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Ludwig News - Campaign - Monsanto's toxic agriculture - just because Monsanto says it's sustainable does not mean it is sustainable! @acccgovau ACCC ref no 1707131
On 26 March 2014, the ACCC wrote a letter to the writer concluding ‘that the conduct of Monsanto is unlikely to be misleading or deceptive and therefore intend to take no further action at this time in proceeding with this complaint’ but ‘may reconsider the matter at a later stage should further information be provided. (ACCC Letter - see below)
The yearly March against Monsanto is taking place today, 24 May 2014, 11.30 am, starting at Town Hall, Sydney, heading towards Hyde Park where you can settle in on a picnic blanket and listen to the speakers from 12.30 am.
Take action now! Participate in our Twitter Storm to the ACCC by copying and pasting the following message and sending it to the ACCC:
Monsanto's toxic agriculture - just because Monsanto says it's sustainable does not mean it is sustainable! @acccgovau ACCC ref no 1707131
Read to the end of this article to find more actions that you can take.
The writer is a Permaculture & Food Forest Designer as well as a lawyer specialising in Sustainable Agriculture Law.
Like many other Australians, the writer has become increasingly concerned about sustainability and specifically the damaging environmental impacts of unsustainable toxic products such as pesticides on our soil and water.
The law: environmental claims & sustainability according to ACCC
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recognised this consumer concern in their Consumer Info Sheet entitled "Your consumer rights: Environmental claims" where the ACCC summarises this problem as follows:
More Australians are considering the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions. As a result, businesses are increasingly making environmental claims in an attempt to differentiate themselves and their products from the competition.
One word that some clever marketing departments like to use and abuse is the word 'sustainable'. The ACCC Consumer Info Sheet has specifically provided a definition of 'sustainable' which provides:
Some businesses make claims that their product or their business is sustainable. For a practice to be sustainable, it must be able to be sustained indefinitely… [emphasis added]
Monsanto uses the term ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ on its website to promote the sale of their toxic pesticides and genetically modified seeds.
Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) sets out the Australian Consumer Law. Section 18(1) of the Australian Consumer Law provides:
Misleading or deceptive conduct
(1) A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.
Section 29(1) of the Australian Consumer Law provides:
29 False or misleading representations about goods or services
(1) A person must not, in trade or commerce, in connection with the supply or possible supply of goods or services or in connection with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of goods or services:
(a) make a false or misleading representation that goods are of a particular standard, quality, value, grade, composition, style or model or have had a particular history or particular previous use; or
(g) make a false or misleading representation that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, performance characteristics, accessories, uses or benefits; or
(l) make a false or misleading representation concerning the need for any goods or services; or
The facts & conclusion: Monsanto's wrongly markets Industrial Agriculture as 'Sustainable' Agriculture
Monsanto's Australian website has an entire page entitled 'Sustainable Agriculture' with the tagline 'Producing More, Conserving More, Improving Lives'. http://www.monsanto.com/global/au/whoweare/pages/sustainable.aspx
Monsanto even has a so so-called 'Sustainability' Report: http://www.monsanto.com/global/au/whoweare/pages/sustainability-report.aspx
On pages 9 and 24 of Monsanto's 2012 'Sustainability' Report, reference is made to Monsanto's ongoing 'commitment to sustainable agriculture'. Page 26 of the Report outlines what is meant by Monsanto's first commitment of 'Producing More'. Monsanto's goal is to 'double yields from year 2000 levels by 2030 of Corn, Soybeans, Cotton and Canola". All four plant varieties are genetically engineered and will rely on pesticide use - not something that is used in an agriculture that is sustainable - since all four Monsanto products rely on pesticide use and are planted solely in monocultures.
Monsanto's products are used in Industrial Agriculture that relies heavily on pesticides. In Permaculture circles, this is referred to as More-on Farming. When industrial farmers spray Monsanto's Roundup on their Roundup resistant genetically engineered crops, the only plants that survive are the Roundup resistant plants and some super weeds. No other plants survive.
The combination of continued spraying of pesticides and fertiliser on a monoculture GMO crop is that the soil eventually erodes and in the end turns into a desert. The soil cannot rebuild itself.
No farmer who engages in sustainable farming practices - Sustainable Agriculture - would use Monsanto's pesticides. The term 'sustainable' should not be used for non sustainable farming practices, but only farming practices that are sustainable, such as Agro-Ecological Agriculture, Biodynamic Farming, Agroforestry or Regenerative Agriculture.
It is the writer's view that Monsanto engages in misleading and deceptive conduct as well as makes false and misleading representations by using the term ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ in connection with promoting the sale of their toxic pesticides and genetically engineered seeds. Monsanto's chemicals are toxic, not sustainable. Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds are toxic, not sustainable.
By referring to Sustainable Agriculture in the context of selling their toxic products, Monsanto's marketing material gives the appearance to consumers that it sells products that are environmentally friendly and that the type of farmers that use their products practice sustainable farming methods. Monsanto's GMO seeds are not environmentally friendly, and any farmer using Monsanto seeds should not be allowed to call his or her agricultural practice sustainable. The appropriate terms to be used for this high input chemical agriculture are Conventional Agriculture, Industrial Agriculture, Chemical Agriculture or Biotech Agriculture.
Enforcement: ACCC - statutory body with authority to enforce Australian Consumer Law
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the statutory authority with responsibility for enforcing the Australian Consumer Law.
What this means in practice is that the ACCC makes independent inquiries about what it is that Monsanto is offering and whether their products are sustainable and would be used in sustainable agricultural practices.
Enforcement: ACCC - a toothless tiger?
By way of background: On 26 May 2013, the writer made a submission to the ACCC to investigate Monsanto’s use of the term ‘sustainable agriculture’ in promoting their toxic products (see below). Annexed to the writer’s submission to the ACCC was a petition with 1048 signatures of concerned citizens from all over the world who all agree that Monsanto should not be allowed to use the term ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ in promoting their toxic products. 251 signatories are from Australia. Many signatories also provided a definition of the term ‘sustainable agriculture’ based on their understanding.
Particularly noteworthy is the following extract of the ACCC Letter:
Monsanto, on its website, identifies its future goals of 'sustainable agriculture' to promote 'Producing More, Conserving More and Improving Lives'. Monsanto states 'sustainable agriculture' is required in the future to ensure that increased crop yields appropriately counteract a growing population. Monsanto have placed importance on reducing the impacts on natural resources through particular agricultural practices.'
I am of the view that Monsanto clearly identifies what it considers to be 'sustainable agriculture' and they have also appropriately represented the broad general characteristics of sustainable agriculture.
Yes, exactly, Monsanto, the writer and the 1048 signatories of the petition all agree on what 'Sustainable' Agriculture is supposed to be.
We all agree that 'Producing More, Conserving More and Improving Lives' is what Sustainable Agriculture can deliver. But Monsanto's toxic products are simply not being used in Sustainable Agriculture, but in Industrial Agriculture. Monsanto merely claim to support Sustainable Agriculture. There is no evidence in Monsanto's marketing material that their toxic products lead to higher production, better conservation and improvement of life. These are mere marketing promises.
In reality, Monsanto does not promote Sustainable Agriculture, nor are their toxic products used in Sustainable Agriculture. Monsanto's products are used in the opposite of Sustainable Agriculture - in Industrial Agriculture.
That's what companies do - they know that consumers want sustainable products, so they make claims that their products are sustainable. How did the ACCC miss the point that they made themselves in their consumer leaflet, which is quoted again:
More Australians are considering the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions. As a result, businesses are increasingly making environmental claims in an attempt to differentiate themselves and their products from the competition. [Emphasis added]
The point that ACCC has completely missed is that they were supposed to investigate whether the products that Monsanto are selling are in fact sustainable and support a sustainable agricultural system. No, they do not. They are highly toxic, they are unsustainable, and they do not support Sustainable Agriculture.
Monsanto's toxic products can only be used in industrial monocultures consisting of one GMO plant variety, the seed of which is also sold by Monsanto. These type of industrial agricultural systems are not sustainable, they work only in the short term, leaving the soil depleted and eroded to the point of becoming a desert (see 'Save and Grow - A policymaker’s guide to the sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: http://www.fao.org/ag/save-and-grow/index_en.html - already referred to in the writer's letter to the ACCC dated 26 May 2013 which the writer referred to in her submission to the ACCC of 26 May 2013).
It is part of Monsanto's marketing campaign to refer to sustainable agriculture. They know exactly that their lovely marketing material is likely to mislead farmers into thinking they engage in sustainable agricultural practices if they buy Monsanto's GMO seeds and pesticides. And it is so cleverly done that the ACCC appears to have lapped up Monsanto's outlandish marketing claims and appears to agree with Monsanto that toxins are environmentally friendly. Monsanto's promises of increased yields, decreasing pesticide inputs & feeding the world are just that - with no evidence such as data from previous years that would support these outlandish marketing claims.
Monsanto's marketing coup is the promotion of something highly toxic as environmentally friendly. The consumers (farmers and gardeners) that buy Monsanto seeds and pesticides and have not done their own research, are likely to be mislead into thinking something highly toxic is actually environmentally friendly - due to Monsanto's misleading marketing material.
Monsanto is so successful in creating a story of pesticides being environmentally friendly, that the writer was recently advised by a Waverley Council staff member that the pesticide Glyphosate (contained in Monsanto's Round-up) is an environmentally friendly product. Monsanto has clearly been successful, and the ACCC is turning a blind eye.
It's a mere marketing spiel, and ACCC has simply bought into it. It's a bit like any Joe Blow saying: "I am going to save the world by spraying all my neighbour's gardens with pesticides." and the ACCC believing him.
Take action now!
If you believe that the ACCC should re-consider their conclusion that Monsanto's conduct is not misleading and deceptive, you can do any of the following:
1. Participate in a Twitter storm to the ACCC. Simply copy and past the following: MONSANTO'S TOXIC AGRICULTURE - JUST BECAUSE MONSANTO SAYS IT'S SUSTAINABLE DOES NOT MEAN IT IS SUSTAINABLE! @acccgovau ACCC ref no 1707131
2. Post the following on ACCC's Facebook Page www.facebook.com/ACCCConsumerRights: MONSANTO'S TOXIC AGRICULTURE - JUST BECAUSE MONSANTO SAYS IT'S SUSTAINABLE DOES NOT MEAN IT IS SUSTAINABLE! Please conduct a proper investigation & do not rely on Monsanto's marketing claims that their highly toxic products are being used in 'Sustainable' Agriculture. @acccgovau ACCC ref no 1707131.
3. Assist in preparing a written submission to the ACCC to conduct a proper investigation and not rely on Monsanto's marketing claims of their highly toxic products being used in 'Sustainable' Agriculture. To assist in preparing the written submission, you can:
Contact Ludwig Lawyers
At Ninja Lawyers, we promote socially just and environmentally friendly laws for Australia that are in the interest of all Australians, not just in the interest of the 1% of the 1%. To find out more, please call Beatrice Ludwig on 0410 583 550 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beatrice Ludwig is the Principal Solicitor at Ludwig Lawyers.