WASHINGTON, DC, May 25, 2013 – The Washington DC March Against Monsanto was just one of some 250 protests around the world, but it featured the unique attraction of marching between two key seats of power: the White House and Monsanto headquarters.
Protestors numbered in the several hundreds, if not thousands, armed with signs showing their anger over the actions of the biotech giant and the failure of Congress to approve legislation toward the labeling of genetically modified food.
“Give it a label if you’re going to bring it to the table,” went one of the chants.
If 60 other countries, and most industrialized countries, don’t let genetically modified food go without labels, why should the U.S., asked the speakers.
The international movement to March Against Monsanto gained momentum after last Thursday’s failed attempt by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) to repeal the measure known as the Monsanto Protection Act.
“March Against Monsanto” is a grass roots effort to broadcast the dangers posed by genetically modified food, identifying the food giants that are creating it.
Founder and organizer Tami Canal said protests were held in 436 cities in 52 countries. Reports are that more than two millions persons were out marching against Monsanto.
Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply.
Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified.
But some say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment. The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years; with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.
In Washington, a placard featuring a smiling yellow ear of corn tucked into a fish’s body led the charge. On its hybrid body, high above the crowd, were the words “Label GMO Food.”
Some protestors wore red or dressed like bees, and many of the signs and comments by speakers addressed the problem of the dwindling bee population in the opening rally at the White House and the concluding rally at Monsanto headquarters.
Chemical agents, including Agent Orange in the 1960s and, more recently synthetic sweeteners, were targeted in comments and in posters.
On a sunny, breezy afternoon following a cold snap that shifted the nation’s capital from summer-like weather back to the feeling of early spring, the event brought together a diverse group.
Among the throngs were concerned parents and their children, anarchists, Veterans for Peace, farmers, healthcare providers, and a whole lot of people united in their passion against the actions of the company and for transparency.
They demanded labels for foods that have been modified and for a closing of the revolving door that allows people with ties to big agriculture to take positions of power that rewards it with privileges.
Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, said Saturday that it respects people’s rights to express their opinion on the topic, but maintains that its seeds improve agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources such as water and energy.
The Food and Drug Administration does not require genetically modified foods to carry a label, but organic food companies and some consumer groups have intensified their push for labels, arguing that the modified seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating traditional crops.
A growing network of consumers who are wary of processed and modified foods has bolstered the groups.
The Senate this week overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization, a lobbying group that represents Monsanto, DuPont & Co. and other makers of genetically modified seeds, has said that it supports voluntary labeling for people who seek out such products.
But it says that mandatory labeling would only mislead or confuse consumers into thinking the products aren’t safe; even though the FDA has said there’s no difference between GMO and organic, non-GMO foods.
Vermont and Connecticut state legislatures have moved forward with demands that food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages.
Supermarket retailer Whole Foods Markets Inc. has said that all products in its North American stores that contain genetically modified ingredients will be labeled as such by 2018, continuing that non-GMO food is becoming a demand amongst their consumers with sales of products with a “Non-GMO” verification label spiking between 15 percent and 30 percent.
Protest organizers, who have made it their mission to protect the food supply from further contamination, said they would be present for the third year running at Monsanto’s shareholders’ meeting in January 2014.~ Associated Press contributed to this story
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