Hundreds of activists gathered in Philadelphia at Independence Mall next to the Liberty Bell as part of the second annual global March Against Monsanto. They were protesting Monsanto and other corporations’ production of genetically modified seeds and bioengineered food.
Many tourists, who had come to the federal park unaware that the federal government’s shutdown prevented access to the bell, ended up joining the rally against genetically modified organisms. Signs read “Food for People, not for Profit” and “Sow seeds not greed!”
Similar protests took place in more than 100 U.S. cities in 47 states. Protests around the world in at least 52 countries on six continents reflected the growing opposition to expansion of Monsanto’s corporate control of the global food supply. Many demonstrations called for a permanent ban on GMO use.
Crops grown from genetically modified seeds produced by Monsanto and other biotech companies have been linked to decreases in bee populations vital for agriculture. In Australia, pigs fed genetically modified corn got massive stomach tumors. Foods containing unlabeled GMOs are suspected of causing increases in allergies and other illnesses.
In India, more than 250,000 farmers in the last decade have committed suicide after being left impoverished when Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds failed to produce promised yields. (chrgj.org, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice)
The introduction of genetically modified seeds is creating a crisis in countries long reliant on indigenous crops. In Latin American countries known for their wide variety of native corn, contamination by genetically modified plants has led to dangerous transmutations of their crops.
On Oct. 10, Mexico announced a ban on genetically modified seeds. Peru and Costa Rica are already part of a growing number of countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Madeira, New Zealand, Russia and Switzerland, that have banned GMOs to varying degrees. Food labeling of GMOs is required in 62 countries, but not in the U.S.
Since October is Agent Orange Awareness Month, the Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance joined marches in some cities to target Monsanto as one of seven chemical companies that manufactured the Agent Orange used by the U.S. military. The widespread use of the dioxin-based chemical as a defoliant during the war resulted in thousands of deaths and illnesses of Vietnamese civilians and U.S. soldiers, as well as birth defects among subsequent generations.
The Philadelphia MAM rally was followed by a march along Market Street that received enthusiastic support from people waiting for buses. A high school drumming group, practicing along the route, joined the march to the delight of all participants.
After marching around City Hall, the demonstrators stopped for a closing rally. In an act of solidarity, they started chanting “Transgender yes! Trans foods no!” when a separate march of transgender activists passed by.
While the U.S. has taken no steps to limit destruction caused by Monsanto’s policies, the food safety movement did win a small victory: The U.S. Senate, bowing to public pressure, voted to let the outrageous “Monsanto Protection Act” expire on Sept. 30. Snuck into law as a budget rider earlier in 2013, the act shielded biotech companies from litigation and barred federal courts from stopping the sales of new, untested, genetically modified products.
To keep the pressure on, MAM organizers have already announced that their next global event will take place on May 24, 2014.