February 2012
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GLEANINGS: n. 1. That which has been acquired by gleaning. 2. The monthly eNewsletter of CT NOFA. [Glean:v. 1. to gather relevant information or material by patient effort, bit by bit; to find out. 2. to gather grain or other produce (often: left by reapers); to harvest.]
From the Executive Director

bill duesing
A GMO Hearing and Wingnuts
February 1, 2012

Yesterday I had the honor of representing CT NOFA and its members at a hearing, in the Southern District Court in lower Manhattan, on Monsanto's motion to dismiss our suit asking the court to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose crops are contaminated by Monsanto's modified genes. (See this document for more information on the lawsuit, including a list and descriptions of our co-plaintiffs.)

activists outside the courthouse
I joined 54 other organic and non-GMO farmers, representatives of organic farming organizations and organic seed producers before 7 AM in order to get a seat in the courtroom.  We came from 20 different states and one Canadian province.  Although there was no opportunity for us to speak, our attorney felt it was important to show the judge that there are real people behind the law suit. There was standing room only in the courtroom.  Monsanto's only supporters were its four attorneys.

After about three hours of waiting (outside the building, in security lines, on the 24th floor outside the courtroom and inside the courtroom) the judge arrived just after 10 and for an hour asked the two lead attorneys pointed questions.

Dan Ravicher and Jim Garritsen speak to the gathering
All the waiting provided a great opportunity to visit with farmers and seed producers.  Jim Garritsen of Maine's Wood Prairie Farm, the head of the lead plaintiff, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Alliance, explains yesterday's hearing in this video clip.  There were lots of wonderful people there, which isn't surprising for folks passionate about organic agriculture and good seeds.

Dan Ravicher, our attorney from the Public Patent Foundation, was asked sharp questions by the judge about his arguments relating to prior Supreme Court decisions and what often seemed to be arcane points of law, some of them raised by Monsanto's attorney, Seth Waxman.

Facts about Monsanto
According to his law firm's web site Attorney Waxman is "Universally considered to be among the country's premier Supreme Court and appellate advocates.  Mr. Waxman served as Solicitor General of the United States from 1997 through January 2001."  He was mentioned several years ago as a possible Supreme Court nominee. It is clear that Monsanto is taking our suit seriously even as they move to dismiss it.

After the hearing, we all moved into Foley Square to join several hundred folks from Occupy Big Food and Food Democracy Now for a rally.  Many farmers and others, including myself, spoke to the crowd using the human or people's microphone.  It was an exciting experience to speak to a large crowd and have them all repeat what I said so that everyone could hear.

Following the rally we were treated to a delicious local and organic lunch at The Green Table restaurant  in Chelsea Market.  If you get to New York, Chelsea Market is an interesting place to visit,  After lunch I walked uptown on the High Line, an exciting new linear park three stories in the air.

Now for the Wingnuts

Apparently those of us who are interested in keeping toxic pesticides off of our children's (and grandchildren's) school grounds are wingnuts.

At least that is how Randy Prostak, the extension weed specialist from the University of Massachusetts, referred to us recently at the Connecticut Groundskeepers Association conference.  He just wants folks to use herbicides, many different ones. (Randall G. Prostak, Specialty: Extension Weed Specialist, 206 Bowditch Hall, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-9294; Tel: (413) 577-1738; Fax: (413) 545-0260; Email)

When I first began this work 40 years ago, this kind of bias or prejudice wasn't surprising among our taxpayer supported agricultural establishment.  

However, after 40 years of discoveries about the advantages and successes of organic practices and the health dangers of pesticides, especially to children, it is shocking that a "public servant" talks this way in a public forum.  

It takes me back to my formative years in Richmond Virginia where I went to all white schools (and was taught that blacks were inferior) and shopped at stores that had separate white and colored bathrooms and water fountains. (I got out of there as soon as I could to go to college in Connecticut.)

Our NOFA Organic Land Care director, Jenna Messier, who was tabling at the conference playfully adopted the wingnut label later in the day, but this remark is an indication of how slowly old prejudices and biases fall away and how prevalent the money and influence from the large corporations which produce large quantities of toxic materials is in our land grant colleges.

We've made it to Groundhog Day, half way from the Winter Solstice to the Spring Equinox, a day honored by many different cultures. Day length is beginning to noticeably increase and the sun's power grows.  It is time to plan your growing for this year and order seeds if you haven't already (see favorite tool section below).

You can learn more about growing organically at the Winter Conference on March 3, at the Common Ground Workshops, and at on farm workshops and the Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care.

I look forward to seeing you at one of these events.  

If you'd like to support our work on Genetically Modified Organisms, suing Monsanto and working on labeling legislation in Connecticut, we'd really appreciate your contribution of any amount.