Friday, April 15, 2011

Got Fairness?

Marcia's latest post, originally published on PAN's website, explains why we need to support family farmers against commodities traders and corporate dairy giants, and how to do it.

Dairy Farmers Demand Fairness At Chicago Merc

By Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, April 14, 2010

Tomorrow morning, as you pour milk into your kids’ cereal bowls or buy a latte to get you going, take a moment to think about the dairy and other family farmers who will be braving gusty winds off Lake Michigan to converge on the steps of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. These farmers are demanding an end to the price fixing by commodity speculators that has bankrupted thousands of family farmers across the U.S., while spurring food crises worldwide.

 Led by Wisconsin-based Family Farm Defenders, farmers and allies will be calling out the traders who take home millions of dollars in profits every year, while family farmers continue to see their farms foreclosed and local businesses shuttered. These farmers will also be exposing the hidden links between America’s giant dairy monopolies and the scandalous recent approval of genetically engineered alfalfa by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, designed to boost sales of Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller, Roundup. The action is one of many being taken by family farmers and supporters around the world in celebration of International Peasants Day, April 17. National Family Farm Coalition is compiling a list of related actions around the U.S.

Something Rotten in the Land O'Lakes

Unbeknownst to many of us, a significant chunk of the dollars we spend on milk and butter is not going to dairy farmers at all, but is being captured by huge corporate dairy giants like Dean Foods and Dairy Farmers of America, an amalgamation of Land O'Lakes and other mega-sized “cooperative corporations.”  These folks are anything but cooperative, as far as family farmers are concerned. They have long had a hand in fixing milk prices below cost of production while charging consumers top dollar, driving America’s dairy farmers to bankruptcy. That’s why they have been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and are the target of recent class-action lawsuits for anti-trust violations, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders explains.

Transgenic Guns & Butter 

But there’s more -- these same dairy corporations have also been active in developing genetically engineered (GE) crops like GE alfalfa and in lobbying the U.S. government for deregulation of GE alfalfa.  Land O'Lakes has long been an ardent advocate of GMOs since the FDA’s approval of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in the 1990s.

Land O'Lakes’ primary seed research partner is Forage Genetics, which developed GE alfalfa using Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready technology. In the last two years, lobbying by Land O'Lakes has surged, with hefty portions going explicitly towards efforts to deregulate GE alfalfa. With so many corporate interests coming out swinging for GE, no wonder the White House lined up so quickly with industry on this one.

Three things you can do to support our dairy farmers:

1. Buy dairy products from independently owned family farms and go organic if you can to avoid GE!
2. Sign Food & Water Watch's petition asking the Obama Administration to protect farmers and consumers from Monsanto's GE crops.
3. Tell the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to demand a democratic overhaul of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to prevent corporate price fixing.


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