September 18, 2012

Monsanto Protest in Davis

I awoke early yesterday to the loud whomp, whomp, whomp of an unidentifiable helicopter hovering directly above my house and then circling the neighborhood for about 30 minutes. The last time a copter lingered over our neighborhood, the police were engaged in a standoff with an armed gunman about three streets over. A few years ago, it was a suspect who'd fled on foot and was roaming the neighborhood while being chased by a helicopter spotlight. Since I was about to send my daughter out the door to school on her bike, I called the police non-emergency line to make sure it was nothing dangerous this time.

Turns out it wasn't a police helicopter at all, but KCRA TV's Livecopter 3. KCRA was covering the one-year anniversary Occupy protest at Monsanto Corporation's Davis location about 1/2 a mile from our house, which started at 6 a.m. Given that the early photo on the KCRA website showed exactly seven protesters and no traffic issues whatsoever, the event certainly did not warrant helicopter coverage. (Sorry, but hovering news helicopters are a pet peeve of mine.)

"Biohazard Bob" and "Miss GMO" creations

After taking advantage of the relatively cool morning hours to double dig a raised garden bed, I hopped on my bike and peddled over to check out the protest. It was still going strong at 1pm, with a diverse assembly of about 50 or 60 protesters on the scene. It seemed to be a mix of general Occupy movement folks who may or may not know a lot about Monsanto, and people who were there specifically to protest Monsanto's policies and development of GMO crops, including a crew staffing a Prop 37 information table.

Some were standing at the edge of the sidewalk facing the traffic and holding signs with messages like, "No More Frankenfood". Then there was a contingent of folks standing in front of the company's driveway admiring their chalk sign and passing around some pretty skunky-smelling cigarettes. Finally, there were a handful of people dressed in all black with hats and bandanas covering their faces, either to protect their identity or to prepare for the possibility of being pepper sprayed by authorities.

Monsanto GMO protester

Speaking of authorities, I saw only one Davis Police Department patrol car, parked across the street in the school maintenance yard parking lot, and one private security person standing in front of the entrance to the Monsanto building, which seemed an appropriate response to the peaceful protesters. A couple I talked with said the police officer had walked over and talked with protesters about not blocking the busy bike path, but otherwise there hadn't been much interaction and there were no arrests. At that point, there had been no communication from anyone at Monsanto and the protesters thought Monsanto must have told its employees to stay home.

Chalk drawing in front of the company driveway

I'm not a fan of Monsanto myself and I support the protesters' right to be out there making their voices heard and raising awareness of important food and agricultural issues. Even if you aren't concerned about Monsanto's Roundup and GMO products, you have to question why a company that talks a lot about solving the challenges of world hunger through agricultural technology pays its CEO a $145 million dollar, five-year compensation package. That sure would buy a lot of food for hungry people around the world!!

Formal protests have their place in the political process and I thank those who participate. For me, though, I will continue to protest with my money, my vote and my garden tools. I think many times people don't realize just how much power they have to affect change in seemingly entrenched agricultural systems and food policies, but there are some simple things you can do:

1) Use your wallet. Perhaps the easiest way to protest corporate control of the food supply is to refuse to buy food products invented by mega corporations, made with ingredients you don't recognize, and shipped half way across the country or even the world. So simple! Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh, organic produce is sold and look for local options where available. Better yet, shop your local farmer's market.

2) Use your voice. Your vote is your voice--use it to express your opinion at the polls when there are opportunities to provide direct input on food and farming issues. (Learn more about Prop 37 here.) Also, pick up the phone and call your representatives to ask their positions on specific bills and tell them how you feel.

3) Use your soil. Plant a garden and opt out of corporate Frankenfood by growing your own fruits and veggies. Start small and expand your garden as you have time and gain knowledge. It's addictive--you'll see! You could even go one step further and start saving your own seeds, or visit the Davis Seed Library and check out some of theirs.

If you're interested in learning more about U.S. food and agricultural policies and the effect of GMO crops on our food supply, I'd recommend the Food Democracy Now! website. Food Democracy Now has been supported by Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, and Marion Nestle, among others, and describes itself as a "grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system that protects our natural environment, sustains farmers and nourishes families."

For news coverage of yesterday's event, see the Davis Patch article here or the Sacramento Bee article here.


  1. Thank you for stopping by Saskia. I've added your blog to the Sacramento Vegetable Gardening Blogroll of Shame. It's always nice to meet new bloggers. Welcome to the club.

  2. Wallet, voice, soil. Mark my comment "LIKE"

  3. Our local food Coop is helping rally people against Monsanto. That's another way to speak up.

    1. Yes, co-ops can be a good resource, too. The Davis Food Co-op says it "has not taken a position on whether recombinant-DNA technology is appropriate in food or other crops," but it does support labeling. Co-op members and shoppers can read their statement about Prop 37 at