Nonsanto: A Month Without Monsanto | Civil Eats

Nonsanto: A Month Without Monsanto

When I first heard about April Davila’s quest to live without Monsanto for a month, I thought she was doing something noble in a public setting. But, would it really be that hard? As a locavore, I pride myself on purchasing my produce from farmer’s markets, so couldn’t she just do the same?  When we decided to meet, I soon realized that my arrogant assumptions had enough hot air to heat a compost bin.

After many attempts to find a place to meet, we settled on having organic herbal tea at a local coffee shop. She greeted me in her new wardrobe. No, she’s isn’t an Angeleno fashionista. Rather,  Monsanto owns most cotton seeds so she had to purchase clothes and shoes made from other sources.  April is plain and soft-spoken–I wouldn’t pick her to stand with a bull-horn outside of a McDonald’s protest. Despite her demeanor, her month without Monsanto was her own small but very impactful way of positively affecting our food system.

April wasn’t a food activist before she saw Food, Inc. She’s a scientist, writer and mom who was a conscious food consumer but hadn’t let it define her life. After seeing the film, she started reading more about Monsanto and was disturbed by an article about the possible harmful kidney and liver effects of the company’s genetically modified corn. She decided to go Monsanto-free for a month after casually mentioning it to a friend who challenged her to do it (and this friend was critical in helping her succeed as the volume of research became more than a full-time job).

April’s life radically changed from shopping at farmer’s markets and purchasing organic products at supermarkets to one where she was tracking the source of every seed of everything she ingested and wore. She was caught flat footed when she began her journey as she didn’t realize the extent of the company’s reach. Her first few days consisted of wild fish and seaweed because she couldn’t confirm anything about the company (she nearly gave up at this point). She learned that Monsanto controls many, many seeds (and seed subsidiaries) and even owns major organic seed companies (e.g. Western Seed). She switched to heirloom-only produce (non-Monsanto) and started contacting companies and their suppliers about their seed sources. She received responses from CEOs who did their own research on their seed sources (for example, Lundberg rice and certain Annie’s macaroni and cheese were confirmed to be non-Monsanto). Farmers might not be aware, even if they grow organic, because they order from seed distributors who don’t list their sources.

It wasn’t just that Monsanto owns most seeds. April started to examine them through her scientific lens. It turns out, not surprisingly, that some of their scientific evidence is questionable as they have paid off scientists. It doesn’t help either that former Monsanto executives are now part of the Food and Drug Administration, approving products.

Despite the volume of painstaking effort she went through to live Monsanto-free, there were rewards (aside from the obvious Monsanto-free life she enjoyed).  She told me she “had a moment of quiet bliss, while hosting a Nonsanto brunch. . . I looked down at a delicious spread and knew exactly where everything came from. I knew the farmer and where he bought the seeds. There were no mystery foods and I felt a great pride in that.”

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How did we get to the frightening point where one company is controlling most of what we eat?  April says it’s one word: convenience. “We are a nation addicted to convenience. I am no exception. Monsanto has thrived by supplying our addiction. . . . Our food system is about the quick and the easy because as consumers that is what we demand (along with copious amounts of high fructose corn syrup).”

April’s personal challenge will stay with her.  She told me, “it really seems like there is no definitive answer as to their safety and I’m not willing to be Monsanto’s test subject.”  I don’t want to be a test subject either.  This mom has made even people such as myself who proudly try to live up to the locavore label think twice.

If you want to join April in bucking the food system by saying no to one of convenient, genetically modified foods whose safety is dubious and happens to be controlled by a single company, she’s already done much of the homework for you (and will continue to do it through her blog).  Here are things we can each do.  It starts in the kitchen by cooking our own meals, knowing our food sources (talk to your farmers and visit farmer’s markets), ask companies–including organic ones–about their seed source and start planting your own heirloom seeds.  In our own way, we can each be a rebel who is helping to galvanize a movement that begins with each of us in our kitchens.  April is an unlikely trail blazer but this mom is helping to steer us on a better path for all of us.

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Sarah Newman is a vegetarian locavore living in Los Angeles where she frequents the 18th street farmers market. She works as a researcher and blogger at Participant Media, producer of Food, Inc. Read more >

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  1. annie
    it's a great way to start. but we must continually remember that it is not just monsanto, it is also dupont, syngenta, conagra, etc.. i like the idea of asking the grower to get the source of the seeds established. thanks for a great article.
  2. kiana
    it is sad how hard this is!
    just wanted to add that this also means cutting all cotton & cotton blends out of our clothing. monsanto controls every cotton seed on the market. even certified organic seed.
  3. June Higgins
    I am unable to find sources in my area without GMO's. They have tapped the entire market. It is pretty scarry. I have to travel 30 miles to get to an organic food store, and they are unable to confirm that some of their products are non-GMO. It is scarry, because they do not know where some of their suppliers seeds come from. I have already been poisoned with mercury, through vaccines, and have MS. I am trying to avoid anything else that is dangerous.
  4. Nina Larisch-Haider
    I would propose a live WITHOUT Monsato.

    The most important is to create groups of people who are willing to save the seeds, which are not yet genetic engineered.
    In keeping the seeds alive is absolutely a must, otherwise the natural genetics of plants are lost and we end up with ONLY genetic modified seeds, which are useless because they have lost in these processes their strength and the nutritions we need to stay healthy.
    Monsato is an evil company which will do everything to "help" us to become sick because sickness is a billion Dollar business and they are part of most companies who sell remedies etc.

    People awake .... it is late but not yet too late.
  5. Sandra Soto
    I have a huge headache just thinking all the food I fed myself and my kids because I wasn't informed.
    Now that I have this information I'm better able to make informed decisions..yet they make all this organic food only affordable to people who make alot of money.
  6. Katie
    I would love to forward this article onto the Obama administration. Thank you.

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