Sunday, January 21, 2018

World Food Prize should become voice of regenerative agriculture/World Food Prize protesters get $50,000 payout after being shunted out of sight

World Food Prize should become voice of regenerative agriculture
Sharon Donovan, Iowa View contributor

Published 11:08 a.m. CT Jan. 18, 2018

(Photo: Bryon Houlgrave, The Register)

The Register's recent article "Iowa to pay $50,000 in lawsuit settlement," describing a lawsuit against the World Food Prize (WFP) and the state of Iowa by anti-GMO protesters, sheds light on the past manipulations of the WFP to guard its international image among fellow promoters of industrial agriculture. [See article below.]

As one of the lawsuit plaintiffs, I feel Iowa taxpayers need several additional facts to understand the motivation behind the lawsuit by last year's demonstrators.

In 2017, the WFP awarded its $250,000 prize to Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the head of the African Development Bank, who was quoted as saying his mission is to bring industrial agriculture to all of Africa. This is not the kind of agriculture we demonstrators want spread throughout the world. Heavy use of pesticides that support patented GMO seeds is not our idea of improving agriculture in lesser developed countries. It is a way for corporations to increase their profits.

As a result of the lawsuit, for the first time the WFP allowed protesters to assemble at an area near the Capitol entrance, not the usual 110 yards away. But it is important to note the WFP continued to commission a large marching band to play John Phillip Sousa music to blast away in the faces of demonstrators, essentially silencing us. They continue to hang three giant banners from the Capitol that spell out “World Food Prize” although signs are not allowed in or on the Capitol.

Iowa taxpayers paid the settlement to the plaintiffs on behalf of the WFP, but that is because Iowa taxpayers automatically give the WFP more than $1 million dollars a year to run its operation. This money is provided to an institution that had its start from a $10 million gift by John Ruan and continues to receive major support from large industrial ag corporations, among others. Where is the state money for those who speak on behalf of organic farmers, we ask?

The irony of it all is that Iowa is a perfect example of why demonstrators from Occupy the World Food Prize object to the WFP promotion of GMO farming practices. Our soils are dead, our drinking water contains toxic levels of nitrates, too many of our children are sick. Livestock confinement companies take their money out of state, leaving Iowa with the environmental destruction while outsiders profit.

Occupy the World Food Prize calls on the WFP to become the voice of regenerative agriculture for the world and to award only those who promote safe, healthy and organic food. That is the message of Occupy the World Food Prize and that is why we protest. Occupy the World Food Prize cries out against this ecological travesty. The WFP, benefiting from our tax money, could help change this reality.
Sharon Donovan <> of Clive is a member of the Occupy the World Food Prize Working Committee

World Food Prize protesters get $50,000 payout after being shunted out of sight

Published 1:01 p.m. CT Jan. 9, 2018 | Updated 10:21 a.m. CT Jan. 10, 2018

Iowa taxpayers will pay a $50,000 settlement to end a lawsuit filed by anti-GMO activists who claim state officials violated their First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit was filed against the World Food Prize and state officials last year in light of limits Iowa placed upon demonstrators at an annual awards ceremony held at the Capitol.
Frank Cordaro, a peace activist and founder of the Catholic Worker in Des Moines, and other protesters have for years been confined to a sidewalk area that is about 110 yards from the Capitol's west entrance at the foot of a steep hill — a location that makes them largely invisible to World Food Prize participants.
Since 2012, the protesters have used a megaphone to amplify their voices but have been drowned out by musical ensembles and marching bands that World Food Prize organizers have commissioned to perform while dignitaries enter the Capitol to participate in the event.
Cordaro, William Talen, an actor-turned-pastor from New York, and Sharon Donovan, a World Food Prize protester from Iowa, argued that the measures were taken to ensure they cannot "be heard in the marketplace of ideas."
The protesters were generally expressing their concerns about the environment, biotechnology and the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in the fight to end world hunger.
During the 2016 ceremonies, Cordaro and Talen were arrested as they attempted to leave the designated protest area so they could approach the Capitol building and be seen and heard by event participants.
Frank Cordaro, of Des Moines speaks to the crowd during the Stop the Bakken Pipeline Rally and Speak Out on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, outside the Iowa Utilities Board Office in Des Moines.Buy Photo
Frank Cordaro, of Des Moines speaks to the crowd during the Stop the Bakken Pipeline Rally and Speak Out on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, outside the Iowa Utilities Board Office in Des Moines. (Photo: Kelsey Kremer/The Register)
The state attempted to prevent Cordaro and Talen from arguing a First Amendment defense in their 2016 trespass case, but after the court rejected the state's request, the charges were dropped.
The state subsequently allowed the protesters in the 2017 ceremony to demonstrate next to a driveway where the World Food Prize dignitaries were being transported, roughly 350 feet away.
Cordaro, Talen and Donovan sought class-action status of their complaint against the state.
The annual event is required to take place at the Capitol under Iowa law. It was state employees who had restricted the protesters.
The settlement was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Appeal Board.
Des Moines attorney Glen Downey, whose firm helped represent the plaintiffs, said the case underscores that violations of constitutional rights "can not be bought and paid for by the highest corporate bidder."
"We are happy the state recognized that violating the First Amendment rights of its citizens is not something that can be tolerated," Downey said.
Jeff Thompson, deputy attorney general, told the board Tuesday that he believes both parties were ultimately satisfied with the settlement and an agreement of where protesters may gather at future events. Pursuing the case further would have cost taxpayers more than the settlement, he said.
“It is balancing security with the First Amendment," Thompson said. "I think everyone was satisfied with the final result.”

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