(Texas Media Collective) - An upcoming global initiative involving thousands of demonstrations will call out Monsanto Corporation for its seed monopoly, genetic modification of organisms (GMO), and court-sanctioned silencing of dissent.
Inspired by the urgency of the problem, new activists have sprung up in unlikely places. One of those is the scenic Central Texas community of Belton, where a March Against Monsanto rally is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 25.
Cole Kelly, a native Texan, began the Belton effort with assistance from co-organizers Kim Berg and Kathe Berg Kitchens, twin sisters who own a small herb farm west of Belton named Bestemor Herb Farm.
The rally will take place at Belton's Confederate Park. The park's name is a reflection of the area's contentious past, but to judge by the growing number of Facebook followers of Kelly's March Against Monsanto Belton page, plans for the event are bringing out local progressives interested in 21st century issues.
Kelly explained that time and resources aren't available to stage a full-scale march, "but a rally is just as good."
Organizers have reserved the park's pavilion, which is closest to the parking lot and offers a clear view of the nearby I-35 highway. "We'll have signs facing the highway - like "No More GMOs," so folks can see them."
Asked if he has been inspired by the national March Against Monsanto effort, Kelly pointed out, "This is global, not just national."
Indeed, rallies by concerned citizens are slated in hundreds of locations, including Nigeria, South Africa, India, South Korea, Australia, Bosnia, and numerous European Union nations, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, and Canada. The number of participating nations is increasing daily, according to the movement's website.
Kelly said volunteers are needed, in particular for the day of the rally, and he encourages participants to put up signs and to bring their own flyers of organic recipes and household formulas to share with others. He suggests volunteers visit the March Against Monsanto Belton Facebook page.
Organizers are lining up speakers at the rally, with a focus on local farmers and organic nursery owners to speak about the impact of Monsanto's policies on them.
Calling himself a faith-filled Christian, Kelly points out, "How can you make something better than the supreme being has made? It's counter-intuitive to think that. But, I don't want to narrow this down to religious issues. I saw a post online that said we're not all Christians, not all Jews, Muslims, atheists, Republicans, Democrats, or independents. We're who we are as individuals, but as a collective we have to fight this enemy.
"This is a nonviolent movement, a peaceful movement, but it's a strong movement, a power-to-the-people type of movement."
Co-organizers Kathe Berg Kitchens and Kim Berg have been organic gardeners and activists for decades. Kitchens noted in an email, "Monsanto's increasing stranglehold on the plant market is scary at best, and we have to take care to avoid purchasing plants or seeds that come from their Frankenstein labs."
Due to legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, courts are banned from halting the sale of Monsanto's genetically-modified seeds.
This monopoly effectively grants Monsanto control in perpetuity of much of the world's market in the most-trafficked seeds and related products. Previous corporate titans - such as oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, who cornered the market in oil - couldn't copyright the molecular formula for petroleum.
Monsanto, on the other hand, goes Rockefeller several steps further. It patents products it genetically modified from natural seed stock, and by making its products sterile, ensures that farmers must purchase a fresh stock of seeds each year.
By controlling seeds, using GMO to make them unable to propagate, and, as upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court this month, preventing farmers from having any flexibility in using their seeds-Monsanto has proven itself hostile to natural home-grown innovation that can be shared from neighbor to neighbor.
Monsanto takes its control of the market to an even more stifling degree when it applies GMO techniques to pest control. Monsanto jumpstarts normal gene selection by inserting strands designed to act the same as artificial pesticides.
Monsanto rigs the market in its favor, relies on government intervention led by ex-Monsanto executives at the Food and Drug Administration, and sues farmers who don't toe the line - it far exceeds the ambitions of Gilded Age robber barons that author Mark Twain condemned.
Like many citizens around the globe joining in the March Against Monsanto, Kelly doesn't have Monsanto's deep pockets and political connections.
Kelly is an ex-military family man employed in the medical field. He recalls the wholesome example set by his grandmother, who was a dedicated gardener. "She was still working in her garden when she was in her eighties. All kinds of produce. Natural as can be."
Asked if he had a message for those on the fence about this issue, Kelly said, "If you don't take a stand today, tomorrow you'll be eating what somebody says you should be eating. You'll be eating what somebody else is making; you won't have a choice, whether it's good for you or not."
Photo: March Against Monsanto