Note how Monsanto and the industry are now pursuing a very consistent public relations strategy.
With the California ballots, like Measure M below, we have seen the move from Croplife America stomping into the locality unsuccessfully waving fistfuls of dollars, to *local* farm bureaus being at the heart of the fight without a Monsanto dollar in sight.
This very neatly transforms the ballots - from a punch up with giant multinationals into "environmentalists and organic food interests against traditional farmers" (see below).
At the same time, we've got the series of take- overs of farmer-friendly regionally based American seed companies to punt Monsanto's seeds. It is emphasised in each case that the company's local branding will be maintained with Monsanto staying in the background. Local farmers will, as far as they're concerned, deal with the same folks they've always dealt with, who will just happen to be controlled by Monsanto.
Then there's the upcoming TV series on farming - 'America's Heartland', courtesy of Monsanto and the Farm Bureau, and broadcast via PBS.
It's all of a piece - "We are not the big bad multinational of the Future of Food (the film now on national release in the U.S.) but the unobtrusive partner of your local farmer". This neatly removes the image problems of a corrupt(ing) multinational putting its corporate padlock on the food chain.
In case anyone is in any doubt about the strategy, Prakash's AgBioWorld - always the surest indicator of the industry's current PR approach (for obvious reasons given their close collaboration with Monsanto's PR people!) - recently posted an extraordinarily detailed defence of GMOs (and critique of the Future of Food) by a California farmer.
Karri Hammerstrom is undoubtedly a real farmer (they've obviously learnt that much from all the embarrassing exposures of their use of fake farmers to punt their cause) but that doesn't stop her article being a superbly crafted PR statement, and one that has almost certainly been circulated to farming families the length and breadth of California
The opening sentence is:
"As a mother and a consumer, I want to know that the food I eat and prepare for my family is safe and nutritious."
This wholesome statement - Can you smell that apple pie? - leads on to:
"You see, in addition to being a mother and a consumer, I am also a farmer."
And the perfect person to have defending GMOs.
GMO fight may hit record spending
Rival campaigns on pace to raise a total of more than $1 million, perhaps $2 million
By BLEYS W. ROSE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, October 4, 2005
Rival campaigns battling over the genetically engineered crop measure on Sonoma County's ballot have reaped more than $540,000 in contributions as they sprint toward the $1 million mark and a North Coast election record.
Fund-raising statements show GE-Free, the campaign promoting Measure M, raised about $119,000 over the summer. The opposition Family Farmers Alliance amassed about $135,000.
Together, they have collected more than $545,000 since launching their efforts earlier this year.
Most observers expect the campaign, which pits environmentalists and organic food interests against traditional farmers and some grape growers, to raise more than $1 million because the issue has generated so much heat and money elsewhere in California.
But at this rate, the duel over the genetically modified organism initiative could hit $2 million in contributions.
Already, the fund-raising pace easily beats that set during the contentious Rural Heritage Initiative in 2000. Just six weeks shy of that election, both sides had raised a total of about $275,000 in campaigns that ended up spending $900,000.
Measure M on the Nov. 8 ballot would impose a 10-year moratorium on use of genetically altered organisms in crops, animal feed and plants. If implemented today, it would affect only a handful of farmers, but both sides say their efforts are aimed at the long-term effects of such an idea.
The finance statements cover July 1 to Sept. 24. Another report is due Oct. 27 and, during the two weeks before the election, large contributions are to be reported within 24 hours of donation.
The most recent reports showed the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, which owns an 80-acre farm in west Sonoma County that promotes organic farming, remained the leading contributor to the GE-Free campaign. It injected nearly $89,000 into the campaign over the summer, or about 75 percent of the total. The center's director, Dave Henson, is Measure M's chief advocate.
A $20,000 donation came from Mark Squire, owner of Good Earth Natural Foods in San Anselmo. He was a major contributor to a similar measure that voters approved in Marin County.
Paula Downing of Sebastopol, who coordinates the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol farmers markets, contributed $1,000.
"This is not an environmentalists versus the farmers issue for me; it is about pollution of the entire environment with genetically engineered seed," Downing said. "It is a very emotional issue for me and I had some money to spend on what I feel."
Contributions to the opposition came primarily from the county's agriculture community, with a significant dose from grape growers.
The Family Farmers Alliance, which claims support from the bulk of agriculture interests, contends passage of the GMO measure will put farmers and ranchers at an economic disadvantage.
The campaign's biggest single donor is the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, an organization of about 3,000 ranchers, farmers and dairy interests.
The executive director, Lex McCorvey, is a leading opponent of Measure M. The group contributed $25,000 over the summer, bringing its total to $50,000.
The campaign against Measure M is starting to attract some out-of-county money, although not the biotechnology interests that funded opposition to a similar measure in Mendocino County.
The California Egg Marketing Association gave $5,000; California Seed Association, $2,000, California Grain and Feed Association, $1,000; and Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, $1,000.
Grape industry interests contributing to fight Measure M include the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, $2,000; Healdsburg grower Helen Bacigalupi, $1,000; Russian River grower DuMol Inc., $2,000; Dutton Ranch Corp. of Sebastopol, $2,000; Santa Rosa's Hansel Winery, $1,000; Korbel Inc. of Guerneville, $1,000, Peterson Vineyards, $1,000; and Geyserville's Robert Young Vineyards, $1,000.
Some grape industry leaders say they oppose the measure because they fear it prevents them from using the latest in biotechnology to fight Pierce's disease, a vine killer.