Campaign to Stop the Monsanto Doctrine

In the spring of 2016, Progressive Source was hired to build a public awareness campaign to support a grassroots coalition of Native Hawaiians, environmentalists, parents and farmers in their historic struggle to challenge three Hawaii federal district court rulings on appeal. These troubling rulings invalidated common sense public safety laws in Maui, Hawaii and Kauai counties that were passed to regulate experimental test farms that spray massive amount of pesticides on GMO crops.

To bring world attention to the importance of these cases, Progressive Source worked closely with our client to create strategy, branding, messaging, and a full “Be the Media” campaign that we named “Stop Poisoning Democracy.”

In a simple animated two-minute video scripted and produced by Progressive Source, we named the unprecedented legal power that the federal court had granted to the world’s largest agrochemical companies “The Monsanto Doctrine.” We collaborated with our client to describe, in under 240 words, the complex legal messaging and the historic importance of thwarting Monsanto’s legal position that would have effectively invalidated any and all local and state laws created to regulate genetically modified crops or pesticides. The video, viewable here:

Along with subsequent campaign-related media including this public interest advocacy column in the Huffington Post, characterized these cases, which are still being considered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, as having the potential to become the environmental equivalent of the notorious Citizens United ruling.

We described the ominous Monsanto Doctrine as the right of polluting corporations to do as they choose, in violation of any and all local or state public safety laws created to protect humans and the environment.

As an integral part of this campaign, Progressive Source created and marketed this ‘Stop Poisoning Democracy” petition for More than 43,000 people from around the world have signed this petition, hundreds of them leaving eloquent, supportive comments.

The petition signers have been updated about the legal cases, and related issues, such as the follow up column in the Huffington Post entitled, “Obama Expands Monsanto Doctrine by Signing DARK Act and Invalidating Vermont GMO Labeling Law.”  This column was shared by nearly 3,000 people, and seen by hundreds of thousands of others.

Progressive Source’s “Be the Media” strategy for the Campaign to stop the Monsanto Doctrine also included the creation of curated video, like this one, which took three hours of complex oral arguments and boiled Monsanto’s startling legal claims down to a few comprehensible minutes.

Other videos, including coverage of Native Hawaiians marching to support our ecology that went unreported elsewhere, can be viewed on Progressive Source’s Vimeo page here.

The public awareness building created by the Campaign to Stop the Monsanto Doctrine contributed to an important decision by the Ninth Circuit of Appeals which, on November 18, 2016 ruled that, “Nothing in the PPA suggests that Congress intended to prevent state and local governments from exercising their traditional authority over agricultural land use with respect to certain crops simply because APHIS deregulated them. To hold otherwise would have the backwards effect of preventing states and local governments from regulating crops formerly considered to be plant pests, even though states and local governments may regulate conventional crops that were never considered plant pests and raise fewer concerns. Such a holding would have far-reaching practical effects. Because a large percentage of commercial crops grown in the United States are GE crops, states and counties across the nation would be prevented from regulating an enormous swath of agriculture. We do not believe that Congress so intended.”