Atlantans Join in Global March against Monsanto
By Cheyenne X, Staff Writer, and Gloria Tatum, Senior Staff Writer
(APN) ATLANTA — On Saturday, May 25, activists around the world united to March Against Monsanto, the company that, among other things, is pushing its genetically modified food products on US consumers, while threatening the global food supply.
Unbeknownst to many in the US, genetically modified foods have crept into most products sold at typical grocery stores; and despite evidence of serious health concerns, no labeling of the products as containing GMO ingredients is required.
Whole Foods Market is the first US grocery store chain to announce that it is phasing in a requirement for GMO or non-GMO labeling for all of its products by 2018. Already, the store is labeling hundreds of its products as verified non-GMO, alerting customers to the fact that non-verified products may or may not contain GMO ingredients.
Some ninety percent of soybeans grown in the US, for example, are GMO.
Organizers say two million people marched in protest against Monsanto in hundreds of rallies across the US and in over fifty other countries.
Here in Atlanta, activists gathered in Midtown’s Piedmont Park, where they marched the same weekend as Jazz Fest, thus bringing their message to thousands of festival attendees. Elsewhere throughout the US, activists held many of their protests at state capitols.
At least 670 protesters attended the march, according to Brian Sherman, a radio commentator on WRFG who frequently counts protesters at events.
APN has posted an original video of the event on our video section: http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/atlantas-anti-monsanto-rally-at-piedmont-park.html
As predicted by Atlanta Progressive News, there has been a near-complete media blackout of the protest, both nationally and locally, although the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an Associated Press story on the international protest.
Occupy Monsanto organized the national march and each state had a local organizer. Joseph Kned, a young, energetic organizer, led the Atlanta event.
According to the Occupy Monsanto website the march was organized to address several issues:
“Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects,” the website states.
“In the United States, 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 interests and explains the lack of government-lead [sic] research on the long-term effects of GMO products,” the website states.
“Recently, the U.S. Congress and president [sic] collectively passed the nicknamed ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds,” the website states.
“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,” the website states.
“Monsanto’s GMO seeds are harmful to the environment; for example, scientists have indicated they have caused colony collapse among the world’s bee population,” the website states.
In an interview with APN, Kned said, “I started helping to organize this even when I heard the disappointing news of the bill that was passed over two months ago,” likely referring to the so-called Monsanto Protection Act.
As previously reported by APN, the Monsanto Protection Act was a provision included in an appropriations bill, that would require the US Food and Drug Administration to continue to permit farmers who already have GMO seeds to continue to plant them, even if a court rules that the FDA should never have permitted the seeds in the first place.
“This bill hurts everyone because if there is a problem with GMOs then Monsanto cannot be sued in a court of law,” Kned said. To be sure, Monsanto can still be sued; however, the available remedies have been restricted under the provision. It is also possible the provision could be ruled unconstitutional in a future legal challenge because it interferes with separation of powers.
“To make it worse, the farmers have no ability to sue Monsanto for damages,” Kned said, apparently referring to a 2012 federal court decision, in which organic farmers were not able to preemptively sue Monsanto.
“And because of a previous rejected bill, now the states cannot regulate if they want to allow GMO products in their state or require labeling,” Kned said.
In the crowd, many chanted “We want labels, we want labels,” while others chanted “Save our seed.”
Monsanto has been busily buying up dozens of heirloom seed companies in an apparent attempt to make its GMO seeds the only ones available on the market. Because of a phenomenon known as wind, the GMO seeds have been spreading, thus threatening to displace the natural seeds.
Even though the rally was held at the start of Jazz Fest, everything went well. Parking issues delayed the event but protesters came coming.
The crowd at Jazz Fest seemed to be happy to see the many young faces concerned about our food supply.
Besides protesting the genetically-modified seeds and food products, protesters vowed to make the US Senate hear their voices.
On May 23, 2013, the US Senate rejected an amendment by US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to allow states require labels on foods made with modified ingredients. His amendment failed in a 71 to 27 vote.
Numerous states have already voted to require GMO labeling, even though it is not required federally, but states are currently blocked from setting standards stronger than the federal ones.
“An overwhelming majority of Americans favor GMO labeling but virtually all of the major biotech and food corporations in the country oppose it,” Sanders said in a statement.
“Today’s vote is a step forward on an important issue that we are going to continue to work on. The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what’s in the food that they eat,” he added.
US Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), meanwhile, promises to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act, which, as a temporary measure, is set to expire in September 2013 anyway.
“The Monsanto Protection Act is an outrageous example of a special interest loophole,” Merkley said in a statement. “This provision nullifies the actions of a court that is enforcing the law to protect farmers, the environment and public health. That is unacceptable.”
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on “Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.”
They called for a moratorium on GM foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling. AAEM’s position paper stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria. “The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”