Dozens Tell Pima County Supervisors: “Say No to Monsanto”

Pima County supervisors Ray Carroll and Sharon Bronson avoid eye contact with Monsanto opponents [Photo by David Ahumada]

In a stunning and unusual setback, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s plan for taxpayer-paid “incentives” for the agribusiness giant Monsanto was put on the shelf for three months. Expecting the kind of routine quick approval given by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to Caterpillar and World View, Monsanto has already bought 155 acres in the Avra Valley.

The land was purchased from Marana Town Councilmember Herb Kai to build a giant greenhouse for the manufacture of genetically-modified (GMO) corn seeds. The site is near Twin Peaks and Sanders Roads, and groundbreaking was expected before the end of the year. With the BOS unanimously rescheduling a vote for February 21, 2017, Monsanto will likely be forced to put its construction schedule on hold.

Huckelberry’s plan, secretly put together over the last eight months as “Project Corn,” would have sought state approval for a “free trade zone” that would reduce Monsanto’s property taxes by two-thirds. The negotiation was initiated by Sun Corridor Inc. who also provided a supportive analysis. Although requested by the Avra Valley Coalition to recuse herself from the Monsanto issue since she serves on the Chairman’s Circle of Sun Corridor Inc., BOS Chair Sharon Bronson participated and voted.

The company, and Huckelberry, didn’t reckon with the concern of small farmers, local food activists, and Avra Valley residents responding to calls for action by Edible Baja magazine, the Pima County Food Alliance, Heirloom Farmers’ Market and Avra Valley Coalition. Opponents of the secret deal packed the BOS chambers waving signs reading, “Monsanto Poisons for Profit,” “No GMO,” and “Say No to Monsanto.” One speaker, a seven-year-old girl, was quoted saying, “I don’t like Monsanto because it kills bees!”

Supervisor Richard Elias had joined activists in recent anti-Monsanto protests, perhaps responding to the better than 20 percent of the vote for District 5 Supervisor going to Green Party political unknown, Martin Bastidas.

While Tucson-Metro Chamber of Commerce head Mike Varney and Arizona Farm Bureau Representative Jack Mann spoke in favor of the Huckelberry-Monsanto deal, their voices were lost in the angry crowd, some promising civil disobedience if necessary to stop Monsanto..

The bee reference was to Monsanto’s signature product, glyphosate, which has been labeled a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization and heavily restricted or banned in many countries. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s most heavily used herbicide, Roundup, is responsible for the decline in the monarch butterfly population and linked to colony collapse disorder in bees. Aerial spraying of glyphosate has also sickened residents of the Avra Valley.

Monsanto is not used to being denied. Its nearly $30 million in political campaign contributions over the past 25 years have secured the corporation $146,658,010 in state and local subsidies, nearly half a million in federal grants, and over a million dollars in federal loan guarantees. That is despite having paid out over $85 million in penalties for accounting fraud or discrepancies and health, safety and environmental violations. (Source: Good Jobs First Subsidy Tracker.)

With glyphosate residue from GMO seeds being found in products ranging from breakfast cereals to tampons to childhood vaccines, there is a world-wide outcry against the agribusiness giant, about to become even bigger and more powerful in a $66 billion merger with Bayer. Many believe the US Environmental Protection Agency is less than objective about Monsanto. When it first approved glyphosate most of the studies the EPA cited turned out to be bought and paid for by the pesticide industry. With license renewal put off until 2017, the EPA recently summarily removed a glyphosate critic from the Scientific Advisory Panel that makes the recommendations the EPA will base its decision on.

It’s clear that a lot of people in Pima County don’t want Monsanto as a new neighbor with tax breaks local farmers and property owners can’t get. The Board of Supervisors ducked the issue in the face of organized protest this time. They said they will set up an “Agriculture Science Advisory Committee” to advise them. Whether that committee will be more than just an EPA-style figurehead remains to be seen. Monsanto, and County Administrator Huckelberry, are used to having their way, but there is a new mood in the land. As populist poet Carl Sandburg said many years ago:

The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds…
The People, yes, The People….


  1. Oh my. Has any of the opposition come forward with science? Have they identified what will occur here? They do good and “bad”. This rhetoric gets old.

    This won’t get posted, but what do we really except

  2. Check out article: Monsanto More Saint Than Sinner” by Ross Pomeroy of Real Clear Science.They really have also done some great things. And don’t be stupid, hundreds of millions of lives were saved with DDT. It killed mosquitos that spread Malaria.

    • I did check out the Ross Pomeroy article, which first notes that Monsanto produced Agent Orange, responsible for perhaps 400,000 deaths in Vietnam as well as “drenching” an Alabama town with toxic chemicals for 40 years. So the article seems balanced, the bad and the good. But it is 3-1/2 years old and science marches on!

      Pomeroy cites golden rice as a Monsanto lifesaver due to its vitamin A content. But after 24 years of research and breeding, golden rice is still years away from field production. He cites glyphosate, last year declared a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization and now banned or heavily restricted in many countries. And, of course, the Monsanto myth that GMO crops are higher yield. A new University of Wisconsin-US Dept. of Agriculture study found that GMO crops have more stable yields, but are less productive than non-GMO farming. The net effect of GMOs is an increase in the use of toxic chemicals.

      BTW — when I Googled Pomeroy the first hit was a reprint of his article by the Genetic Literacy Project. That’s run by publicist Jon Entine who bragged about having Monsanto as a client. Gotta do the research….

  3. Monsanto can go suck a corncob. The county should be trying to help the local farmers so that their goods are sold to local restaurants, markets, etc.

  4. Let it’s not forget that Monsanto also brought us Agent Orange, a herbicide chemical so extremely toxic that most of the people involved in its application have died from bizarre forms of cancer not yet fully understood by the medical community. Even the planes used in its application were removed from service and securely “isolated” in a fenced off’d enclosure until destroyed and buried at DM?
    The population of Vietnam still suffers from its highly toxic effects ranging from strange damaged chromosome caused cancers to its wide ranging bizzare birth defects. The war has been over for 40 years but yet the Monsanto legacy lives on in multi-generational horror for those whos families are still negativity impacted by the mad science that Monsanto pedals as “beneficial” to the rest of the world.
    Monsanto is not interested in anything beyond its own bottom line, and your beyond idiot status to think it invested a dime in water starved Pima county to grow corn without out first securing the Dingleberry pledge of support.
    The roots of this marriage of deceit and corruption are deep enough even round-up couldn’t kill it.
    Thank you Ally for trying to fight for what we all know is a very anti Pima county resident disaster….
    How the informed voters of district 3 could have re-elected the Dingleberry rubber stamping whore Bronson by a mojority to yet another term of voter misrepresentation is beyond explanation…


  5. No business allowed in Pima Country unless;

    a) government,
    b) is government funded,
    c) Raul Grijalva and his mob get a cut.

    6th poorest in the country and DAMN proud of it.

  6. It is awesome that the citizens stepped forward to become involved – and at least delayed the vote on the Monsanto FTZ issue; however, it is too bad there weren’t more people involved in attempting to bring change to Pima county during the election. Changing control of Pima county, including removing Mr Huckleberry, was within our reach, but we came up short. It is critical that we use the next 4 years to bring many more citizens to the table and keep them involved in our local politics for years to come. Our government functions the best when everyone is watching and our government has the transparency to let everyone see what is going on in real time.

    • It’s too bad the citizens didn’t step forward on Novmber 8 and vote out Sharon Bronson so the board could actually provide oversite and direction for Pima County. We are stuck with Chuck for another four years Reign of Corruption.

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