Monsanto has been patenting (literally) garden varieties of fruits and vegetables like cucumber, melons, and broccoli in Europe. True, they're not patenting them in the U.S. (yet!), but anyone who wants to grow these things -- be they other big corporations and small farmers trying to make a living, or you and I trying to grow a few things in our backyards -- will have to deal with the European patents. How does a corporation become so presumptuous as to patent everyday food seeds? Actually, I could have asked that question without the last six words. Avaaz helps you tell European nations to close loopholes in their patent laws that allow big corporations to patent conventional fruit and vegetable seeds. Almost two million people have answered this call so far; if world public opinion is, as Mr. Chomsky says, the world's other superpower, should we not prevail?
Meanwhile, the League of Conservation Voters helps you tell the ten largest retailers in America to keep products with toxic chemicals away from their stores and their consumers. Big task? Hey, we're Americans; we dream big. And your shampoo could well have carcinogens in it, your T-shirt could have formaldehyde in it keeping it wrinkle-free, and don't even get me started on what ineffective flame-retardants might be in your couch. We ask a lot not merely because asking a lot gets you more; we ask a lot because some of these big retailers might not be aware of all the crap that's in their products. Hey, we don't go to the store with a thousand-page list, and the big retailers are made up of people, so they may not know, either. If they do, of course, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. But if they don't, we might as well let them know.
In other news, you may have heard about that Denver-to-Baltimore United flight from February that suddenly diverted to Chicago for "security concerns" -- namely, a pair of parents who didn't want their four- and eight-year-olds to have to watch the movie Alex Cross, which, like a lot of PG-13 films, has a generous helping of violence, bad language, and nudity in it. We wouldn't be talking about this if a) we weren't able to subtract 4 and 8 from 13 and b) it wasn't shown on overhead movie screens. I've taken a dozen flights over the years where I not only had my own video screen, but the choice of half a dozen different movies; United has to ask if their one-size-fits-all approach really works. And I insist that parents have the right to protect their kids from entertainment too adult for them, and if you feel the same, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has an action alert for you.
Finally, if you've missed previous opportunities to tell the Securities and Exchange Commission to require disclosure of publicly-traded corporate campaign spending, then People for the American Way provides another one. The SEC, as you know, regulates stock and securities trading. When a corporation decides to spend money on a politician's campaign, it's not spending its own money so much as it's spending its investors' money -- its shareholders' money, in other words. So why shouldn't shareholders know how the corporations are spending their money? Maybe the shareholders are fine with it, but maybe not, and they ought to have a say in that. The SEC listens to a lot of big corporate CEOs who think they have the right to spend anyone's money however they feel like, so they won't listen to us unless a lot of us speak up. And even if we don't own stock, we ought to speak up.