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Meet the Corporate Front Groups Fighting to Make Sure You Can't Know What's in Your Food

Here's a partial lineup of hired guns and organizations behind the anti-labeling advertising blitz soon to hit the California airwaves.

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Maryann Marino and the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA): Defending small farmers?

Maryann Marino is the Southern California regional director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA), which according to Public Citizen is one of many so-called "lawsuit abuse" groups throughout the country that are part of a national, corporate-backed network of front groups that receive substantial financial and strategic assistance from the tobacco industry and some of America's biggest corporations.

According to Public Citizen, “These groups masquerade as grassroots citizens groups spontaneously manifesting citizen anger against so-called ‘lawsuit abuse.’ The groups aim to incite public scorn for the civil justice system, juries and judges, and to pave the way for enactment of laws immunizing corporations from liability for actions that harm consumers.”

Sure enough, Marino recently told KABC-TV, Los Angeles, the GMO labeling initiative is “not really about the right to know, but rather the right to sue.”

In 2000, the Center for Justice and Democracy issued a report on CALA which unmasked "funding by self-serving mega-corporations that secretly spawned a national network of fake citizens’ organizations," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "These so-called citizens groups are doing the bidding of the corporate funders and are pushing at all levels to deny Americans access to the courtroom and to create a legal environment that shields corporate wrongdoers from accountability."

American Tort Reform Association (ATRA): Champion of food safety?

Maryann Marino’s organization, CALA,  is a state chapter of the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) – which receives substantial financial and strategic assistance from the tobacco industry and America's biggest corporations, including Philip Morris, Dow Chemical (currently seeking approval for Agent Orange Corn), Exxon, General Electric, Aetna, Geico and Nationwide. 

ATRA now keeps its membership secret, but according to a 1993 American University Law Review article by P.R. Sugarman, Monsanto Chemical Company, RJR/Nabisco, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company were among just a few of the companies and industry trade association members.  According to "Justice For Sale: Shortchanging the Public Interest for Private Gain," a 1993 report by the Alliance for Justice, "The ATRA is made up of corporation trade groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association -- thus giving corporations a decoy and accomplice group two full steps removed from their board rooms."

In 2008, the last time they made the names of any of their members public, a list of "sample members" included Kraft Foods Inc., the 3rd largest packaged food company in the U.S. Kraft opposes GMO labels, but defends its use of GMOs.

In return for Monsanto's support, ATRA has been a relentless cheerleader for the company's lawlessness.

ATRA applauded Monsanto for skirting plaintiffs' claims for medical monitoring after Monsanto was found to have been knowingly polluting the small town of Anniston, Alabama, with dangerous levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). (The residents surrounding the Monsanto plant were predominantly minorities. The first lawsuit, brought in state court, went to trial and the jury found Monsanto guilty of a variety of torts, including negligence, nuisance and trespass. This case was eventually folded into a similar federal case, concluding in a global settlement fining Monsanto $700 million for its egregious behavior toward the Anniston residents.)

ATRA's publication, Judicial Hellholes, in a post titled, "Food Eaters 1, Uncompetitive Organics Industry 0," calls atrazine, the infamous endocrine-disrupting pesticide, "a safe and widely used weed killer."

Neither CALA nor ATRA have voiced concern about Monsanto suing farmers in 143 different patent infringement lawsuits when their crops were unintentionally contaminated with Monsanto's GMOs.  Marino does, however, have a problem with farmers getting together to bring one lawsuit against Monsanto to stop the harassment.

 
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