a different kind of coffee break with Gerry and Ray Coffey

Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition


Genetically Engineered Foods


[See also: Occupy Monsanto - May 28, 2013]

On Saturday, October 26th, 2002, I was arrested for passing out fact sheets on Genetically Engineered food and inviting people to sign petitions requesting mandatory labeling of food with GE ingredients, and became the unwitting participant in an event that MIGHT, if enough people get behind it, have repercussions that could:

1. Educate the masses to the potential dangers in unknowingly consuming genetically engineered food that is in 60% of the food they buy at their favorite grocery store.

2. Effect the removal of genetically engineered foods in major store-brand foods.

3. Initiate a voters' referendum to mandate labeling of ALL Genetically Engineered Foods.

I hope you will read the following, and if you think it prudent, pass it on to whomever might benefit from it. My hope is enough will embrace this an opportunity to unite the MIGHT of people throughout the world to change things for the better.

If enough of us let our politicians and corporations know we will patronize ONLY those stores who listen to consumers' demand for genetically-free-store brands, plus labeling of ALL others that contain GMOs, we WILL EFFECT CHANGE.

Following is the Press version of what happened, along with comments from others and my responses.

Gerry Coffey, Wife/Mother/Grandmother/Health Educator/Councilor/Public Relations Officer

Grandmoms arrested at supermarket
By Scott Parrott
DAILY Staff Writer
[email protected]  

Two grandmothers arrested outside a Decatur supermarket said they planned to collect petition signatures and distribute leaflets for their cause but never expected to face trespass charges.

Decatur police arrested Gerry Coffey, 62, and Jean Tune, 79, Saturday in the Kroger parking lot on Beltline Road Southwest after the women refused to leave the property.

"I thought I was performing a good deed for the public," said Coffey, of Decatur. "I didn't realize how serious it was until we were in the back of the police car and the officer called in and said, 'I'm bringing in two Caucasian females, one born in 1923.' "

Police charged Coffey and Tune with misdemeanor third-degree trespassing. They released the women later Saturday on recognizance. Each woman said it was her first time to be arrested.

The two advocates for natural foods could now face fines. "I believe in this so strongly that I stifled my inhibitions and did it," Coffey said of her petitioning.

In an e-mail to Kroger, Coffey identified herself as health educator, councilor and public relations officer of Mothers and Concerned Others, and a member of Vegetarian Union of North America and International Vegetarian Union.

The women said they and three other members of Mothers and Concerned Others were trying to raise consumer awareness of genetically engineered and modified foods. These are "Frankenstein foods," according to a press release to local media.

Many products on most supermarket shelves include genetically engineered food. The food is modified to increase nutritional quality, or boost crop yields by making it drought and pest resistant.

Opponents, such as Coffey and Tune, say the food could cause allergic reactions in humans or pollute the environment by cross-pollinating with natural varieties. Coffey and Tune, who identifies herself as an environmentalist, said they were helping Greenpeace during a national petition drive, the Supermarket Campaign Week of Action.

They hope to get supermarket chains to remove genetically engineered ingredients from store-br and products and ultimately the entire chain. They would also like the federal government to require labeling on such food products.

"I feel like I grew up in the best of worlds, and my grandchildren are growing up in the worst of worlds. I'm tired of taxpayers being totally ignored," said Tune, of Priceville.

Send letters to the editor to: [email protected]  

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612
[email protected]  




Court watchers, picketers to join women for trial
By Scott Parrott
DAILY Staff Writer
[email protected] � 340-2441

Two women arrested while collecting petition signatures outside a Decatur supermarket will appear in court for trial Thursday, possibly joined by picketers and court watchers.

Gerry Coffey, 62, and Jean Tune, 79, were each charged with misdemeanor third-degree trespassing after they refused to leave the Kroger parking lot on Beltline Road Southwest on Oct. 26.

The natural-food advocates said they hope picketers and court watchers will join them when they appear before Judge Billy Cook in Decatur Municipal Court at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"Maybe if grandmothers unite, people will realize we have experience and wisdom, and know what we're talking about," Coffey said.

Collecting signatures

The women said they were collecting petition signatures and distributing leaflets to shoppers about the risks of genetically engineered food when police arrested them.

Their arrest garnered national attention, including spots on radio talk shows and support from the environmental organization Greenpeace. The women pleaded innocent to the charges.

Supporters have issued a nationwide call for picketers to bring signs and leftover New Year's noisemakers, and for court watchers to bring notepads, pens, tape recorders and cameras to the trial.

Following the trial, the picketers will march around City Hall and the Kroger parking lot.

Officer Mike Cowart, a police spokesman, said people can march at City Hall as long as the situation remains under control.

"But Kroger is private property and they can have them put in jail," Cowart said.

The women want supermarket chains to remove genetically engineered ingredients from store-brand products and ultimately the entire chain.

They also want the federal government to require labeling on genetically engineered food products, or "Frankenstein Foods."

Genetically engineered food is created by inserting genes from other organisms into crops such as corn, canola, soy and cotton to make the crops resistant to herbicides and pests.

Opponents argue that the altered food can cause novel food toxins, allergies, increased toxic pesticide and environmental pollution.

Coffey of Decatur and Tune of Priceville were participating in a national supermarket campaign led by GE-Free Markets Coalition and Greenpeace.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612
[email protected]




Thursday January 9, 2003

Judge convicts food-protest grandmas
Decatur women to appeal fines for trespassing at Kroger to distribute leaflets
against genetically engineered products

By Eric Fleischauer
DAILY Staff Writer
[email protected] � 340-2435

Two Decatur grandmothers now have a criminal record.

Decatur's city judge found Jean Tune, 79, and Gerry Coffey, 62, guilty of misdemeanor trespassing because of their refusal to leave a Kroger parking lot Oct. 26. They were in the parking lot distributing leaflets that described the dangers of genetically modified food.

The conviction did not seem to concern the two women.

Coffey's husband, Ray Coffey, said he is proud of his wife.

"Now she's a certified activist," he said.

Municipal Judge Billy Cook said he based his ruling not on what the women were communicating, but on the fact that they would not leave private property when told to do so.

"I think you were compelled by law to move to a lawful place. I'm not making a judgment about your message," Cook said.

$50 fines, no court costs

He fined each woman $50, and did not charge them for court costs.

Attorney Greg Reeves, who represented Tune and Coffey without cost, said he will appeal the ruling. He must file appeal papers by Jan. 23. An appeal would automatically give the defendants a new trial in Morgan County Circuit Court � with a right to a jury.

Police arrested the women Oct. 26 in the parking lot of Kroger on Beltline Road Southeast. The women refused to leave the parking lot when an assistant manager ordered them off.

Coffey said she had hoped that more people would turn out to protest the prosecution today.

"I was a little disappointed that more people didn't show up, but I understand. Who wants to get out of bed for a 7 a.m. trial in the middle of the winter?" Coffey said.

Reeves argued that the First Amendment right to free speech protected the women from prosecution even though they were on private property.

"They were not raising a ruckus. In our country, political action has always been given preference. This involves political speech. That is sacred in this country, even over trespassing," Reeves told the court.

Cook did not permit Coffey or Tune to testify about their reasons for distributing leaflets because he deemed their message irrelevant.

No witnesses from Kroger appeared at the hearing. Neither side presented evidence on who owns the parking lot, which the business shares with Kmart and several other businesses.

Fine due Feb. 7

Cook gave the women until Feb. 7 to pay the fine.

When they were arrested, Tune and Coffey were collecting signatures and distributing leaflets in conjunction with a national supermarket campaign led by GE-Free Markets Coalition and Greenpeace. The groups want to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Most European countries already require such labeling.

Coffey said she and Tune were the only women arrested for the effort in the United States. The arrests gained national attention, including spots on radio talk shows and support from Greenpeace.

"I saw nothing wrong with telling Kroger shoppers that 60 percent of the processed food they buy contains genetically engineered ingredients. I had no idea Kroger management would have us arrested for telling the truth about their food," Coffey said.

Asked whether she understood that she had a duty to leave the parking lot when asked to do so, Tune said she had a higher duty.

"I think it is my duty to do this because people need to be informed," Tune said.

Some examples of foods that Greenpeace said include genetically modified ingredients are baby formula and teething biscuits, pancake mixes, chocolate products, most bread, most breakfast cereals, many brands of cookies, many crackers, most pastas, most frozen pizzas, potato chips, almost all canned sodas and most major-brand soups.

Environmental and health groups claim that genetically engineered foods have not been adequately tested for safety. They also argue that accidental cross-pollination with unmodified crops could damage or destroy species of natural crops.

Monsanto Corp., the largest producer of genetically modified foods, has said that the foods create no additional health risks. The company says in its Web site that the genetic modifications it makes on crops are no more dangerous than the selective breeding of plants and animals that farmers have performed for years.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612
[email protected]




Kroger drops charges against grandmothers

By Eric Fleischauer
DAILY Staff Writer
[email protected] � 340-2435

Two grandmothers convicted of trespassing while they distributed leaflets about genetically engineered foods did not have to go to trial Monday because Kroger dropped all charges.

Municipal Judge Billy Cook convicted Gerry Coffey, 62, and Jean Tune, 80, both of Decatur, of trespassing on the Kroger parking lot on Beltline Road Southwest. Coffey and Tune appealed the decision to Morgan County Circuit Court and were scheduled to start the trial Monday.

Attempts to contact Kroger officials about why they dropped the charges were unsuccessful.

Coffey said she was nervous about the trial, but is disappointed it did not go forward. She hoped the trial would be a forum for educating people about the danger of genetically engineered food.

Coffey and Tune distributed the leaflets in October in conjunction with an information drive by GE-Free Markets Coalition and Greenpeace. Kroger, they said, is a major retailer of unlabeled genetically engineered foods.

"At the end I was hoping to go to trial. I prepared myself, even if I would have to go to jail," Coffey said.

The women's attorney, Greg Reeves, said his clients' conviction will not be on their record.

"There should not be a record of a conviction. Now, with that said, I don't think that there is any way to 'erase' an arrest," Reeves said.

Cook fined the women $50 each and waived court costs.

Greenpeace claims numerous foods, including infant foods like teething biscuits and formula, contain genetically engineered ingredients. Bakeries like Holsum, Pepperidge Farms, Thomas and Wonder Bread use genetically engineered ingredients, according to Greenpeace.

A study by the American Medical Association determined there was no need for special labeling rules for genetically engineered foods, but the British Medical Association came to a different conclusion.

Can't evaluate risks

While the AMA study found no short-term health risk from genetically engineered foods, the study determined it could not evaluate long-term risks.

Advocates for special labeling of genetically engineered foods note that the European Union, Japan, Australia and other countries require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

A bill pending in Congress, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2003, would require labeling of all genetically modified foods.

A leader in the fight against genetically engineered foods is Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety. An attorney for the organization, Joe Mendelson, said the primary concern about genetically engineered foods is the lack of testing.

New allergens

"There are a number of health risks associated with genetically engineered food. The first is a concern that you may create new allergens. These foods create new proteins that have never before been in the food supply. We don't know if those new proteins cause allergies. It also may exacerbate a known allergen," Mendelson said.

"There is also the possibility of creating novel toxic components. Potatoes and tomatoes have low levels of toxins; there is a concern that genetic engineering could increase those levels.

Reduces nutrition

Mendelson said studies have shown that genetic engineering can reduce the nutritional value of some foods.

"You also have the issue of antibiotic resistance. Most of these plants use marker genes, which are genes engineered into the plant. Most marker genes are resistant to antibiotics. ... The issue is, if you consistently put this into your gut, whether it's going to create a problem when you go to use regular antibiotics," Mendelson said.

Mendelson said the risks of genetically engineered foods are greater than that created by most foods refined through traditional breeding.

"In the past, you might be breeding a corn plant with a corn plant. The proteins from the new corn plant have been in the food supply for a long time," Mendelson said.

"There is a little risk with traditional breeding, but we are talking compatible species. We're not putting in genetic material that's never been in the plant before. Certainly traditional breeding doesn't have antibiotic genes in it," Mendelson said.

Coffey may avoid private parking lots now, but she said she is more determined than ever to spread the word about genetically engineered foods.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612
[email protected]

Some of the correspondence we had:
See the other letters under separate titles on:

Genetically Engineered Foods

From: European Vegetarian Union:

Well done, Gerry. Can I use that for my channels? Also your comments?



Reply from Gerry

If it will help your efforts in Europe, you certainly may, Herma. And please forward any responses you might get from your side of the "pond," as your supermarkets and elected officials have already set a fine example for us to follow.

Nice to hear from you again. I've been so busy I've had to drop a lot of things so am quite behind in what's going on in your area.


In a message dated 10/26/02 9:40:51 PM Pacific Standard Time:

Who's running America?" is a good question, Bob.

I came right smack up against that a few hours ago.

Basically an introvert and a coward, there have been a few times in my life when I have reluctantly been forced to be brave, and today was one of them. I stood up to Authority by taking part in the following, and ended up being arrested:

GERRY--Interesting. What charges for the arrest?

Trespassing on private property.

Being a novice at this, I assumed calling and speaking to the manager 3 times (he was very amenable and said he, too, would be concerned if he were feeding his family genetically engineered food without his knowledge) was sufficient for our undertaking.

He gave me the name and phone numbers of Kroger people in Huntsville, and Atlanta and I spoke with all of them and emailed them the Press Release (below) outlining our plans:

* To pass out literature on Genetically Engineered Foods

* Request people sign a petition for mandatory labelling

* And request to meet with store management to see about eliminating GE ingredients in store brand products. (As has been successfully done by other store chains who care about consumer satisfaction.)

I assumed that was all that was necessary.

It wasn't.

We were told by the Assistant Manager (the Manager with whom I'd originally spoken was not there) we had no authority to be there (outside in the parking lot) and were commanded to leave.

We refused.

We all have busy lives, and a great deal of time and out-of-pocket money had been spent in preparing for and then taking part in this National Supermarket Campaign...


I searched a found a Kroger website. I sent them an email, asking for them to make public apology.


ps: Following is the Kroger Customer Comments website for those interested: 

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