March Against Monsanto

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March Against Monsanto, Vancouver, Canada; May 25, 2013

The March Against Monsanto is an international grassroots movement as well as a protest against the Monsanto corporation and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).[1]

The movement was founded by Tami Canal in response to the failure of California Proposition 37, a ballot initiative that would have required labeling food products made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Advocates support mandatory labeling laws for food made from GMOs and oppose what they and others call the "Monsanto Protection Act", a policy rider found in the Farmer Assurance Provision.[2][3]

The initial march took place on May 25, 2013. The number of protesters who took part is uncertain; figures of "hundreds of thousands"[4] and the organizers' estimate of "two million"[5] were variously cited. Events took place in between 330[3] and 436[5] cities around the world, mostly in the United States.[3][6][7] Canal said that the movement would continue its "anti-GMO cause" beyond the initial event,[5] and a second march occurred on October 12, 2013.[8] A third march is planned for 24 May 2014.[9]

GMO controversy and Monsanto[edit]

Monsanto, headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri, is the largest producer of genetically engineered seed. Monsanto has been involved in high-profile lawsuits, as both plaintiff and defendant, and its current and former biotechnology products, its lobbying of government agencies, and its history as a chemical company have made it a controversial corporation.[10] In the United States, the majority of corn, soybean, and cotton is genetically modified.

Prior to the march, Monsanto's CEO Hugh Grant had accused opponents of genetically modified foods of wanting to block others from choosing more affordable food options, thus being guilty of "elitism".[11][12]

Advocacy groups such as Greenpeace,[13] The Non-GMO Project, and the Organic Consumers Association say that risks of GM food have not been adequately identified and managed, and they have questioned the objectivity of regulatory authorities. They have expressed concerns about the objectivity of regulators and the rigor of the regulatory process, about contamination of the non-GM food supply, about effects of GMOs on the environment and nature, and about the consolidation of control of the food supply in companies that make and sell GMOs.

There is, however, broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk than conventional food.[14][15][16][17][18][19] No reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from GM food.[20][21][22] Although labeling of genetically modified organism (GMO) products in the marketplace is required in many countries, it is not required in the United States and no distinction between marketed GMO and non-GMO foods is recognized by the US FDA.[23]

Origin of the protests[edit]

California Proposition 37[edit]

Proposition 37 was a California ballot measure that would have required labeling of genetically engineered food, with some exceptions. It would also have prohibited labeling such food as "natural".[24]

Founder Tami Canal, March Against Monsanto, Salt Lake City, Utah

March Against Monsanto was created by Tami Monroe Canal. Canal was residing in California when Proposition 37 was on the ballot in November 2012. According to the Epoch Times, "Canal began the project as a Facebook page on Feb. 28, and says her anger was sparked by California’s Proposition 37 campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The measure failed, but the fight gave her a clearer picture of GMOs, Monsanto, and the food manufacturers who spent $45 million to defeat the initiative."[12] Monsanto spent $8.1 million successfully opposing the passage of Proposition 37, making it the largest donor against the initiative.[25]

Soon after, Canal moved to Utah where she had difficulty finding the same kinds of fresh foods and farmers' markets she had left behind in California. "I became increasingly angry every time I would go to the grocery store and spend a small fortune to ensure I wasn't feeding my family poison", she recalled, referring to her two daughters.[12][26] Talking about her personal motivations for starting the movement, Canal told the Salt Lake City Weekly, "Companies like Kellogg's and General Mills are putting things like Fruit Loops on the market that are basically 100 percent genetically engineered ingredients. And that's marketed to our kids."[26]

The Farmer Assurance Provision[edit]

Further information: Farmer Assurance Provision

The protest was also motivated by President Barack Obama's signing, on March 26, 2013, of the Farmer Assurance Provision, which is Section 735 of US H.R. 933.[2] The section of the bill is called the "Monsanto Protection Act" by critics, and it authorizes the United States Department of Agriculture to allow the planting and cultivation of genetically modified food while environmental reviews are being completed, even if there is a legal ruling against their approval.[3][27] Independent US Senator Bernie Sanders attempted, unsuccessfully, to introduce Senate Amendment 965 to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, legislation that would require labeling of GM food products. Sanders criticized Monsanto for its opposition to his initiative, saying that Monsanto and other biotech companies "were able to gather a whole lot of support in the Senate".[28]

Prior to the march, the March Against Monsanto group hosted an essay on their website highlighting what they saw as lack of attention to the Act in the mainstream media.[29] Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now!, called the controversy over H.R. 933 "the turning point in the debate on political lobbying and genetic engineering in the U.S." and he described the March Against Monsanto as raising "one of the most pressing issues of our time".[30]

Social media campaign[edit]

Canal started a Facebook social media campaign on February 28, 2013. She stated: "For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism ... Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world's food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup." She argued that Monsanto benefited from corporate subsidies and political favoritism and that its patent rights over the genetic makeup of seeds resulted in losses to small and organic farmers.[31] Activists Emilie Rensink and Nick Bernabe worked with Canal to promote the march on various social media sites.[31]

By May 21, the Facebook page had attracted 85,000 members with approximately 110,000 "likes" and about 40,000 daily visitors.[32][33]

May 2013 protests[edit]

Protest signs from the March Against Monsanto, Stockholm, Sweden

On May 25, 2013, demonstrations protesting genetically modified crops took place around the world. Events took place in between 330[3] and 436[5] cities around the world, mostly in the United States.[3][6][7] The number of protesters who took part is uncertain; figures of "hundreds of thousands"[4] and the organizers' estimate of "two million"[5] were variously cited.

In Southern California, protests occurred in Los Angeles, including Venice, Long Beach, and San Diego. In Los Angeles, protesters marched from Pershing Square to City Hall. Some carried signs expressing support for mandatory labeling of GMOs that read "Label GMOs, It's Our Right to Know", and "Real Food 4 Real People". Dorothy Muehlmann, organizer of the L.A. march, said that they were marching to raise awareness. "This is not just a 'boo Monsanto' protest. We want more people to know so they can make their own decisions."[6][28][34]

Environmental journalist John Upton of Grist magazine noted that the march took place two days after Senate Amendment 965, introduced by US Senator Bernie Sanders in an attempt to allow states to label GMO foods, was rejected. "Any U.S. senators paying attention to what was happening in the entire world over the weekend may have noticed a teensy disconnect between their protectionist votes for Monsanto and global discontent with the GMO giant," Upton wrote.[35]

March Against Monsanto, Washington, DC

Positions[edit]

The March Against Monsanto published a list of concerns and its positions on a number of GMO issues on its website. According to the group, the protests were held to address health and safety issues, perceived conflicts of interest, and agricultural, environmental, and legislative concerns.[36]

The marchers expressed the belief that GM foods can adversely affect human health,[37][38] with some of the protesters asserting that such foods cause cancer, infertility, and birth defects.[39] Protesters also asserted that GMOs might harm the environment, and play a role in declining bee populations.[40]

The protesters argued that the Farmer Assurance Provision legislation allows Monsanto to ignore court rulings,[41][42] and have called for the bill's repeal.[43] They believe that the legislation has drawn what they call "a blurry line between industry and government".[12][44]

They also believe that there has been a conflict of interest between former employees of Monsanto who work for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that Monsanto has used their patent rights to create a monopoly of the food supply which has resulted in economic losses by small farmers. Activist and journalist Emilie Rensink, who helped organize the march, said that in her view the appointment of ex-Monsanto executives to head the FDA has resulted in political favoritism, including Monsanto subsidies which have given them an unfair advantage over small farmers. Organizer Canal points to Michael Taylor, a lawyer who has spent the last few decades moving between Monsanto and the FDA and USDA, saying that she believes that US food regulatory agencies are so deeply embedded with Monsanto that it's useless to attempt to affect change through governmental channels.[12]

Media coverage[edit]

March Against Monsanto in Amsterdam

The protests were reported on by news outlets including ABC News,[45] the Associated Press,[5] The Washington Post,[46] The Los Angeles Times,[6] USA Today,[5] and CNN[28] (in the United States), and Russia Today[47] and The Guardian[1] (outside the United States).

No major media outlets in the US provided live coverage of the event. AlterNet expressed the opinion that mainstream coverage of the event was "sparse", and it criticized what it characterized as "the mainstream media's decision to ignore thousands of people marching down the nation's busiest thoroughfares".[48] Radio host Thom Hartmann compared what he saw as scant coverage of the protests, which he attributed to the media avoiding topics that might make their advertisers appear in a negative light, to the greater media attention garnered by small Tea Party rallies.[49]

Monsanto and industry response[edit]

Monsanto said that it respected people's rights to express their opinion on the topic, but maintained that its seeds improved agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources, such as water and energy.[5] The company reiterated that genetically engineered foods were safe and improved crop yields.[50] Similar sentiments were expressed by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, of which Monsanto is a member.[51][52]

October 2013 protests[edit]

A second protest was organized and held on October 12, 2013. The group Occupy Monsanto estimated that over 400 marches were held worldwide,[8] with other reports estimating participation at 500 events in 50 different countries.[53] The October march was scheduled to coincide with World Food Day,[53] and came after Monsanto executives had been awarded the World Food Prize;[54] the Des Moines, Iowa protest on October 12 took place in front of the World Food Prize building to oppose this award.[55] Monsanto commented on the protests with a statement reasserting the safety of genetically modified food.[56]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Associated Press, 25 May 2013 in The Guardian. Millions march against GM crops
  2. ^ a b "Boulder residents participate in worldwide March Against Monsanto". Boulder Daily Camera. 26 May 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Quick, David (26 May 2013). "More than 100 participate in Charleston’s March Against Monsanto, one of 300+ in world on Saturday". The Post and Courier. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b Amy Harmon for the New York Times. July 27, 2013 A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Protesters Around the World March Against Monsanto". USA Today. Associated Press. 26 May 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Xia, Rosanna (28 May 2013). "Hundreds in L.A. march in global protest against Monsanto, GMOs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Umstrittener Gen-Konzern: Weltweite Proteste gegen Monsanto". Der Spiegel. 26 May 2013. [English translation via Google Translate. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  8. ^ a b CBC News: Hundreds march against GM giant Monsanto in Vancouver. October 12, 2013.
  9. ^ March Against Monsanto planning site for May 2014 actions Accessed December 21, 2013
  10. ^ Forbes: The Planet Versus Monsanto. Robert Langreth and Matthew Herper. December 31, 2009.
  11. ^ Murray, Ryan (8 June 2013). "Backlash growing against GMOs". Daily Inter Lake. McClatchy-Tribune Regional News. Retrieved 18 June 2013; Milner, Conan (21 May 2013)
  12. ^ a b c d e "Protests Against Monsanto in 55 Countries". The Epoch Times. Retrieved 18 June 2013.  For the original Bloomberg interview, see: Kaskey, Jack (15 May 2013). "Monsanto Sees 'Elitism' in Social Media-Fanned Opposition". Bloomberg. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  13. ^ "Say no to genetic engineering". Greenpeace. 
  14. ^ American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Board of Directors (2012). Legally Mandating GM Food Labels Could Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers
  15. ^ A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001-2010) (PDF). Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Biotechnologies, Agriculture, Food. European Union. 2010. doi:10.2777/97784. ISBN 978-92-79-16344-9. ""The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies." (p. 16)" 
  16. ^ Ronald, Pamela (2011). "Plant Genetics, Sustainable Agriculture and Global Food Security". Genetics 188 (1): 11–20. doi:10.1534/genetics.111.128553. PMC 3120150. PMID 21546547. 
  17. ^ World Health Organization. Food safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Accessed December 22, 2012.
  18. ^ FAO, 2004. State of Food and Agriculture 2003–2004. Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. "Currently available transgenic crops and foods derived from them have been judged safe to eat and the methods used to test their safety have been deemed appropriate. These conclusions represent the consensus of the scientific evidence surveyed by the ICSU (2003) and they are consistent with the views of the World Health Organization (WHO, 2002). These foods have been assessed for increased risks to human health by several national regulatory authorities (inter alia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, the United Kingdom and the United States) using their national food safety procedures (ICSU). To date no verifiable untoward toxic or nutritionally deleterious effects resulting from the consumption of foods derived from genetically modified crops have been discovered anywhere in the world (GM Science Review Panel). Many millions of people have consumed foods derived from GM plants - mainly maize, soybean and oilseed rape - without any observed adverse effects (ICSU)."
  19. ^ Other sources:
  20. ^ American Medical Association (2012). Report 2 of the Council on Science and Public Health: Labeling of Bioengineered Foods "Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature." (first page)
  21. ^ United States Institute of Medicine and National Research Council (2004). Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects. National Academies Press. Free full-text. National Academies Press. pp R9-10: "In contrast to adverse health effects that have been associated with some traditional food production methods, similar serious health effects have not been identified as a result of genetic engineering techniques used in food production. This may be because developers of bioengineered organisms perform extensive compositional analyses to determine that each phenotype is desirable and to ensure that unintended changes have not occurred in key components of food."
  22. ^ Key S, Ma JK, Drake PM (June 2008). "Genetically modified plants and human health". J R Soc Med 101 (6): 290–8. doi:10.1258/jrsm.2008.070372. PMC 2408621. PMID 18515776. "+pp 292-293. "Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA."" 
  23. ^ Amy Harmon and Andrew Pollack for the New York Times. 24 May 2012 Battle Brewing Over Labeling of Genetically Modified Food
  24. ^ California Secretary of State, n.d. (29 October 2012). "Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling Initiative Statute". Voter Guide. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  25. ^ Vaughan, Adam (7 November 2012). "Prop 37: Californian voters reject GM food labelling". London: The Guardian. 
  26. ^ a b Peterson, Eric S. (29 May 2013). "SLC March Against Monsanto". Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  27. ^ National Public Radio: The Salt: Did Congress Just Give GMOs A Free Pass In The Courts? March 21, 2013.
  28. ^ a b c Tapper, Jake (28 May 2013). "Millions protest genetically modified food, Monsanto". The Lead with Jake Tapper. CNN. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  29. ^ Nick Bernabe for March against Monsanto. May 22, 2013 March Against Monsanto: How The March Against Monsanto Can (and will) Change The World
  30. ^ Murphy, Dave (28 May 2013). "Dave Murphy: The March to Stop Monsanto: Taking Back Our Food, Our Farms, Our Democracy and Our Planet". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  31. ^ a b "On the eve of March against Monsanto Senate shoots down GMO labeling bill". RT. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  32. ^ Taryn, Utiger (21 May 2013). "NZ urged to remain GE-free zone". Taranaki Daily News. p. 4. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  33. ^ Case, Philip (31 May 2013). "March Against Monsanto planned for UK cities". Farmers Weekly. 159(22):83. Web version published online 23 May 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  34. ^ "'March Against Monsanto' Draws As Many As 2 Million Globally, As Facebook And Twitter Once Again Show Social Media's Effectiveness As Organizing Tools". International Business Times. 25 May 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  35. ^ Upton, John (27 May 2013). (As world marches against Monsanto, senators protect it from labeling laws. Grist. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  36. ^ Staff, March Against Monsanto. April 2, 2013 March Against Monsanto Official Site: Why Do We March?
  37. ^ Blomberg, Lindsey (26 May 2013). "The March Against Monsanto." E–The Environmental Magazine. p. 9. ISSN 1046-8021
  38. ^ See GMO controversy for the scientific consensus.
  39. ^ Osborne, Hannah (24 May 2013). "Occupy Monsanto: UK Campaigners set to Target Genetically Modified Food". International Business Times. Retrieved July 2013. 
  40. ^ Nay, Amy. "Hundreds March Against Monsanto, Save Bees". KUTV. Retrieved August 13, 2013. 
  41. ^ "'Monsanto Protection Act' might be repealed in Senate". RT. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  42. ^ Lewis, Al (29 May 2013). "Monsanto Sows Seeds Of Protest". Fox Business Network. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  43. ^ "March Against Monsanto in Tampa, St. Pete". WFTS-TV. Scripps Media, Inc.
  44. ^ Eric S. Peterson for Salt Lake City News. May 29, 2013 SLC March Against Monsanto
  45. ^ Search Results for "March against Monsanto" - ABC News
  46. ^ "Monsanto protests around the world". The Washington Post. 25 May 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  47. ^ "Global march challenges Monsanto's dominance: TIMELINE". RT. 26 May 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  48. ^ Short, April M. (2 June 2013). "Worldwide Movement Against Monsanto Gaining Steam". AlterNet. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  49. ^ Hartmann, Thom (28 May 2013)."So Much For The Liberal Media". The Thom Hartmann Program. Talk Radio News Service. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  50. ^ Moayyed, Mava (27 May 2013). "Marching against genetic engineering". The Wellingtonian. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  51. ^ Perry, Brian (26 May 2013). "Protesters against GMOs, but Monsanto says crops are safe". The Maui News. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  52. ^ Hawaii Crop Improvement Association. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  53. ^ a b News Talk 980 CJME: Protestors march against Monsanto. October 12, 2013.
  54. ^ New York Times: Executive at Monsanto Wins Global Food Honor. June 19, 2013.
  55. ^ Des Moines Register: Marchers protest World Food Prize, Monsanto. October 12, 2013.
  56. ^ CTV: Hundreds around the world protest genetically modified organisms. October 13, 2013.

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