Monsanto going forward with project in Pima County despite protests

Updated: Feb. 21, 2017 at 3:48 PM MST
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MARANA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Protesters gathered on the steps of the county complex in downtown Tucson chanting "Monsanto must go."

The protest was held prior to a meeting of the Pima County Board of Supervisors which was scheduled to vote on a tax incentive package in connection with Monsanto being gr anted Free Trade Zone Status in connection with an experimental corn greenhouse being built near Marana.

There was no vote, however. Monsanto pulled its application for the tax incentives last week even though the Commerce Department will still decide on the Free Trade Zone status for its project.

Even though the items were pulled from the county agenda and the county had no reason to vote, several Monsanto opponents used the call to the audience to express their dismay at the company and to continue their battle.

"Our goal is to support Pima County to keep Monsanto out of Pima County and Arizona," said the Executive Director of Moms Across America, Zen Honeycutt, who drove 11 hours from California to attend the meeting. "We do not want them to expand anywhere."

Even though the county has no authority to keep the company from building, it allowed the protesters an hour at the microphone.

"We remain open to listening to our constituents," said District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias, who is opposed to the project.

He also said there may be a reason to hope for the protesters.

"Monsanto themselves admitted last week that they're not sure the project is going to continue on here in Pima County," he said.

However, Monsanto disputes that and in an email said:  "We are committed and excited to be a part of Pima County, and to partner with the community with this greenhouse that combines Arizona's climate with our sustainable practices to help produce seeds that will help farmers around the world. We are committed to being a good neighbor and are committed to continuing to engage in constructive dialogue, invest and partner with the community regardless of the Foreign Trade Zone proposal."

The company said it will move ahead with the project.

Still, Elias says that is not guaranteed.

"I've seen other offerings from them that they're considering what they're going to do," he said.

However, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said he has seen nothing that would indicate a change of plans.

"We've not heard any thoughts or comments from them with regard to not building what they originally indicated they were going to build on the site," he said.

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