by Will Potter / Green Is The New Red
Two million people in 52 countries marched against Monsanto last week in protest of genetically-modified food and in support of consumer choice. There’s international pressure on this GMO giant like never before.
But proposed legislation in North Carolina would make it illegal for whistleblowers to expose how Monsanto and other corporations are threatening public health and the environment.
North Carolina’s SB 648 is appropriately named the “Commerce Protection Act.” The bill makes it illegal to obtain employment in order to “create or produce a record that reproduces an image or sound occurring within the employer’s facility, including a photographic, video, or audio” or “to capture or remove data, paper, records, or any other documents…”
It goes on to say that “any recording made or information obtained… shall be turned over to local law enforcement within 24 hours.”
The proposal is one of a dozen “ag-gag” bills that have been introduced across the country this year. Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam recently vetoed a similar proposal after a national outcry from groups like the Humane Society, ACLU, labor unions, the Sierra Club, and others.
Most recently Amnesty International called the bills an affront to human rights:
“What at first might appear to be exclusively an animal abuse issue is, on closer inspection, clearly also a freedom of expression issue, a workers’ rights issue, an environmental issue and a public health issue,” said Vienna Colucci, Director of Policy at Amnesty International USA. “And this is why such a diverse coalition has come together to oppose ‘ag-gag’ bills.”
And on top of that, the first ag-gag prosecution in the nation was a complete failure after it became a public relations disaster.
Not surprisingly, supporters of SB 648 in North Carolina are trying to run away from this failing trend, and say that the bill is not “ag-gag.” As I’ve discussed at length previously, that’s a complete lie. This bill has all the toxic provisions as other ag-gag proposals, and it was introduced on the same day Butterball workers pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after being exposed by undercover investigators.
The Chamber of Commerce issued a press release yesterday that said the bill is not ”ag-gag” because “an ag-gag bill focuses solely on the agriculture industry.”
On that point, the Chamber is absolutely correct. This bill is not limited to factory farms and slaughterhouses. It’s much worse than that. Just as Indiana’s ag-gag bill criminalized anyone who exposed fracking, this North Carolina bill is so broad that it includes all industries.
This is the evolution of “ag-gag.” These bills are not just about protecting Big Ag, they are about shielding all corporations from public accountability and oversight. And that’s a proposal that Monsanto and countless other corporations would love to see become law.