Corporations Block Local Governments from Banning GMOS
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.