In more than 200 cities and 60-plus countries on Saturday, May 20, activists marched against biotech and agribusiness giant Monsanto. “There’s no question that March Against Monsanto is the most powerful grassroots initiative we have in the fight to reclaim our food supply from the GMO seed juggernaut known as the Monsanto Company,” said Anthony Gucciardi, a March Against Monsanto representative, reported Reuters.
The activists argue that independent, peer-reviewed studies show that Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, and its base chemical glyphosate, may lead to serious health conditions, such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects. The Environmental Protection Agency review is ongoing. California, meanwhile, isn’t gambling. The state registered the chemical under “Prop 65,” meaning it considers it a possible carcinogen. The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans,” although the United Nation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) later said the opposite—that it is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.”
The United States is the largest producer of biotech crops. Combined with Brazil, the No. 2 market for genetically modified crops, the two countries represent 66 percent of the total Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) planted globally. More than 30 countries prohibit the cultivation of GMO crops.
With ex-Monsanto executives leading United States corporations like the Federal Drug Administration, anti-Monsanto activists believe conflict of interests contribute to the lack of U.S. government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMOs and their products.
All biotech companies, Monsanto being the big leader among them, sow genetically modified, identical crops on a massive scale. Consequentially, organic and small farmers are enduring losses while Monsanto forges its monopoly over the world’s food supply, protestors state. Its exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup have stirred debates about whether a corporation should be allowed to own the national reproduction of seed lifeforms, and the offspring of those seeds. Furthermore, this ownership and proliferation of GMO seeds, and the use of pesticides showered over crops—that drift across the country—are killing off seed diversity, while harming human health.
Indian Country Today recently reported on the documentary SEED: The Untold Story, which takes viewers on a global journey from America’s Indian country to India, Peru, Hawaii and beyond, while interviewing indigenous guardians of ancient seeds. As the documentary highlights, seed diversity reduces crop diseases and thus increases food supply. Without seed diversity, all life is at risk. “We don’t have the time left on this small planet to recreate it all. Seeds are living embryos; they do have a lifespan,” food bank curator Bill McDorman said in the film.
“When they go and take the dignity of that food from you and turn it into something else, it is offensive, it hurts our people. It hurts us economically and it hurts us spiritually,” said Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe activist. Leader of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, a grassroots Native organization based in Minnesota, LaDuke and the Ojibwe introduced legislation that prevented manoomin, wild rice, from being genetically engineered.
Despite EPA scientist recommendations to ban Dow Chemical's chlorpyrifos, a insecticide toxin widely employed by Monsanto believed to damage brain nerves, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt refused to ban it. “In this scenario, corporations win. The public loses, particularly the most vulnerable in our midst,” wrote Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Contributor Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America, in a Huffington Post article, “Marching for science by and for the people.”
“People facing direct harm include rural children exposed to brain-harming pesticides like chlorpyrifos, farm families and workers who face continued risk of cancer due to Monsanto’s manipulation of EPA’s scientific review of RoundUp, and poor communities in the countries most vulnerable to disruption caused by the corporations and politicians driving climate chaos,” Dr. Ishii-Eiteman continued.
Monsanto previously released this statement in response to allegations that it manipulated the EPA scientific review of RoundUp: “The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world,” Monsanto said, reported Bloomberg.
Now the Farmer Assurance Provision, nicknamed the “Monsanto Protection Act,” effectively bans courts from ever halting the sale or planting of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds, regardless of severe adverse health effects that may arise related to the consumption of GMOs in the future.
Monsanto responded to Saturday’s protests with a pat on the back to protestors for sharing their dissenting opinions. “We know people have different points of view on these topics, and it’s important that they’re able to express and share them,” Monsanto said.
“The more than 20,000 people [at] Monsanto are committed to having an open dialogue about modern agriculture and how food is grown as we focus on using digital tools, data and research to find solutions that balance the need to feed people and protect the planet – we’re proud of the work we do, and we’re eager for people to know more about us,” Monsanto's statement read.
On Saturday, participants marched to protect the world's food supply, to support local farms, to protect the environment, to promote organic solutions, to expose the cronyism between big business and the government, and to bring accountability to those responsible for the corruption. “We will not stand for cronyism. We will not stand for poison. That’s why we March Against Monsanto,” the organizers of the 6th annual march said in their statement.