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Millions Against Monsanto: Campaigning Against Giants

Anna Kimura !

In 1998 the Organic Consumers Association was born from a massive wave of

discontent over regulations placed on organic food by the government. The group is composed of well over one million supporters, which include many organic businesses and marketplaces, who seek to eliminate genetically modied foods, dangerous methods of factory farming, and to convert at least 30% of American agriculture to organic by 2015 in order to promote the growth of local markets and transition to renewable energy practices. The OCA started the Millions Against Monsanto campaign in an effort to combat the agricultural giants monopoly on American agriculture. Monsanto began in 1901, and since then has been responsible for the development of DDT, Agent Orange, and Roundup, as well as the genetically modied seed and bovine growth hormone. In 1992, the FDA announced a policy that allowed genetically modied foods to go unlabeled and untested, which sparked major controversy amongst consumers who feared long term health effects of GMOs. Since then, numerous investigative reports have revealed health risks associated with Monsantos chemicals and genetically modied products. The company has been involved in an array of legal battles and news controversies which have had an adverse affect on its image. The OCA and Millions Against Monsanto have been key actors in the rally against Monsanto. Mainly, their goals are to stop the production of new genetically modied organisms produced by Monsanto, label GMA foods that are already circulating, bring awareness to Monsantos corporate agenda and make the company pay for harm caused by GMOs. ! The ongoing battle between Monsanto and its constituents has been of major

signicance to those studying and engaging in public relations, because the use of

public relations is necessary for anti-Monsanto campaigns to persuade the public that what Monsanto is doing regarding factory farming and GMOs is wrong, and possibly detrimental to the health of the public. The use of public relations helps to spread the message and gain constituent support to further Millions Against Monsantos cause. ! This case study will utilize an analysis of constituent intelligence regarding the

extended parallel process model and the catalytic model. Constituent intelligence is a key part of the transparency of a company and it is essentially when constituents are able to nd, analyze and share information about the company with the public. Constituent intelligence is a main principle used by this campaign because the goal of the public relations action is pushing consumers to nd out more information about Monsanto and to question their practices. The extended parallel process model, which is a technique used in social marketing that uses fear appeals and a recommended response to a threat to encourage some sort of behavior change in the target audience, is relevant because the Millions campaign uses this tactic to generate interest and support. Lastly, the catalytic model can be used as a measure of success. The catalytic model of issues management is a tool used to address the level of issues management that a particular case is at. Thus, the ultimate question of this case study is, how do the extended parallel process and catalytic models help us to understand the success of the OCA in campaigning against Monsanto? ! One of the main communication efforts made by the Millions Against Monsanto

campaign is the GMO labeling ballot initiative. MAM created a movement through their website, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube in order to develop support for the California

Food Labeling Act of 2012. Their website states, California is poised to be the rst state with mandatory GMO labeling laws through the 2012 California Ballot Initiative process. Polls show support to get this initiative on the ballot & voted in. Over 80% of those polled supported mandatory labeling. A win for the California Initiative would be a huge blow to biotech and a huge victory for food activists. Monsanto and their minions have billions invested in GMOs and they are willing to spend millions to defeat this initiative. California is the 8th largest economy in the world. Labeling laws in CA will effect packaging and ingredient decisions nation-wide. The bill has been carefully written to ensure that it will not increase costs to consumers or producers (OCA 2011). The website also includes a call to action for constituents and supporters to collect signatures and donate to help educate consumers, organize events and combat Monsantos production of genetically modied organisms. MAM makes it accessible for constituents to support their efforts by organizing key information on an aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate page, as well as having a one-click donation option. The Organic Consumers Twitter and Facebook pages are constantly streaming updates about the campaign and frequently post information to encourage new supporters to join the cause. However, their Youtube channel is probably one of the main factors in encouraging constituent intelligence. Their videos include informative interviews with key players in the MAM movement, as well as important information about Monsanto and their actions in the agricultural world. By pushing their followers, Facebook friends, and supporters to educate themselves about Monsanto, MAM is fostering constituent intelligence which only helps strengthen the alliance against the agricultural giant. In regard to the extended parallel process model, Millions Against Monsanto makes use of

the fear appeal to push constituents to support the California Ballot Initiative. One of their published articles about the topic states that up until now, in North America, Monsanto and the Biotechnocrats have enjoyed free reign to secretly lace non-organic foods with gene-spliced viruses, bacteria, antibiotic-resistant marker genes, and foreign DNA-mutant Frankenfoods shown to severely damage the health of animals, plants, and other living organisms in numerous scientic studies... Genetically engineered foods have absolutely no benets for consumers or the environment, only hazards (Cummins, 2011). The OCA website goes on to further list the detrimental health effects of consuming genetically modied foods produced by Monsanto, including their potential to create new superdiseases, and cause toxic allergic reactions, certain cancers, birth defects and a number of unpleasant side effects. Their warning asserts that genetically modied organisms have been linked to thousands of toxic and allergenic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals (Smith, 2008). When a consumer looks to purchase from a company, especially when the product they are purchasing is food related, they ultimately want to be assured that what they are receiving is safe. When a product is exposed as being potentially harmful to ones health, consumers are less likely to purchase that product and support that company. The fear appeal works perfectly by tainting Monsantos image as something toxic and destructive. Millions Against Monsanto use this fear appeal as a threat that if consumers dont lobby for the Labeling Act, they will be unknowingly consuming dangerous products that contain GMOs which could make them ill or possibly kill them. This is intended to trigger a response - the response being that consumers throw their support

to the California Ballot Initiative through the various means listed on their website. Because a threat to ones health is extremely applicable and relevant to consumers, they are less likely to simply disregard or dismiss MAMs campaign and are more likely to engage in a response that is benecial to the campaign. Millions Against Monsanto has launched numerous initiatives calling for opposition against Monsantos products, however the overarching focus of their protest is placed on GMOs. Other notable petitions include the push to stop the production of genetically engineered sh, wheat, alfalfa, and sugar. These products are all key components of our everyday diet, thus the startling news that many of these products we consume regularly contain harmful genetically modied organisms has a huge impact on constituents. ! Millions Against Monsanto and the OCA have also attacked Monsanto from a

different angle. They have released numerous articles which talk about the Monsanto Nation and how it is affecting the agricultural community, and in turn the economy. The OCA claims that it is impossible to coexist with a reckless industry that endangers public health, bribes public ofcials, corrupts scientists, manipulates the media, destroys biodiversity, kills the soil, pollutes the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically enslaves the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers (Cummins 2011). Monsantos unquestionable dominance in the agricultural sector has allowed them to get away with seemingly outrageous acts. The company has been attacking smaller farmers on the precedence that they infringed upon the patent placed on Monsantos genetically modied seeds. Essentially, Monsanto is slowly weeding out their competition. MAM also claims that the quality and range of America's daily essentials is being dictated and degraded by a powerful

network of Brand Name Bullies and Big Box chains. By outsourcing from sweatshops in the factories and elds, by cutting corners on public health and the environment, and by sucking up billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, business behemoths such as Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Starbucks and others have constructed a vast global shopping mall of cheap goods and conveniences, reinforced by a nonstop, 24/7 glut of multimedia distractions (OCA 2011). Thus, the campaign is pointing out to consumers that the goliath empire that Monsanto has built is affecting both small scale farmers and the overall economy as well. Since the economy has been a major concern amongst the public for several years now, and is often a hot topic in the news, this fear appeal is both relevant and appropriate and should incite constituents to act out against Monsanto. MAM encourages consumers to support local agriculture and fair trade as a way to outsource big businesses. Once again, the key actors from Millions Against Monsanto effectively used the EPPM model to further their campaign. ! Reactions from constituents have proved the EPPM models success. According

to the OCAs website, every poll over the last twenty years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers supports mandatory labeling for genetically modied foods. Their Facebook page reects this constituent support. Articles posted by the Millions Against Monsanto group have initiated an array of debates, discussions, and discontent with Monsanto within the public. Similarly, the Facebook group, which has nearly 127,000 members, has received a great deal of support and exposure. ! But the overall success of this campaign can better be gauged by applying the

catalytic model. The catalytic model characterizes issues management with ve stages potential, imminent, current, critical and dormant. The potential stage occurs as a

precursor to a public relations action, when an individual or a group recognizes that there is a problematic situation that needs to be addressed. For this particular campaign, this occurred when Monsanto began falling under the EPAs microscope and its questionable health records were exposed. Shortly thereafter it transitioned to the imminent stage, when these studies and information leaks hit news media and began garnering attention from the public. The current stage is reached when an issue is widely known by both constituents and the media. At this time, the Millions Against Monsanto campaign is at the critical stage, which means that actions are being taken to address the situation. These actions include the online media efforts made by the activists as well as their push to gather support for the numerous petitions against Monsanto. Since it is at such a vital point in its development, the Millions Against Monsanto campaign has the potential to go either way; it could become a successful campaign bolstered by constituent support and a strong use of public relations, or it could fail to achieve its goals. Only once it reaches the dormant stage can we make a proper assessment of its success or failure, thus the only measure we can make is a prediction of where the campaign will go based on past and present public relations efforts and actions taken by key actors. ! OCAs call to action was stated on their website as follows, In order to hit the

ground running in December, gathering 500-700,000 petition signatures of registered voters to put this measure on the ballot, we need your help now. We need an army of thousands of volunteer petition gatherers to step forward in California. And we need money. OCA and our allied lobbying organization, the Organic Consumers Fund, estimate that we need to raise at least $60,000 over the next month in order to

effectively play our part in the California Ballot Initiative Campaign, to pay our staff, consultants, and other campaign expenses (OCA 2011). One measure of this campaigns success is the accomplishment of OCAs 2011 World Food Day event. World Food Day was held on October 16th of this year in order to honor the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Millions Against Monsanto held 85 afliated rallies on World Food Day in 32 different states, Puerto Rico and Washington DC. Rallies were organized by Millions Against Monsanto supporters and included information booths, areas to sign petitions and other related activities. The fact that so many people came together to put on these events illustrates the growing popularity of this campaign. Popularity leads to more press exposure, which works cyclically to increase popularity and constituent support. Thus, regarding the growing success of the Millions Against Monsanto campaign, we can conclude that the EPPM model is an effective public relations theory to use in this situation. Based on the amount of support that they have already garnered in regard to their goal of attracting volunteer support, the Millions Against Monsanto group is likely to reach their goals in regard to petition signatures and donation money. Their fear appeals appear to be extremely effective with constituents and have had reasonable public reception. ! Millions Against Monsanto has made prudent use of online social media in order

to expand their campaign and amass a wide base of dedicated followers. They have exposed Monsanto through multiple mediums, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and developed a well organized and easily accessible website to keep their supporters informed. They have taken wise public relations actions by appealing to the public through fear, as a majority of consumers are likely to respond or take action when

they are informed that their food products are potentially unsafe. Millions Against Monsanto uses fear appeals in regard to both health concerns and distress about the economy and rising prices in order to draw in a huge support base. And its not only consumers that are catching on and throwing their support to MAM; large corporations, agricultural businesses, local farmers and markets are also in favor of MAM and their aspirations. Once the campaign reaches the dormant stage we can better make an assessment of how successful it was overall. If MAM reaches at least its short term goals in regard to pushing the California Ballot Initiative, and is able to begin checking off its long term goals, then the campaign can be deemed successful. Overall though, the movement is on the right path; it is taking prudent public relations actions and building up a powerful following that is slowly encouraging constituent intelligence within Monsantos corporate agenda. At this rate, Millions Against Monsanto can only go forward and upward, and with the help of additional news releases regarding Monsantos unfavorable actions, the agricultural giants reputation is slowly disintegrating. Should Million Against Monsanto be able to reach their goals and enact a labeling law for GMOs, this campaign will forever have a major impact on the agricultural sector and Monsantos future participation and inuence in that particular sphere.

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References

Cummins, R. (2011, October 7). The california ballot initiative: Standing up to monsanto. ! Retrieved from http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_24074.cfm

Cummins, R. (2011, July 27). Monsanto nation: Taking down goliath . Retrieved from ! http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_23693.cfm

OCA. (2011). Millions against monsanto. Retrieved from ! http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/action.cfm

Smith, J. (2008, March). Organic consumers association. Retrieved from ! http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_11361.cfm

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