If you haven’t heard about Monsanto, you probably don’t care much about the environment and eating healthy.
While some farmers support Monsanto’s Round-Up ready seeds as a means to greater yielding crops, most people are deadly against manipulating the food supply to increase yields when safer, organic methods are proving more effective and sustainable for the long run.
While supporters of Monsanto point out that we have genetically manipulated the food supply since agricultural and animal husbandry practices began with genetic crosses, hybrids and fruits and vegetables that are more resistant to disease and grow in more varied climates, others feel that nature is fine just the way it is and needs no help from mankind.
Monsanto goes beyond producing new genetic varieties. Their GMO (genetically modified organism) corn has been reported to cause cancer and spontaneous abortions in rats and in cattle and preliminary reports warn that their bio-engineered crops that withstand high levels of weed destroying chemicals are actually encouraging the growth of super-weeds that are even more resistant, decreasing nutrients in the soil and even cross pollinating with organic seeds to produce hybrids that may weaken existing seed supplies, preventing seed savers from regrowing their own produce and actually putting them at risk of law suits from Monsanto for infringing on their patent rights.
While the data against Monsanto is not entirely conclusive, almost everyone agrees that GMO foods should be labeled and any risks associated with them should be made public and not kept hidden, and that the FDA needs to take greater precautions against allowing the foods on the market.
Hoping to put a yield, if not a stop on Monsanto’s produce, a local group of concerned citizens decided to host a March Against Monsanto rally and protest in Forsyth Park on May 25 at 2 p.m.
In addition to wanting clear labeling on GMO foods, March Against Monsanto wants the FDA to better regulate the company.
“The FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interest and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products,” states a representative of March Against Monsanto.
The protesters claim that the company’s overwhelming influence in agriculture across the globe ultimately hurts small scale and organic farmers by “pushing” their patented seeds on farmers and making the seeds infertile, so that farmers must repurchase new seed each growing season.
The march in Savannah started out small with about 100 people gathering around the fountain in Forsyth Park to listen to a music band playing The Age of Aquarius.
Many event participants dressed in seventies style clothing, reminiscent of Woodstock, with one sun burned man holding a sign that said, “Monsanto Kills” while smoking a cigarette.
To be fair he looked more like a homeless man who had been recruited to hold a sign and join the march, but there were a number of obese women with dyed hair, wearing thick make up sporting sun damaged skin, making one wonder if they were not aware of the dangers of these practices to ones health as well.
A man in loose fitting clothing and long flowing hair passed out free organic carrots and blueberries and a number of people stopped to sign a petition and pick up some free literature.
Many came to listen to the music and gaze at grown ups dressed as peas, peppers, a grim reaper, apple, crow and honey bee.
The event took place just as the organic food market began to close for the day at the south end of the park and hundreds gathered to play in volleyball and ultimate Frisbee tournaments.
In truth, much of the food we eat is loaded with pesticides and has been genetically modified by cross pollinating, grafting and breeding various plant stock to produce better tasting and better disease resistant plants to some degree of success and some failure, but never in such massive and politically supported ways as Monsanto, which is frightening enough even if the food is safe for human consumption.
The real fear is that Monsanto will force farmers to buy their GMO seeds and prevent anyone from growing their own without being sued for patent infringement.
While we might never know the full term effects of allowing Monsanto to go unchallenged until it is too late, growing your own produce, saving the seeds and growing your own organic food to keep and give away is definitely a kinder, gentler way to provide food for your table, and while the participants of the event seemed a bit too liberal/hippy for conservatives, they deserve a hand of applause for drawing attention to a problem which is going largely unmentioned in the news media.
While it is easy to dismiss the protest as political hype, there is ample evidence of companies out to earn a dollar and not caring at all what they do to people in the process. One has only to look at big tobacco companies, the make-up industry and manufacturers of food grade goods which are now shown to cause cancer and produce hormonal growth disruptions to figure out that one should err on the side of caution and encourage more people to publish unbiased scientific studies before allowing GMO foods into the market for pets or for humans.