A great advocate of the people once said, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” By analogy, if you give a man some bread, he’ll eat for a day. Give a man some seed (and a plot of land) and he will eat for a lifetime. Unless, of course, he gets his seeds from Monsanto.
Monsanto sells patented seeds. They are genetically modified to work with Monsanto’s pesticide. But if you buy Monsanto seeds, you are not allowed to plant the seeds produced by the plants those seeds produce. It’s like teaching a man to fish, then charging him a big daily fee to go fishing.
If anything is immoral, in my humble opinion, it is destroying a nation’s ability to feed itself without paying an annual fee. When we invaded Iraq, we forced Iraqi farmers to use Monsanto seeds. Now Iraq cannot produce its own seed from its own farm labor.
Monsanto makes a lot of money with this racket. And it has used its money to ensure that it can deny fundamental farming rights to farmers across the world. It lobbies governments. It gets legislation passed to immunize it from lawsuits. It even has a former employee on the Supreme Court (Justice Clarence Thomas).
Now, in a karmic reversal, an organic farmer in Australia named Steve Marsh is suing another farmer. Marsh’s neighbor’s Monsanto canola seeds invaded his farm, causing him to lose his organic certification. Of course, if he wins, Monsanto will have a tougher time suing other farmers who unintentionally grow their seeds.
On one side, Monsanto has lots of financial capital to get its way. On the other side? The people have social capital. Does it have enough? Maybe not yet, but the people’s resources are growing.
There have been some victories in the battle against Monsanto. In December, Hawaii County banned genetically modified pants, in part thanks to great homegrown Hawaiian campaigns featuring videos like this one:
By using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the people have been building a social army to battle Monsanto. It is a battle of social capital pitted against financial capital. Thankfully, in a world where public policy often goes to the highest bidder, social media gives new weapons to the people who fight corporations.
Social Advocacy & Politics is a weekly, exclusive column for Social Media Today by Alan Rosenblatt that explores the intersection of politics and social media. Look for the next installment next Tuesday morning.