Written by photographer Harvey Spears:
Last January, I attended a rally at Foley Square, NYC in support of farmers from Maine to California. They came to testify “in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits.” As I heard men and women speak with great feeling about their farms which provide nourishing, healthy food to the American people, I was stirred thinking that they are like the farmers in the American Revolution who fought to protect their right to freedom which included farming the land. I also felt the urgency of a question asked by Eli Siegel, American philosopher and founder of the education Aesthetic Realism.
“To whom should the land of America, with its wealth, belong—
to all Americans, or to a few?”
As more people than ever know, farmers, struggling to earn a living, are being persuaded to use these GMO seeds, including corn, alfalfa, and soybeans. Naturally, the farmers are told the seeds are “healthy” and “safe.” However, these seeds don’t stay put. Often they are carried by winds to farms that don’t want GMO seeds, and their crops end up being tainted anyway. There’s no way to stop this. Many scientists have written extensively on the harmful effects of GMO seeds in the food chain, and while all the effects are unknown, the possibilities are frightening. To compound this unfair situation, Monsanto sues those framers who won’t use their corrupted seeds, (but whose crops have become tainted through no fault of their own) for “patent infringement”. The Food Democracy blog explains:
Between 1997 and 2010, 144 farmers have already been sued by Monsanto and another 700 have settled out of court for undisclosed sums. Many times these abusive lawsuits force farmers into bankruptcy and off the land. We can’t allow this to continue.
I learned that yearly a farmer carefully examines his seed and selects the best so his crops will be even better for the next harvest. The seed is the core of a farmer’s crop and any infringement on it can mean ruin. Some farmers have had to stop planting corn for instance, because they are worried about getting sued by Monsanto. It’s apparent that Monsanto feels they have the right to manipulate the land for their own profit. It is outrageous and unconscionable that the people who grow the food we need for our very survival should have this completely unnecessary worry.
As a photographer, who has photographed the rich farmlands of New York State and Maine, I have a large respect and gratitude for the scientific expertise and dedication of America’s farmers. They are the life’s blood of our nation, and any attempt to rob them of their livelihoods is blatantly unjust. In a commentary to The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen Reiss writes about ethical decisions that have come to be in America. They include:
…government protections against tainted food. Each ethical decision came to be only because people fought for it courageously… Mr. Siegel showed the world is demanding, and going toward, a basis for production other than the profit motive…This new economics is something that has not existed before, but is in keeping with the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution. It’s economics based on ethics and aesthetics: the oneness of justice to each individual and justice to all people. He explained:
“The world should be owned by the people living in it. Every person should be seen as living in a world truly his. All persons should be seen as living in a world truly theirs.”
Though the farmers recently lost the lawsuit in a New York court, they will appeal. Theirs is a tremendously important struggle that impacts the life of every American. We have the right and obligation to make sure that the food we put into our bodies is good for us to eat. This means demanding that our government and courts speak for all of us and ensure that the land and its people are protected.
Visit Harvey Spear’s website: harveyspearsphotography