tect pol­li­na­tor in­sects in gen­eral.

The state­ment made many times in the past that “all pol­i­tics is lo­cal” is be­ing demon­strated yet again in this grand con­spir­acy be­tween state legislators will­ing to be swayed and the heav­ily-mon­eyed cor­po­rate back­ers be­hind ALEC. As with the GMOS and the poi­sonous chem­i­cals they part­ner with, the only way to stop this is for in­di­vid­u­als within each state to be­gin pay­ing care­ful at­ten­tion to what is hap­pen­ing in their state leg­is­la­tures. It is the new bat­tle­ground for cor­po­ra­tions to pro­tect their in­ter­ests. It is time for Amer­i­can ci­ti­zens to rec­og­nize it as well.

For those in­ter­ested in read­ing more about the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil (ALEC), please see:

“How Cor­po­ra­tions Are Re­mak­ing Amer­ica, One State at A Time”, an in­ter­view with Dr. Gor­don Lafer of the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon’s La­bor Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­search Cen­ter, on the sub­ject of his new book, The One Per­cent So­lu­tion: How Cor­po­ra­tions Are Re­mak­ing Amer­ica One State at a Time. The ar­ti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in Tril­lions Magazine in May 2017.

“The Cor­po­rate Con­spir­acy That’s Re­ally Run­ning the United States”, orig­i­nally pub­lished in the July 2017 is­sue of Tril­lions Magazine.

Photo by An­toine Cou­turier,

Photo by A Jones,

Photo by Chris Good­win,

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