By Walker Foley
As the days heat up for another hot summer, so does public ire for Monsanto. Report after report about the biotech company’s shady dealings — running the gamut of contracting paramilitary group Academi (formerly Xe, formerly Blackwater), killing crop-pollinating bees globally, heightening the suicide epidemic on bankrupted Indian farmers, sci-fi wheat of mystery origins, using U.S. embassies as a global marketing platform, to name a few — are fueling the fire of massive global protests.
This past Saturday, 25 May, global citizens took to the streets in the March Against Monsanto, one of the largest protests ever staged. More than two million people in over 400 cities spanning six continents staged protests of the corporate giant Monsanto.
In Washington, D.C. the protest I attended was several hundred strong, initially gathered on the north side of the White House, with an Occupy-style open mic for anyone who cared to voice their own afflictions with the agri-giant. People-sized bees buzzed through the crowd, handing out heirloom seeds and extolling the virtues of local food systems. Alternative news vendors peddled their broadsheets. National figures like Medea Benjamin attended. We marched into Washington’s wide boulevards all the way to Monsanto’s D.C. lobbying HQ.
Food & Water Watch stands in solidarity with the March Against Monsanto. Our organizers and supporters engaged in several marches elsewhere in the U.S. on Saturday.
Here’s a brief summary from our organizers in the field:
Portland, OR —
Around 6,000 citizens showed up to March against Monsanto in Portland Oregon. Food & Water Watch Northwest Organizer Julia DeGraw was the key note speaker joined by community rights activists, GMO Free Oregon, local farmers and an author. March participants were urged to support the GE Food Labeling initiative in Washington State, to continue the fight to get GE Crops Banned in three counties in Oregon’s upcoming election, to stop Monsanto’s bill preventing local decisions on GMO crops, to encourage Senator Merkley’s appeal of the Monsanto rider, and to join the long term fight demanding a fair food system that works for farmers and consumers, not for Monsanto.
Albuquerque, NM —
Approximately 2,000 Albuquerque citizens marched from the University of New Mexico to Civic Plaza chanting and bearing signs demanding that the people have a right to know what is in their food. Organic food vendors were available at Civic Plaza so the public could learn of how much local food is available in the area. Eleanor Bravo, New Mexico Organizer for Food & Water Watch was the principal speaker and made an appeal to to the marchers to continue the campaign and get involved in passing statewide and local legislation to require labeling of Genetically Engineered foods. Citizens in Santa Fe, Taos and Silver City also marched against Monsanto.
Chicago, IL —
Nearly 1,000 concerned citizens joined the March Against Monsanto in Chicago to demand labeling for genetically engineered foods. Food & Water Watch organizer Jessica Fujan was joined by Illinois Right to Know GMO and the Organic Consumer’s Association in demanding transparent labeling for GE foods in Illinois and approval of The Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act, SB 1666.
New Brunswick, NJ —
The threat of rain did not deter nearly 1,000 people from joining the March Against Monsanto in New Brunswick, NJ. The two mile march started at the George St. Co-op, proceeded to City Hall and ended at a permaculture garden where march attendees chanted and heard speeches from moms, farmers, students, community leaders and Food & Water Watch’s Jim Walsh who were speaking out about the threats of genetically engineered foods and calling on legislators to pass a bill to require labeling of genetically engineered foods in New Jersey.
Philadelphia, PA —
Food & Water Watch Organizer Sam Bernhardt joined the March Against Monsanto in Philadelphia, where nearly 700 people amassed to protest the biotech firm. State Senator Daylin Leach, sponsor of the PA labeling bill, spoke to the crowd. Activists also staged a puppet show and were paid a visit by Monsanto “executives.”
Mystic, CT —
About 60 people from New London and Middlesex Counties marched the streets of Mystic to the front gates of Monsanto on May 25th, demanding their right to know if their food is genetically modified. Children, parents and grandparents took to the streets in protest, carrying signs & banners. A video provided by Mystic Patch shows many drivers honking and waving in support for this action organized by Food & Water Watch local coordinators.
Detroit, MI —
From Michigan Organizer Tia Lebherz: “The march had over 400 people from across metro Detroit meet at Eastern Market in the city. We began the rally with a speaker from NoGMO4Michigan, then I spoke and we did a big group call to Senator Debbie Stabenow and told her to BREAK UP WITH BIG AG. Then a bunch of kids dressed as bees came out and did a skit with the evil Mr. Monsanto Man. We then marched around Eastern Market and the protest grew to around 500. When we came back, we heard from Detroiters working for food justice, urban agriculture and other community activists. It was an awesomely fun event.”
Des Moines, IA —
Organizer Matt Ohloff helped plan an event in Des Moines where over 300 turned out to March Against Monsanto.
Denver, CO —
In Colorado, Food & Water Watch member Danielle Marrow spoke at the march on the West Steps of Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Marrow rallied the crowd and called on Senator Bennett to support federal labeling legislation.
Cincinnati, OH —
300 attended Cincinnati’s March Against Monsanto, which featured Adrian Parr —University of Cincinnati Professor and author of The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics as the keynote speaker — and was organized by Occupy Cincinnati, Food & Water Watch, The People’s Platform for Equality and Justice, the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center and other local groups. The gathering enjoyed real food provided by Food Not Bombs. Marchers skirted the Taste of Cincinnati event downtown, calling attention to the campaign to label GE foods. Attendees called for the passage of the federal legislation to mandate labeling, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act and on Sen. Brown to co-sponsor the legislation.
Miami, FL —
From Organizer Lynna Kauchek in Miami: “Over 1300 people attended the March in Miami. The Senate sponsor of our GE labeling bill spoke at the rally following the March and is committed to continuing to fight for our right to know. With the help of our partners, we collected over 640 petition signatures, and counting. There were 19 events in Florida and over 6,000 people attended events statewide. Thanks to the support of GMO Free FL, our petitions were distributed at all events.”
New York City, NY —
In New York City, Senior Organizer Eric Weltman spoke at the Union Square event, encouraging people to ask their legislators to support Linda Rosenthal’s bill to require that GE foods be labeled in New York state.