As last weekend approached and everyone else warmed up the barbecue for what would start out as a rainy Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., the drumbeats were building for what was expected to be one of the largest worldwide, organized protests against the massive, ultra-powerful agricultural company Monsanto and its push for more genetically modified food throughout the food industry.
Activists and concerned citizens around the world prepared to take a stand by collectively organizing protests in every major country and city around the world.
It may not be just coincidence that on May 10th, the State of Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill requiring that genetically modified food – foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – must be labeled as such. Vermont stands as the first and only U.S. state to successfully pass such legislation, as every previous move to pass such a bill in every state has been overwhelmed by efforts on the part of Monsanto lobbyists to crush such laws.
The worldwide movement builds upon the success of that bill, following up with a global call to action. However, Vermont still has a long road to turn the bill into law – it must make it through the Senate. No small feat considering the massive power that Monsanto holds over most legislators around the country.
What’s the big deal about GMO labeling? Food rights activists say that there’s a whole lot that every citizen in every country should be concerned about when a single corporation such as Monsanto has such overwhelming control over the global food supply.
Why the Anti-GMO Effort Matters
If you’re unsure how you feel about genetically modified foods, you’re not alone. One of the reasons the corporate food genetics effort has been so successful is because it has been carried out in great secrecy and with very little public awareness.
The genetic modification of food started many years ago, and has spread into a situation today where it threatens the entire food supply. The largest danger comes from the control Monsanto has over the genetically modified seeds that farmers have been forced to use to stay in business – with Monsanto security agents going so far as to place surveillance on farmers and threaten them if they attempt to save seeds and reuse them.
The days of natural, organic farming on a sustainable scale may soon be behind us if more people don’t stand and take a stance against this growing threat.
The March Against Monsanto
The March against Monsanto on Saturday, May 25th, was an overwhelming success. Few media outlets covered it in great depth, which has been commonplace following every major anti-Monsanto protest.
This is due in part to strong-arm tactics that Monsanto has used against media outlets, issuing threatening legal letters in response to major news stories that might paint Monsanto and genetically modified food in a negative light.
In fact, this happened in 1996, when Steve Wilson and Jane Akre of Fox News produced a documentary series about the company. Monsanto warned that if it aired, the company would suffer “enormous damage”.
Fox executives caved, and watered down the series prior to airing. Akre threatened to blow the whistle on how Fox News had been strong-armed by Monsanto to falsify and distort the real story on genetically modified food. (1)
Thankfully, there was some coverage of the large protests last weekend. CBS ran a slideshow on its site, showing crowds in the streets at Montpelier, Vermont, activists gathered near the Eiffel Tower in France, anti-GMO protesters donning Anonymous masks at the White House in Washington, anti-GMO families marching the streets in Bucharest, just to name a few. (2)
The Daily News reported that protests were active in 52 countries around the world, and activists hit the streets on Saturday in a whopping 436 cities. The Daily News captured snapshots of the crowds in Birmingham Alabama, where 80 protesters had turned out at Rhodes Park. (3) USA Today featured images from Orlando, Florida, where 800 people had gathered, as well as pictures from the Pensacola protest, where 200 protesters had gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. (4)
Once all of the numbers rolled in from around the globe, it became clear that collectively, this was no small movement, regardless of the lack of major media coverage.
The Safety of GMO Products
It’s important to keep in mind that Monsanto is the same company that brought the world DDT – an insecticide that the company claimed was “safe”, but that later turned out to cause significant health problems following exposure.
It’s the same company that brought the world Agent Orange, which the military believed was safe to use, but that later turned out to cause significant health problems for Vietnam veterans. It’s also the same company that brought the world saccharine, an allegedly “safe” sweetener that later was shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats.
As they say – Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
You can not blame citizens of the world for distrusting Monsanto. If history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time until a conclusive, scientific study finally produces undeniable proof of the harm that Monsanto’s GMO products, like it’s genetically modified food from GMO crops have on the human body.
The battle lines are drawn. Monsanto is going at it full force – pulling every trick in the book to gain the advantage, even including “convincing” legislators not to fund any research into genetically modified food that seeks to determine health concerns. On the flip side, Monsanto heavily funds organizations and university studies that produce pro-GMO studies and publications. (5)
One hotly-contested study by Profit Pro in 2012, funded by Canada’s only non-GMO corn seed company De Dell Seed Company, found that GMO corn tested contained elements not normally found in natural corn – including chlorides, formaldehyde and glyphosate. The study also found that non-GMO corn had 437 times more calcium, 56 times more magnesium, and 7 times more manganese. In other words – non-GMO corn is far more nutritious and healthy. (6)
Another heavily cited (and heavily contested by proponents of GMO food) study in France involved 200 rats and lasted for two years – one of the longest term studies of GMO foods in the world. The study found that Monsanto’s GMO “Roundup-Ready” corn caused cases of mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage, and premature death”. Some industry scientists point out that the sampling size was not large enough, but the study at least raises enough concern to warrant better long term studies before widespread distribution of more GMO food throughout the world food supply. (7)
What Can You Do About It?
As with many controversial subjects like this, where there’s a great deal of money to be gained or lost, you can find studies that confirm one side of the argument or the other. Monsanto provides a section of its website dedicated entirely to explaining to the public how genetically modified foods are perfectly safe to consume.
So, who do you believe? Thankfully, you are not obligated to believe anyone at all. Since there is a debate in the first place, clearly there is not enough known about the technology to use it in products that your family and even worse – your children – put into their bodies.
The only thing that matters right now is that the public is made aware of what food products contain this technology – food choice lies at the core of personal freedom. It should cause great concern that Monsanto wants to cover up the presence of GMO technologies in the products that you find at the supermarket – and that concern is enough to warrant action.
The best action to protect others in your community and your family, is to take part in future organized protests against Monsanto and in favor of the labeling of GMO food. However, if you can’t do that, and should your elected officials fail to protect you by legalizing the labeling of those foods, you can at least protect yourself by supporting local farmers and buying locally grown and produced foods, and avoiding supermarket produce entirely, until genetically modified foods are clearly labeled.
References & Image Credits:
(2) CBS News
(3) NY Daily News
(4) USA Today
(7) Mother Earth News
(9) CS Monitor
(10) InAweofGod’sCreation via photopin cc