a different kind of coffee break with Gerry and Ray Coffey

Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition

Grandmoms arrested at supermarket

Following are newspaper articles Regarding: Grandmothers' Arrest/Conviction/etc.

FYI: Visit EVENTS page for information about
April 28 � May 6, 2012
John and Ocean Robbins

Grandmoms arrested at supermarket

By Scott Parrott -DAILY Staff Writer
The Decatur Daily - News from the Tennessee Valley
[email protected] � 340-2441

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.

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
The Decatur Daily - News from the Tennessee Valley
[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]

Judge convicts food-protest grandmas

Decatur women to appeal fines for trespassing at Kroger to distribute leaflets
against genetically engineered products

Thursday January 9, 2003
By Eric Fleischauer
The Decatur Daily - News from the Tennessee Valley
[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, Staff Writer
The Decatur Daily
News from the Tennessee Valley
[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]

POSTSCRIPT: BY Gerry Coffey:

Genetically Engineered Agricultural Products
A recent article on CNN regarding women in their 70's checking the safety of America's food supply does not begin to put a dent in the real problem of correcting food safety nor does it address America's fat epidemic.

A lawsuit brought against 80 year-old Jean Tune and myself by KROGER Supermarket and the City of Decatur, AL, was unaccountably dropped last Friday.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I learned KROGER is engrossed in an ongoing attempt to buy out a large natural food chain (see below) that adamantly campaigns against Genetic Engineering.

I wonder if dropping our case might have something to do with the fact we two grandmothers' plight to educate consumers that 2/3rds of the food they buy contains untested, unlabeled Genetically Engineered Organisms which independent studies link with miscarriages, anemia, cancer, etc., generated a lot of media coverage?

I realize we are most likely regarded as a minute nuisance they wish to dismiss, but every little bit we can do might gradually make an impact.

We felt consumers should know that without their knowledge or consent they and their loved ones are are being used as human guinea pigs because 2/3rds of the food on their grocery store shelves contain untested, unlabeled genetically modified organisms. Moreover, the EPA and USDA are involved in this heinous deception.

Gerry Coffey, Wife/Mother/Grandmother/Health Educator/Concerned Citizen

Return to Articles

| Home Page | Advice | Articles | Links | Programs | Recipes | Love Letters | Resources | Who We Are | Words of Wisdom | Coffey Grounds Pictorial | Help & Volunteers Wanted |

Please feel free to write to us with your comments and questions [email protected]

This site is hosted and maintained by:
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation

Thank you for visiting
Since date.gif (991 bytes)