February 15, 2016: Petition calling for halt of GMO banana human trials delivered to Gates Foundation and Iowa State University
Pictured in photo: Emma Shorr, Bill Aal and Phil Bereano of AGRA Watch deliver petitions to Gates Foundation. Photo credit: Jonathan Lee
Delivering over 57,000 signatures gathered through CREDO Action’s online petition, AGRA Watch and Iowa State University graduate students had a successful simultaneous action on Monday, Feb. 15 at ISU in Ames, Iowa, and at the Gates Foundation in Seattle. The petition asks the University and the Gates Foundation to cease supporting the transgenic banana study, including human feeding trials, and to change the trajectory for this type of research conducted at public universities. For more information, please read the press release.
In Seattle we delivered the petitions in the form of a prop to represent the 57,000+ signatures on the petition – a box filled with the 1600+ pages of names we received from CREDO – along with the actual file on a thumb-drive. We were pleased that, unlike at past demonstrations, Gates Foundation staff, including the head of media relations, met our delegation, and, while TV news cameras filmed, accepted our prop while we laid out our concerns.
We rallied outside the Foundation for an hour, 3 of us wearing banana costumes, and carrying signs while chanting, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Gates stop funding GMOs!” and “What do we want? Food Sovereignty! When do we want it? Now!”. We had hoped to share our concerns in-person before the action with Chris Elias, head of Global Development, however he was out of the country, and his staff did not propose an alternate meeting time.
Meanwhile in Iowa, 7 grad students and 1 community member gathered on the steps of Curtiss Hall, home of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to take a group picture before heading inside the Dean’s office (Wendy Wintersteen), and dropping off the petition.
Proving that our work is not being ignored by the biotech industry, the action provoked a lot of interest from GMO advocates. Through what appears to be a coordinated response, multiple negative comments were made on the AGRA Watch Facebook page, and both CAGJ and AGRA Watch’s Facebook pages received several negative reviews this week. (You can counter these posts by reporting offensive ones, and offering a more favorable review if you feel inspired!) Kevin Folta, the University of Florida professor whose ties to Monsanto were recently revealed by the New York Times, wrote a post on his blog Sunday before the action, attacking the students involved in this campaign. Later, a well known troll created two offensive memes with AGRA Watch action photos, and filed a public-records request for one of the ISU students (who recently got her PhD and is teaching), which we consider to be an act of harassment.
-Iowa State Daily: Genetically Modified Bananas Spark Controversy
-Des Moines Register: ISU still plans GMO banana trial, despite controversy
-Iowa Farm Bureau: Hypocrisy of the anti-GMO crowd on display at Iowa State
-Iowa Meets Maui Blog: Privileged Students Protest Vitamin A Rich Bananas
-KIRO 7 TV, Seattle, WA interview with CAGJ Director Heather Day (starts at 17:08), and also King 5 TV (link not found).
-KCCI Des Moines TV News: Demonstration planned Monday at ISU over banana research
–Free Speech Radio News, New GM banana bound for Uganda set for human testing at Iowa State. Also aired by Green ACRE Radio and on KBCS 91.3 FM.
-KIRO Radio Jason Rantz Show, Bananas Descend on the Gates Foundation in Protest, interview with Phil Bereano and Chris Feise, AGRA Watch
-KHOI 89.1 Ames, IA Community Radio, DonnaLonna Kitchen Show interview with Gabrielle Roesch, ISU student, (begins at 4:33).
-KOPN 89.5 Columbia, MO Community Radio, Farm & Fiddle interview with Phil Bereano, AGRA Watch, and Rivka Fidel, ISU student (link will be posted).
-WRFG Radio Free Georgia-Atlanta, GA 89.3FM, Just Peace interview with Bill Aal, AGRA Watch and Gabrielle Roesch, ISU graduate student (link will be posted).
Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make these actions such a success!