Now that the US Supreme Court has undermined historic controls on monopoly politics, corporate cash flows into election campaigns at an unprecedented rate.
But it does not always win.
Just ask the farmers of Oregon’s Jackson County.
They took on some of the largest chemical, biotechnology and agribusiness corporations in the world—Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta, among others—in an election campaign where 95 percent of the money spent against them came from outside the county.
But when the ballots were counted Tuesday night, the farmers won.
Jackson County voted by a two-to-one margin to ban the genetically engineered crops.
“The voters here have many generations of fruit and vegetable growing, so they’re among the most educated voters. The opposition spent a million dollars and couldn’t convince the people,” explained Chuck Burr, the president of the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association, which describes the region’s fertile valleys as “the perfect seed growing environment.”
It was a remarkable victory, which the corporate money power and its political allies did everything in their power to stop.
When Jackson County’s farmers learned that Syngenta AG, the Swiss agrochemical giant, was growing genetically altered sugar beet seeds in Jackson County fields, local farmers worried about the threat posed by cross-pollination of genetically modified seeds with their local and organic seeds. So they did what Americans are supposed to do. They gathered in local Grange halls and community centers and organized a petition drive to put a measure banning GM seeds on the ballot.
Then the firestorm hit.
The Oregon legislature, with encouragement from the chemical giants, quickly enacted what critics referred to as “The Monsanto Protection Act.” As it was happening late last year, Melissa Wischerath and Mary Beth Williams of Oregon’s Center for Sustainability Law argued in the Eugene Weekly that “the bill is based on corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) proposed legislation from 2007.”
The Center for Media and Democracy’s Rebekah Wilce has detailed how ALEC has been stepping into food fights, noting that in recent years the group has developed “model legislation” such as the “Preemption of Local Agricultural Laws Act.”