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Nonsanto: A Month Without Monsanto

When I first heard about April Davila's quest to live without Monsanto for a month, I thought she was doing something noble in a public setting. But would it really be that hard? As a locavore, I pride myself on purchasing my produce from farmer's markets, so couldn't she just do the same? When we decided to meet, I soon realized that my arrogant assumptions had enough hot air to heat a compost bin.

After many attempts to find a place to meet, we settled on having organic herbal tea at a local coffee shop. She greeted me in her new wardrobe. No, she's isn't an Angeleno fashionista. Rather, Monsanto owns most cotton seeds, so she had to purchase clothes and shoes made from other sources. April is plain and soft-spoken -- I wouldn't pick her to stand with a bull-horn outside of a McDonald's protest. Despite her demeanor, her month without Monsanto was her own small, but very impactful way of positively affecting our food system.

April wasn't a food activist before she saw Food, Inc. She's a scientist, writer and mom who was a conscious food consumer, but hadn't let it define her life. After seeing the film, she started reading more about Monsanto and was disturbed by an article about the possible harmful kidney and liver effects of the company's genetically modified corn. She decided to go Monsanto-free for a month after casually mentioning it to a friend who challenged her to do it (and this friend was critical in helping her succeed as the volume of research became more than a full-time job).

April's life radically changed from shopping at farmer's markets and purchasing organic products at supermarkets to one where she was tracking the source of every seed of everything she ingested and wore. She was caught flat footed when she began her journey as she didn't realize the extent of the company's reach. Her first few days consisted of wild fish and seaweed because she couldn't confirm anything about the company (she nearly gave up at this point). She learned that Monsanto controls many, many seeds and seed subsidiaries and even owns major organic seed companies (e.g. Western Seed). She switched to heirloom-only produce (non-Monsanto) and started contacting companies and their suppliers about their seed sources. She received responses from CEOs who did their own research on their seed sources (for example, Lundberg rice and certain Annie's macaroni and cheese were confirmed to be non-Monsanto). Farmers might not be aware, even if they grow organic, because they order from seed distributors who don't list their sources.