January 27, 2017 St.Louis, MO.
"Infuriating" is not sufficient to describe today's Monsanto shareholder meeting.
In a small room, at the Research and Development facility on Chesterfield Parkway, MO, perhaps 60 people sat in a room with many empty seats, with no audio-cast available for other shareholders. The board and the accounting firm were present. CEO Hugh Grant and David Snively, Executive Vice President and General Council sat at the head of the room.
Anne Temple, Moms Across America Midwest leader, and I sat on the right side with our "hosts" Cami and Billy, near the microphone.
For both of us, this was our second times back, speaking by proxy. There was no pomp and circumstance this time. No propaganda video about how wonderful Monsanto is, no exclamations of prosperity and successes, or highlights of future technology. Mr. Grant simply went down the order of business, going through the reelection of the current accounting firm, Deloitte and Touche, the board's compensation and other matters of business. You can see the full proxy statement here.
Then it was Anne's turn to speak on behalf of As You Sow for transparency in lobbying. She was clear and reasonable and it all made perfect sense. You can read her statement here. We thank Austin Wilson and As You Sow team for their dedication.
There was no discussion afterward, except for Mr.Grant's explanation about how unnecessary it was to be more transparent with their lobbying. The board was recommending a NO vote.
I then presented for John Harrington Investments, requesting a full report on the liabilities and risks of glyphosate. I did not start with the pleasantries of greetings as I had planned. I immediately said, "I would have been here last year, but I was at a funeral for my father-in-law who died of liver disease. I am back this year with a scientific study proving that Roundup causes liver disease." They audience looked visibly uncomfortable. I proceeded with my comments on why Monsanto should conduct an assessment on glyphosate herbicides.
I am here by proxy on behalf of John Harrington Investments to ask for your vote to pass proxy number 5 which requests a report on how Monsanto will handle the growing rejection of glyphosate products and all the lawsuits regarding Roundup being connected to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other illnesses.
The board, shareholders and merger partners must be fully informed that new peer-reviewed studies provide irrefutable evidence, which has been acknowledged around the world of the following:
- One study shows that people exposed to Roundup had double the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Another showed that .1 ppb of glyphosate stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells. Regarding the finding of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, Aaron Blair, chairman of IARC has stated “There is not a single example of IARC being wrong, showing something is a probable carcinogen and then later it is proven not to be.”
- A new study released this month shows that Roundup causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats at levels lower than is allowed by the EPA. A baby eating oat cereal with 1.67ppm of glyphosate residues as detected by the FDA, will consume, in one day, over 15,000 times more glyphosate than the rats in the study. Recent studies show liver disease has nearly doubled over the last twenty years, increasing 174% in adolescents. NAFLD is the leading cause of chronic liver disease in children and adults in the United States affecting 30 million Americans and 6 million children. Malta, France, and Sri Lanka have banned glyphosate for this reason.
- Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH )are not simple or effective, nor do they support the soil through no-till or reduce erosion. New studies show that GBH kills the soil microbes, reducing carbon sequestration and adding to climate change, more compacted soil, less water absorption, increase topsoil runoff, contributing to drought.
- Claims that glyphosate does not harm animals or humans are simply untrue. GBH impacts the shikimate pathway which IS found in gut bacteria found in animals and humans, where 70% of the immune system lies. GBH destroys the beneficial gut bacteria and promotes the growth of pathogenic gut bacteria leading to inflammation in the brain, autism symptoms, and brain disorders, anxiety, addiction, depression, bipolar, even acts of violence.
- The EPA has admitted to not having ANY long term animal studies and blood analysis on the complete and final formulations of any Roundup brands. NONE. The EPA only assesses evidence on the one chemical, glyphosate, which is never used alone. The other formulants have recently been proven to be 1000X more toxic. That means any claims that glyphosate is safe are irrelevant and any claims that Roundup brands are safe are unfounded.
No amount of shareholder profits can justify the poisoning of people in America & around the world.
We urge shareholders to vote yes for Proxy 5 today and require a full report on glyphosate liabilities and to also urge the board to remove glyphosate-based herbicides from the market. Thank you.
I realized that discussion meant that anyone could get up and ask a question or make a comment, I grabbed one of our points, circled a question and asked Anne to get up and ask it. She was more than happy to. She asked a question that was brought to our attention by investigative reporter, Carey Gilliam of US Right to Know.
The EPA said in September that it wants the National Toxicology Program to research the toxicity of the complete formulated product, not just the active ingredient. We are not aware of Monsanto or Bayer going on the record yet about this, though CropLife and Syngenta recently have.
If Roundup is so safe, why not evaluate the whole formulated product and present the information to the public?? Does Monsanto support this effort, or will it try to block such research?
Mr. Grant's response was to acknowledge the passing of my father in law and claim that "numerous regulatory agencies have assessed glyphosate and all of them have found glyphosate to be safe".
The tally of the votes was made and the results were that Proxy 4, on lobbying received 28% vote yes, so it did not pass.
Proxy 5 on the glyphosate report received a 5% vote yes, so it did not pass but it did receive more than 3% so it can be re-introduced again next year.
We chose to discuss Glyphosate, Dicamba, GMO corn in our follow-up questions. Although we would have liked to address gene editing and RNAI sprays, we were only allowed one question, instead of the two we expected, so we stuck with the topics which had current lawsuits and most immediate serious harm to farmers. Note: if we had more moms we could have covered more topics!
Moms Across America has initiated screening with a method which is widely accepted around the world, and has been shown by Monika Kruger in Germany to be confirmed by HPLC testing, which has shown glyphosate residues in tap water, our children’s urine, breast milk, Pediasure feeding tube liquid, baby formula and even all 5 of the childhood vaccines we tested. This is significant not only because weedkiller should not be in vaccines, but because it indicates that not only is glyphosate is present, but AMPA and POEA and the other co-formulants are most likely present as well. These co-formulants have been shown to be 1000X more toxic.
Further citizen funded testing with the gold standard HPLC /MS/MC methodology has confirmed glyphosate on the majority of common American snacks and cereal. For example, 481 ppb on Doritos, 812 on Stacy’s pita chips, 1125 ppb was found in Cheerios, 167 ppm on oatmeal baby cereal, even on organic snacks and high levels in gluten free products. The levels are hundreds to thousands of times higher than has been shown to destroy gut bacteria, where the immune system lies. Weakened immune systems is contributing to the 1 out of 2 children in America now having a chronic illness. Compromised gut bacteria means that the body cannot make Tryptophan properly, without Tryptophan the body cannot make Serotonin, Melatonin and other hormones. Without Serotonin the body can not manage insulin, so diabetes can develop. Without Melatonin depression, insomnia, anxiety, bipolar and violent behavior can occur.
The USDA and FDA have also confirmed glyphosate residues on 40% of wheat samples and 100% of honey, some samples at levels double what is allowed in the EU.
In addition, Monsanto's Roundup Ready NK 603 GMO corn has recently been scientifically proven to cause metabolism disturbances and cause elevated levels, as high as 28x, of toxins putrescine and cadaverine. These toxins are found in putrefying fish and animals.
Do you claim that these toxins and any level of glyphosate, is safe for injection into babies or consumption by babies and children considering glyphosate herbicide ingredients have also been proven to be a neurotoxin, cause liver disease and be endocrine disruptors at very low levels?
CEO Hugh Grant's response was that "Roundup-ready corn is a valuable tool for farmers fighting world hunger. "
He actually looked me in the eye in front of the shareholders and said, "There is absolutely no scientific evidence that glyphosate is present in breast milk and vaccines."
Liar. What do you call several rounds of tests by more than one certified lab using widely accepted screening methodology? He said my claims were not based on science. Incredible.
He also stated that they are celebrating their 21st anniversary of safe GMO crops which are feeding the world....blah, blah, blah blah, bla... bleh.
The look on his face was one of utter confidence. He completely believed what he was saying.
Anne and I really had to control ourselves from shouting out. We simply shook our head constantly, and the board members so us doing so.
Anne's question: The Trouble with the “NEW” Technologies
Rather than move away from toxic chemicals as millions of American have requested for years, Monsanto has invested heavily in Dicamba, continuing to feed a dependency on a toxic treadmill of chemical cocktails. This is immoral and just bad business.
Dicamba is a 50-year-old unsafe technology, which already faces lawsuits due to drift and crop destruction of nearby farms. The peachtree farmer who lost 30,000 trees in 2016, with expected losses in the millions -- and others across the nation are objecting to the use of this product.
To create urgency for the need for the EPA to approve Dicamba products and dependency, Monsanto released the dicamba-resistant seeds prior to Xtendimax approval. Many farmers felt they had no choice but to illegally use older dicamba herbicides on the new seeds — a decision that turned out to have devastating consequences for their neighbors.
As stated in the Depauw - “Since the release of Xtend, thousands of acres of soybeans have been destroyed across Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri. Though Monsanto warns against the use of dicamba on its website, it does so directly below its description of its newly available dicamba-resistant soybeans.
Further proof that such a dependency was orchestrated is the fact that Monsanto has invested over $1 billion in the production of dicamba, despite that its use on genetically modified crops was illegal at the time. If Monsanto truly did intend to create a dependency on a product that required an illegal pesticide at the time, it arguably holds some moral responsibility for the death of Mike Wallace over a Dicamba dispute and the economic hardship that other farmers have faced as a result of crop damage from dicamba drift.”
Further reason to discontinue Dicamba products:
- Monsanto’s “Vapogrip Technology” name is giving a false sense of security. Seasoned farmers have explained to us that it is not just drift that is causing the damage. In hot weather, dicamba and toxic chemicals dissipate into the air, gathering in rain clouds and can fall to the ground as rain in another state.
- If farmers adopt this old Dicamba technology, they will be chronically exposed to it, causing incontinence and harm to the heart, central nervous system, and lungs.
Will you commit to your shareholders that Monsanto will no longer invest their resources in toxic herbicides which cause widespread crop damage?
Mr. Grant responded that they have had many "state by state approvals" with "tremendous support" omitting that they are now experiencing state by state restrictions as well, with Arkansas leading the way. "We feel very good about the product and we will continue our investments," Grant said.
An older man, a former employee then questioned the board, "What alternative, what other herbicide could be used that is safer than Roundup?" He commented that hundreds of pounds of manure would be needed to grow 300 bushels of hay.
This time I did shout out "Organic farming!"
Mr. Grant said that he was trying to keep the decorum.
The man at the microphone said that regarding organic farming, "Hundreds of pounds of manure would be needed to grow 300 bushels of hay". I had no idea how that was related to Roundup, but I was sure he did not understand that Roundup made the soil LESS fertile and INCREASED the need for fertilizers, versus organic farming which only improves the soil quality over time, reducing the need for fertilizer.
Grant stated again that "Roundup is pre-eminent in its safety. Farmers can spray near or on water and can draw water from that pond and irrigate strawberries. That's how safe it is." Anne and I were shocked. It took everything we have to not shout out. He said he was glad that we were there to discuss these issues and adjourned. He did not speak of an alternative, interestingly enough, nor did he mention Dicamba.
A young man got up to add that yes there were many studies showing the safety of Roundup, but he also asked what monitoring was being done to ensure that Roundup is safe and Mr. Grant responded, "Because of the global use of Roundup, there is not a year that doesn't go by that Roundup isn't under review." He asserted again, and again that Roundup is safe.
We want to be clear that we understand that the CEO of Monsanto cannot acknowledge the harm from their products because legally they would then be liable and the shareholder's profits would be harmed. Nevertheless, it is still alarming to see lies told before your very eyes by people with such power to harm our earth. We can only hope that the shareholder's and board members will require a change of direction immediately. We also continue to put our faith in the organic farmers and consumers who can transform the food system and health of our nation.
As we left, the shareholders made eye contact but none made an attempt to speak with us. Anne and I were disgusted by the lies and the denial of the information we presented. We did feel proud, however, that the statements we made were backed by scientific studies and reputable organizations. We know that no one could listen to what we said and not be clear that action must be taken to prevent harm. Even the most loyal employee would admit there are valid reasons for concern or at least begin to doubt the safety of Monsanto's technology and direction.
We are grateful to John Harrington Investments, As You Sow, and Karen Selick who supported us in attending the meeting by allowing us to speak on their behalf. If anything, the board, chairman, and investors are on the record for having been presented with evidence of harm from their products. We hope lawyers around the word take note.
We want all the moms and wives out there to know that someone is speaking up on their behalf, that this corporation, which has caused so much harm, is being held accountable. Your struggle is not in vain. Our losses will not go unheard.
We thank our supporters for continuing to support our efforts. This is a very daunting task and we need your help to stay on top of the news, the bills being pushed forth in the interest of the chemical companies, and with resources to hire reliable people and be efficient. We thank all the volunteers who have been doing research for us. I especially thank my husband for his support in our mission and Anne for attending the Monsanto shareholder meeting with me.
Together we can cause a shift in our food system which will alter the health and future our country!
Executive Director, Moms Across America