Monsanto’s Bad Karma

By Andrew Kang Bartlett (son Julian in the background)
andrew kang bartlett
What is karma anyway? Well, the word karma goes way back – 3,500 years or so – to karman, as found in the Rigveda. Literally, it means ‘deed’ or ‘act’.

I used to think it was similar to a bank account, where you deposited moral or malicious acts. Your balance could be positive or negative depending on how the actions accumulate. Karmic effects could be good if your balance was in the black or bad if it was in the red. (How nice that in accounting at least black is the preferred color, unlike so much of our language.)

As I become more certain that reincarnation is part of the life-death journey, karma now can extend beyond a single lifetime, much as the Hindus believe. Recently, as I dive into the rich philosophy, or cosmology, of Rudolf Steiner – called Anthroposophy – the concept comes up a lot. Steiner uses human karma and human destiny almost interchangeably. His take accounts for the fact that there is a much wiser person within us, and so this wiser self seeks out challenging, sometimes painful experiences to spur growth.

Steiner said in a 1912 lecture entitled “Facing Karma,” that

“…all pain that hits us, that all suffering that comes our way, are of such a nature that they are being sought by our shortcomings. By far the greater part of our pain and suffering is sought by imperfections that we have brought over from previous incarnations.”

If you even allow for the possibility that Monsanto is subject to the laws of karma, I’m not sure if any of the above matters – but I figured you might be curious to explore karma a bit, since growing up most of us did not know we were subject to its legal framework, if in fact we are…


When I was 5 years old, in 1965, Monsanto started producing Agent Orange and did so until I was 9. If karma exists, the generations of Vietnamese children born with partial brains, downs syndrome, spinal bifida and various other abnormalities, not to mention five types of cancer, must produce negative effects. On top of that, if Dr. Vandana Shiva has you in her cross hairs, it is time for some serious soul searching. Alas, this may prove to be impossible because, despite your corporate personhood, there is no soul to search.

Right now in India, Monsanto is being investigated for anti-trust activities and is being sued by state governments and domestic seed companies. monsanto-india“Eager to establish a monopoly in India based on the smuggled MON531 gene, Monsanto-Mahyco started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states, again without GEAC approval,” said Shiva.

Knowing some history is important to understanding why Monsanto is hated so much in India, and some of it isn’t Monsanto’s fault.  In a nutshell, cotton farmers in India had some rough years and suffered greatly until hybrid cotton was introduced. The pesticides were expensive, but production increased with the new seeds, and all was well. Temporarily. After a number of years, the pests grew resistant to the toxins and farmers suffered for years trying to survive. Many committed suicide. Then Genetically Modified (GM) cotton came to the rescue. Same story. Expensive, but did well, until pests gained resistance and productivity dropped. Great poverty, suffering, suicides, and many farmers now have cancer from the toxins used in ever heavier doses.

That is why Vandana Shiva says,

“For arrogantly breaking Indian laws and corrupting our regulatory systems, Monsanto must be held accountable. For the failure of Bt cotton, Monsanto must be made to pay damages to the farmers and seed companies that have had to pay “technology fees” for a failed technology. The land that our farmers have lost to the agents selling Monsanto seeds and chemicals must be returned to the farmers’ families. All the illegal royalty collected from our farmers and India’s seed companies must be returned to India.”

When I was in India last year, I learned of a ‘Cancer Train’ that the government pays for, which regularly runs Rajasthani farmers from the north down to Udaipur hospitals for treatment of their cancers.

Contrast all this ugliness with Indigenous ‘Adivasi’ and Dalit farming groups who are reviving and sharing sorghums, millets, many rice varieties and more. They are using organic and agroecological farming to preserve their agriCULTURE and increasing the prosperity of their communities. They are developing small value-added operations and trying to figure out other ways to compel the younger generation to stay in the villages and work the land. They are restoring biodiversity, regenerating the life-giving power of the land, and building food sovereignty.

vandanaIn sum, the best advice I can give you Monsanto is to admit that you have reneged on your responsibility and hand in your corporate charter, which traditionally were granted for large operation resulting in a public good. This might help halt the accumulation of bad karma, and more importantly, maybe even get Vandana off your back.

Afterword:

On reading this last paragraph, I realized how unfair this is to Monsanto. Monsanto deserves much worse. Actually, Monsanto is a despicable poison-pushing company which has repeatedly committed predatory acts of monopoly building, hoarded intellectual property, deliberately contaminated non-GM seeds with GM pollen, sued thousands of farmers, lied to the public, squashed inconvenient research and bought off public and private researchers and politicians, and all for the sake of market share and profit. So I join the Indian farmer above and say, Go Back Monsanto. And may Syngenta, Pioneer and the others follow suit.


Chethna-by-Thomas21_2

Andrew participating in a seeds festival in Nijayappana Doddi village in Andhra Pradesh, India, 2015.  Photo: Thomas John

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Agrophenology: Farming in Nature’s Image

david-abazs

By a ‘Pheno-Farmer’, David Abazs, Round River Farm

Here on our off-the-grid, family farm CSA organic vegetable homestead, located along the north coast of Lake Superior, we have planned each farming season by looking at a calendar and writing down which plant should be planted on which day. Now, with climate change, the calendar no longer knows when we should plant our crops!

For years, our calendar has recorded the same planting date for most of our crops. But one year our fields were snowless in early April. The next year, those same fields were snow covered until the middle of May. One thing for sure is that we cannot plant our crops in snow. Some years we can have a 100-day frost-free growing season. Other years, our season is much shorter. In fact, one year we had a frost on July 15th and another frost on August 17th, then a freeze on August 18th and 19th. So we had a 32 day frost-free season that year! With this unpredictable weather, using a calendar to determine when and what we should plant, simply doesn’t work.

Our family farm has begun to use phenological observations, based on the timing of the natural world, to determine when we plant our crops.

  • Instead of looking at a calendar to determine when I seed my onions, peppers, celery and parsley, I look for the arrival of the American Crow.
  • When the American Robin shows up and the first sap of the Sugar Maple flows, I seed my tomatoes, lettuce, chard and beets.
  • When the wild leaks emerge, the White Throated Sparrow sings and we see the first bumble bee, I plant my peas and spinach in our fields, and the carrots and scallions in our high-tunnel greenhouse.
  • When the Dandelion blooms, it’s time for the onions to be planted.
  • When the Marsh Marigold first flowers and the Oven Birds begins to sing, I plant the first Brassicas (broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage).
  • I will never plant my corn before the first flowers of the June Berries emerge
  • Between the time the Hawkweed flowers and the first firefly flashes, with our short season in mind, I better have gotten in all of the hot weather crops like potatoes, squash, beans and cucumbers.

Even our new way of planting is not foolproof, but it provides clear advantages.

  • I spend more of my day observing the natural world than my computer or calendar. Spending more time, walking my fields, smelling the air, and looking at the timing of native species has some real lifestyle advantages, including my happiness.
  • The farming implications of these observations of native trees and flowers provide me with a glimpse of the spring conditions, helping to inform me about whether things are early or late, wet or dry. It clues me into how much sun have we had and what the direction of the wind is. Since our farm is only 1.5 miles from Lake Superior, with a water temperature that averages 38°F, wind speed and direction has a huge affect on our farm’s growing temperatures.

The calendar does not provide any new information as to when things will be safe to plant or how soon a crop might mature, but phenology provides me with the best indication of what to plant and when to plant.

We put this system together by cross-referencing 28 years of farm timing records of our seedling, transplanting and planting, along with the dates of first and last harvests. These  agricultural records mixed with the phenological records – when the Snowshoe Hare’s feet turn brown or when the first Robin show up, or the first drips of sugar maple sap fall into the buckets in the spring – provide our farm with the first template of this AgroPhenology system. These phenological records from our farm and the nearby Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, in combination with our agricultural records, have given me, the Pheno-Farmer, the best tools to farm “in nature’s image” and helps our farm grow an amazing quantity and quality of food!

APRIL ~ Better Jobs?

Debate Question 4

Does Big Ag or Agroecological Farming provide better jobs?

To answer this question, we share this analysis – Workers and Human Rights from Farm to Plate – by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, an organization made up of organizations representing the nearly 20 million workers involved in the food chain.  It describes the reality of Big Ag jobs and speaks for itself about the deplorable conditions for farmworkers, food processing workers, food distribution, and retail fast-food and restaurant workers.  To compare that to the situation for workers involved with those working to produce healthy food for local markets is mixing apples with cumquats, but here are some things we can say with certainty.

1) People who choose to grow food on their small farms or urban gardens in an agroecological way, and provide that food to their families and communities, are less likely to be exploited than workers in Walmart or in a corporate produce field;

2) People who are forced by circumstances to take low wage jobs in the Big Ag economy are victims of exploitation that is structured into the economy due to the monopoly-like power of those corporations (technically, oligopolies);

3) Family farmers and those who work for them may not always earn a living wage, but they are not being exploited by capitalists; rather, they are underpaid because the entire food economy is skewed by the predominance and power of Big Ag.

Are people working on agroecological farms less likely to become ill due to exposure to pesticides? Absolutely.

Do they typically enjoy better working conditions than workers on large farms and in the corporate food chain?  Yes.

Is this beginning to change with the new “sexy” status of agroecological farmers we see in local markets?  We certainly hope so.

Has the work of growing, processing and preparing our food typically been among the least paid and lowest status jobs in the U.S., and does it take advantage of those without official residency status? Yes.

Is supporting these local farmers and buying local enough to guarantee fair labor conditions and pay?  No.

Increasing the production of local, organic food alone will not solve this problem. As long as corporations are able to exploit food chain workers and undercut the true value of food, the value of labor throughout the economy, including those of smaller-scale family farmers, farmworkers, and local food economy workers, will be devalued.

To ensure a universally superior wage and better working conditions for workers producing, handling, packaging and cooking food produced agroecologically, we will need to transform the economic structures of the larger economy to level the playing field. Together we must reverse the corporate welfare and comparative advantages of destroying the environment and exploiting workers, along with the government policies the Big Ag corporations influence and enjoy.

Graphic of food workers document

Feed the World? ~ March Debate

Debate Question 3

Does Big Ag or Agroecological Farming feed more people in the world?

Download 2-page PDF

We expect the CEOs to concede victory to us on this question because of the following reality: Small-scale farmers, ranchers, pastoralists and fisherfolk provide approximately 70% of all the food eaten on Earth[1]. So, Big Ag does not feed more people in the world. Period.

But perhaps they don’t give up that easily. Rather, Big Ag’s marketing professionals and armies of lobbyists spread a myth – which has gone viral because of fears around overpopulation and the rising up of the have-nots. This myth claims that only Big Ag can feed a hungry world. The myth consists of two parts: (1) more food is the answer to feeding people; (2) corporate, industrial agriculture is the approach that can fill this need.

First, the myth that more food will feed a hungry world.

The fact is we produce more than enough calories for every resident on the planet, and then some. Despite this, hunger is an everyday reality for 805 million people, more than 1 in 10 people. Clearly, hunger is caused by factors other than insufficient food. Hunger is caused, primarily, by poverty. In many cases, Big Ag-supported policies (for example, Free Trade Agreements) have caused greater impoverishment. The focus on industrial agriculture – bolstered by policies that encourage overproduction with corresponding low prices for producers and the elimination of a price floor –has resulted in bankruptcy for tens of millions of family farmers and poverty for farmworkers in the U.S. and small-scale producers around the world.

Second, the myth that Big Ag is the answer.

Since more food is not the answer to hunger, you can see that Big Ag bases their solution on a false assumption. So not only is increased food production not the answer to feeding a hungry world, Big Ag would not be the solution to increased production in any case! Why? Because diversified farms produce more food per acre than conventional single crop agriculture. Agroecological farming is also more productive in areas with marginal land and unpredictable weather, exactly where most impoverished people live. Plus it is less toxic, less polluting and more likely to sustain our species into the future (see January debate for more on this).

Here are three reasons why Big Ag did not, is not and will not ‘feed the world’:

  • Failed Track Record of Industrial Agriculture: At first glance, the Green Revolution (irrigated, chemical-intensive, hybrid seed-based industrial farming) looked like a success. From 1970 to 1990, the total food available per person in the world rose by 11 percent, while the estimated number of hungry people fell from 942 million to 786 million – a 16 percent drop. Green revolution promoters took the credit. But if you look closer and eliminate China from the analysis, the number of hungry people in the rest of the world actually increased by more than 11 percent, from 536 to 597 million. In South America, for example, while per capita food supplies rose almost 8 percent, the number of hungry people also went up, by 19 percent. In South Asia there was 9 percent more food per person by 1990, but there were also 9 percent more hungry people.[2] Total food available per person actually increased, but it has been the failure to address unequal access to food and food-producing resources that causes hunger. The Green Revolution failed hungry people and new efforts to spread industrial agriculture are doomed to fail impoverished people, who are ironically often the farmers themselves.
  • Profit Versus Food – Big Ag (meaning conventional industrial agriculture and the global infrastructure, financial systems and supply chains of chemicals, commodity crops and food controlled primarily by global multinational companies) is not in the business of feeding people. Big Ag is first and foremost compelled by corporate rules to produce profit. Profits come first, which means that the needs of people, especially those not able to afford the cost, are neglected.
  • Jello or Spinach– Food security has focused primarily on providing sufficient calories. As an Indian woman Andrew met in Andhra Pradesh put it, the result has been the creation of ‘starch security’ as opposed to nutritional security. One result, in the U.S., is that we have millions of food insecure and glyphosate and superweed charthungry people who are malnourished and overweight. In addition to the focus on carbohydrates, the soil of industrial agriculture is nutritionally deficient and therefore the food grown is also nutritionally lacking; not to mention the insecticides, fungicides and herbicides that we also ingest. Our diet-related health care costs – in the U.S. conservatively estimated at $100 billion a year[3] – demonstrate the depleted and harmful nature of conventional food.

In conclusion, as has been noted in the IAASTD Report and meta-studies over many years, small- and mid-sized diversified organic farming operations can produce more high quality food per acre than industrial methods. And they do so without destructive social and environmental effects. The methods used, grounded in the principles of agroecology, build a healthy ecosystem in partnership with nature and with greater community benefits.

The CEOs might cite the difficulty of scaling up such an approach, but that would totally miss the point. These farming systems do not need to be super-sized, they simply need to be widely replicated. Agricultural promoters, using peer education and training models, such as ‘campesino a campesino’, and armed w ith appropriate research and sufficient support, can make this a reality with the support from all of us. Let’s stop debating the point and get to work to change our food system!

________________________

[1] UNEP, 2011, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, www.unep.org/greeneconomy.

ETC Group. 2009. Who Will Feed Us? Questions for the Food and Climate Crises. www.etcgroup.org/upload/publication/pdf_file/ETC_Who_Will_Feed_Us.pdf.

Sarah K. Lowder, Jakob Skoet and Saumya Singh, “What do we really know about the number and distribution of farms and family farms in the world?” Background paper for The State of Food and Agriculture 2014. FAO April 2014. Figure quoted on page 8. http://tinyurl.com/qh6ql7l. See also: FAO, “Family farmers – feeding the world, caring for the earth”, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/osuelv8

[2] Eric Holt-Giménez, Eric. Ph.D., Altieri, Miguel A., Ph.D., and Rosset, Peter, Ph.D. (October 2006) Ten Reasons Why the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations’ Alliance for Another Green Revolution Will Not Solve the Problems of Poverty and Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa.

[3] The Center for Disease Control calculates obesity-related healthcare costs in the U.S. at $123 billion per year (CDC, 2010). The National Institute of Health pegs the figure at about $150 billion. (NIH, 2011)

The Bartlett Bros have started the debate ~ “Ready or not!”

Debate Question 1 

Is Big Ag or Agroecological Farming better for family farmers?

Didowe tear them up last month?

Please let us know and add your thoughts and analysis in comments below, or write to BartlettBrosDebateCEOs@gmail.com.

The CEOs of Monsanto, Walmart and Tyson corporations – Hugh Grant, Doug McMillon, and Donnie Smith – have so far ignored the Bartlett Brothers’ challenge for a debate. Their silence indicates they are unwilling or unable to defend their industry.

We can guess how they would likely respond to this first debate question. Undoubtedly they would attempt to greenwash their brands by claiming that Monsanto’s GMOs are loved by farmers for the labor saving effect on their vast crop monocultures, or that Walmart now provides farmers the largest market for organic food products in the world, or that the happy caged chickens of Tyson are treated humanely by their farmers. We can make mince meat of such arguments! This first debate question may be the most comprehensive of all the questions since it addresses the practitioners of farming, the ones upon whom the agricultural system depends. Read More _______________

JANUARY ~ Family Farmers

Debate Question 1

Is Big Ag or Agroecological Farming better for family farmers?

Download as a PDF

The CEOs of Monsanto, Walmart and Tyson corporations – Hugh Grant, Doug McMillon, and Donnie Smith – have so far ignored the Bartlett Brothers’ challenge for a debate. Their silence indicates they are unwilling or unable to defend their industry.

We can guess how they would likely respond to this first debate question. Undoubtedly they would attempt to greenwash their brands by claiming that Monsanto’s GMOs are loved by farmers for the labor saving effect on their vast crop monocultures, or that Walmart now provides farmers the largest market for organic food products in the world, or that the happy caged chickens of Tyson are treated humanely by their farmers. We can make mince meat of such arguments!

This first debate question may be the most comprehensive of all the questions since it addresses the practitioners of farming, the ones upon whom the agricultural system depends. We believe a farmer is more than just a producer of goods for a market or a manager of resources, but also a part of an ecological and human community. The family farmer is traditionally and realistically the only practitioner of agriculture that can be considered agroecological, one that maintains or increases soil fertility and ecological diversity over time.

The family farmer is the woman or man with the vision and knowledge of agriculture passed down from previous generations or other farmers, honed by experimentation and supplemented with books and training. The family farmer produces food or fiber on a given piece of land, in relationship with neighbors and the local community, adapted to the particular ecosystem and soil conditions, and utilizing mostly their own or their family’s labor to do so. At a recent food sovereignty conference in Uganda, the family farmer was defined as a kind of scientific practitioner observing natural phenomenon 24/7, observing the changing conditions, weather patterns, climactic changes, selecting the most adapted genetic resources available, utilizing time-proven tools and planting customs, adjusting these to new conditions, all within a very constrained economic and logistical context with limited infrastructure for irrigation, tillage, cultivation, food processing, storage, and transport to market to sell the surpluses.

Why Agroecological Farming is better for family farmers

  • Agroecological farming is healthier for both the farmer and for the eater. Food is produced from soil whose health has been nurtured through the application of organic material, cover cropping and other management practices, not through chemical fertilizers that can contaminate drinking water supplies. Crop health is addressed through crop rotation, sophisticated forms of cultivation, organic pest management and the use of naturally resistant crop and animal varieties, not through synthetic pesticides or genetically altered organisms designed to resist those pesticides. Specifically, agroecological farming produces more nutritious food1 and reduces human contact with known toxins2 found in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
  • Agroecological farming is more profitable. By working with ecological principles and taking advantage of free resources provided by natural systems, a farmer can minimize outside inputs3 in an agricultural operation. Using cropping methods to capture nitrogen from the air, recycling nutrients through compost and animals, and encouraging beneficial organisms to thrive in the soil and surrounding environment all reduce the need to pay for fertilizers and pesticides. More control over the means of production leads to more control over the profits. In addition, the current demand for ecologically produced food commands a high premium in the marketplace, resulting in up to 3 times more profit4 per acre compared to conventional systems.
  • Agroecological farming is more resilient and stable in the face of disasters and extreme weather events. Numerous studies and experiences show that a healthy soil results in healthy crops that are able to withstand challenging growing conditions better than chemically treated soil and crops. Side by side trials at Rodale Institute showed that organic farming systems out-produced5 conventional ones by 31% during periods of drought. In a volatile economic climate, agroecological farming tends towards more diversity and therefore more stability in a farmer’s income. According to the United Nations IAASTD Study6, agroecological farming has the best chance of feeding humanity with healthy food in a sustainable manner far into the future.
  • Agroecological farming provides a farmer with a community, not just a job. This type of farming, which must necessarily be of a modest scale, encourages vibrant rural communities7 with many supporting businesses and provides 30% more jobs8 per hectare than conventional farming. It is the basis for a harmonious and stable tenancy upon lands inherited from our ancestors and the foundation for a society of full employment, relative economic equality, and a meaningful democratic process. Big Ag and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the 1% – including the largest producer of agro-toxins and patented seeds Monsanto, the largest U.S. corporation Walmart, and enormous confined animal producers such as Tyson – are at odds with dynamic and democratic rural communities.
  • Agroecological farming is family friendly. It creates a healthy and safe environment and supports diverse biological communities. This results in clean water to drink and thriving rivers and wildlands in which to fish and hunt. An agroecological farming operation provides multiple roles for family members, young and old, with more human scale equipment and tasks. Ultimately, agroecological farming provides an inheritance. It builds the soil that then provides hope and expanded opportunities for future generations. Agroecological farming points the family farm into expanding organic markets, community support and good will, and redirects financial stability into a sustainable future.

Agroecological farming therefore is the basis for an emotionally and spiritually fulfilling life for family farmers, women and men and their children and grandchildren, who would be upheld by society for the contributions they make towards feeding humanity and keeping the community and environment healthy. The economic pressures and policies encouraged by Big Ag have unfortunately wiped many family farmers in this country off the face of the land with the attitude of “get big or get out”. The trend towards a global economy threatens to expand that effect throughout the world. Such a prescription is unsustainable and destructive and together we must fight back against that agenda.  

This is why we are challenging the Big Ag CEOs to this debate. Don’t take this personally, Hugh, Doug and Donnie. We only want to have a healthy public debate!

We await your participation starting in February, if you are sporting enough to respond to our challenge!

NOTES:

1http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=C7A168047802DB408D2E23E573E16211.journals?aid=9325471&fileId=S0007114514001366

2http://www.beyondpesticides.org/infoservices/pesticidefactsheets/toxic/index.php

3http://nature.berkeley.edu/~miguel-alt/applying_agroecological_concepts.html

4http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/farming-systems-trial-30-year-report/

5http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/farming-systems-trial-30-year-report/

6http://www.unep.org/dewa/agassessment/docs/IAASTD_EXEC_SUMMARY_JAN_2008.pdf

7http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/477365-1327599046334/8394679-1327599874257/PrettyJ_AgroecologicalApproachesToAgriDevt%5B1%5D.pdf

8http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/farming-systems-trial-30-year-report/

Bartlett Bros v Big Ag: The Challenge Video

Winter solstice is behind us and the light is increasing.

The letters to Walmart, Tyson and Monsanto are on their way. Brother David (Bartlett) Abazs stood outside his farmhouse in Finland, MN to make public this invitation to their CEOs to a national debate on the future of food. We await their reply.

Son Colby filmed the event and son Tremayne composed and played an original piano composition called, “Going Places.”

Share http://bit.ly/brosvideo

#3 Bartlett Brother – David Abazs

David staffing the Organic Consumers Association exhibit area at Future Farmers of America, Louisville, Oct. 2014

David staffing the Organic Consumers Association exhibit area at Future Farmers of America, Louisville, Oct. 2014

Introducing the youngest of the Bartlett Brothers, David Abazs.

Right. So what’s with his last name?

David and his wife Lise live and farm near the town of Finland, Minnesota. With the help of summer interns, they provide more than 50 CSA shares of produce and eggs grown on 0.75 of an acre of soil they’ve been improving for two decades. They collect all their energy from the sun.

Red Flag is Up!

The letters to the CEOs of Monsanto, Tyson and Walmart are on their merry way. [Full letter]  Below are photos of David sending them off, through wind and sleet, on behalf of the brothers. (credits to Colby Abazs)

Signing the letters to the CEOs on his kitchen table

Signing the letters to the CEOs on his kitchen table

David with the letters headed out from home for the 1/2-mile walk to the mailbox

David with the letters headed out from home for the 3/4-mile walk to the mailbox

David walked the half mile to the mailbox to post the letters to the CEOs

David walked down the long dirt road to post the letters to the CEOs

Posting the letters to the CEOs of Monsanto, Tyson and Walmart

Posting the letters to the CEOs of Monsanto, Tyson and Walmart

If we don’t hear back from the CEOs by Jan. 31, we’ll answer the first debate question about family farmers.

Join us for a national conference call to discuss the issues and strategies in February!  Details to come…

Bartlett Bros Invite CEOs to National Debate

3bros-school-larger
Bartlett Bros to face CEOs in National Debate on the Future of Food

December 21, 2014

From: The Bartlett Brothers
[Stephen Bartlett, Andrew Kang Bartlett and David (Bartlett) Abazs]
Round River Farm
5879 Nikolai Road
Finland, MN 55603

To:     The CEOs of Monsanto, Walmart and Tyson Foods
[Mr. Hugh Grant, Mr. Doug McMillon and Mr. Donnie Smith respectively]

Re:     Future of Food National Debate

We write on an urgent matter. We three Bartlett Brothers were shocked by the proselytization taking place at the 2014 Future Farmers of America (FFA) Convention held in Louisville, Kentucky, where two of us reside and the third from Minnesota was participating as an exhibitor. Witnessing the indoctrination of legions of young people at FFA (which included keynote presentations by both Tyson and Monsanto representatives) with inflated myths and half-truths, compels us to challenge you on these critical matters.

We Bartlett Brothers hereby propose a National Debate with you on the Future of Food. We offer to debate you anytime on the merits of industrialized commodity agriculture, with its long-distance shipping, high inputs and mass marketing (short-hand, ‘Big Ag’) versus the merits of small- and medium- scale sustainable and often organic production, with its decentralized system of production, processing and distribution of food (short-hand, ‘Agroecological Farming’). In fact, given the vast impact of our food and farm system on the multiple crises our society and the world face, we demand such a debate.

We await your prompt reply. Surely, you have nothing to fear in debating the Bartlett Brothers, since we are simple farmers, gardeners, community organizers and food justice advocates and have never run a Fortune 500 corporation as each of you are doing. We are searching for a public personality to moderate the debate, and we are open to your proposals and scheduling details in that regard as well.

Each month that we do not hear from you, we will post a new debate question, cite your public stances on the topic, and present our thoughts and answers. We welcome you to submit questions for the debate.

While those who advise you may attempt to discourage you from such a public debate, we encourage you to defend your industry and your honor as leaders in the food system. We look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely yours,

Stephen Bartlett, Andrew Kang Bartlett and David (Bartlett) Abazs

cc:           Michelle Obama

Tom Vilsack, USDA

Krysta Harden, USDA

Congressman Rick Nolan

Senator Amy Klobuchar

Senator Al Franken

Congressman John Yarmuth

Senator Rand Paul

Senator Mitch McConnell

John Myers, Duluth News Tribune

Jere Downs, Courier-Journal