WASHINGTON — Some 2,000 dollar bills fluttered from the fifth-floor balcony of the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday, falling upon activists who shouted “Monsanto Money!,” while tossing piles of cash in the air and making snow angels in pools of the bills.
“The government is shut down, but you still have Monsanto lobbyists engaging with congressmembers,” said activist Ariel Vegosen of Occupy Monsanto, a group that regularly stages demonstrations against the controversial agriculture and biotech company. “We’re here today to say that’s not OK. Money shouldn’t dictate how Congress makes decisions.”
Capitol police arrested three of the 10 activists, who wore business clothes and wigs to pose as lobbyists from the fictional “Biotechnology Industry Awards Committee.” Adam Eidinger, one of those arrested, said that the tossed money would be collected by the others and used to pay bail if necessary.
Before throwing the bills, the activists walked around to various House and Senate offices to give “Monsanto Minion Awards” to members they accused of being too friendly with that company. They dropped off awards at the offices of Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
The two Democratic award recipients, Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), were chosen for a letter they sent asking the Food and Drug Administration to implement labeling guidelines for genetically modified food that the activists think are too lax. But those two senators’ offices were closed due to the government shutdown.
“We want the federal government to enact a mandatory labeling law” for genetically modified food, said activist Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association.
After the protest was over, Warren’s deputy press secretary, Matt Cournoyer, told HuffPost by email that the senator does in fact support mandatory labels.
“The prevalence of genetically engineered food products has increased dramatically in recent years, and Senator Warren has pushed the FDA to do its job and issue mandatory labeling rules,” Cournoyer said. “She has made clear that she believes markets are best when they are transparent and regulated with real mandatory rules — not only guidance — so that consumers can make informed decisions about products they purchase.”