A year ago, a group of farmers from all over the country led by OSGATA (the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) took Monsanto to Federal Court in Manhattan. Their goal was to seek protection against the threat of lawsuits in the event of the farmers' seeds getting contaminated with genetically engineered seed–a nearly inevitable eventuality. The Food Justice group at OWS helped to organize a rally at Foley Square to show the farmers that they were not alone in their fight against one of the world's most sinister corporations, and to foster real links of urban-rural solidarity.
Anyone who was in the courtroom that day could see the lack of understanding on the part of Judge Buchwald of the issues the farmers were bringing to the table. A month later, the Judge dismissed the case.
One year after, on January 10th, 2013 the farmers appealed Judge Buchwald's decision in an appellate court in Washington D.C. OWS Food Justice collaborated with Occupy Monsanto, Food Democracy Now, GMO Labeling groups from CT and PA, Save The Soil, Montgomery Victory Gardens, HAFA, Nick’s Organic Farm and hundreds of individual supporters to organize a solidarity rally to show the farmers in this case that they are not alone in their brave struggle to take on Monsanto, and to support their heroic efforts to steward one of our most vital human resources: seeds.
The day began with Luci Murphy from North Carolina, singing into the chilly air with a soulful voice that uplifted our hearts and settled us into recognizing what drew us there. While the OSGATA farmers were in court, we assembled with local farmers and advocates who shared their stories and visions for the future.
The people who spoke mentioned the importance of (guerilla) GMO-labeling, the sanctity of family farms, the horror-mystery behind the effects of GMO on our nutrition, the need for GMO-free zones to prevent cross contamination, as well as the importance of communities rising up to take back what belongs to no one and is shared by all. Dietician Hioko Harrison mentioned how we need more faces of color in these spaces, as people of color often live in areas known as food deserts. These are communities in which there are no fresh food markets, and the only groceries come from big-box, GMO-infested stores.
It’s our right to preserve life. You can’t patent life. You cherish life, and you pass it on.
Nick Maravell, a local farmer and seed steward who has spent the last thirty years farming heirloom corn and soy varieties at Nick Organics Farm, spoke with his daughter Sophia of their efforts to evolve into an educational farm, in order to be able to stay on their land. They are fighting for the conservation of the heritage and tradition of farming, but also for the essential value and history intrinsic to heirloom seeds. This includes the right to grow them, save them and make them available for anyone that needs them. “It’s our right to preserve life. You can’t patent life. You cherish life, and you pass it on.”
It is time for farmers, workers and eaters to unite; this is a fight that concerns us all. As Gordon Clark from Montgomery Victory gardens said that day “Food is not simply nourishment, food is our strongest bond to our families, to our society, to the earth, indeed to life itself.” Monsanto is fighting to take that away from us. One way to fight them is to share our stories around food as a source of community rather than a revenue stream for a huge multinational corporation. The more we become aware of our implicit connection to our farmers, the better we can re-enforce a world-wide, on-the-ground front of protection and resistance against Monsanto and the rest of the chemical-biotech agriculture complex. The strength and depth of this movement comes from the ever growing bond between diverse, resilient communities fighting for food justice and food sovereignty everywhere, as well as celebrating and sharing life and working everyday to create the food system we dream of.
As the farmers stepped out of court, and into the square, the resilience and humility in their voices reassured us that even if the fight seems overwhelming, it needs to continue outside of these rallies and into our communities.
We have to envision new ways to keep these struggles alive and fierce, while growing to new places and peoples. Family farms are falling through the cracks in our country, and soon enough industrial factory farms will be all that’s left if we don't act now. OSGATA’s fight is not only a farmer’s fight against corporations. Their fight is our fight. We don’t yet know what the outcome of this hearing will be, but what we do know is that we will never give up; we will continue to honor and share the sacredness intrinsic in seeds. They are, after all, life itself.