Monsanto protesters demand GMO labeling

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 200 protesters participated in a march against biotechnology giant Monsanto here May 25. The march was part of an international effort that drew some 2 million people to similar marches held in 436 cities around the globe. The focus here was to draw attention to legislation passed that does not require food consisting of genetically modified organisms (GMO) to be labeled.

GMOs are a plant or meat product which has had its DNA artificially altered. GMOs are altered as well to have an internal generated pesticide and are engineered to tolerate Roundup, a weed killer manufactured by Monsanto. The seed can also contain traces of antibiotics, transferable to humans. Also produced are seeds coined “terminator” seeds. These seeds are sterile grain seeds, which are unable to germinate. The rationale being that farmers must buy new seed yearly rather than reusing seed the next year. Instead, a contract is formed between farmer and given entity that the farmer will purchase new seed each year.

As of 2011, GMOs were found in 80 percent of all packed foods in the United States. Crops include alfalfa to canola to cotton as well as meat products and milk. The AAEM (American Academy of Environmental Medicine) links the consumption of GMO products with health hazards such as infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging and faulty insulin regulation. Other known side effects are allergies (e.g., gluten), changes to major organs and gastrointestinal system. The Federal Drug Administration has previously warned that children should not consume any GMO food.

Alex Arnold, 59, of Occupy Jacksonville, felt the issue was of a global concern. When asked of his group’s involvement in the march, he pointed out the Occupy Garden concept, which is an encouragement for all to stop buying produce at the store and cultivate their own crops.

“Monsanto puts profit over humanity and the environment we live in…we seek to put an end to their unethical practices,” said Betty Jackson, a registered nurse. Jackson said her main concern about GMOs is they are found in baby formula. She cited a study done of GMO soy versus organic soy. The lab mice that were fed the genetically altered soy had tumors and lesions, while the mice that were feed organic soy remained healthy. Jackson expressed her anxiety about low-income households, as those who receive WIC have no choice other than GMO-laced baby formula.

“I am a humanist. And this is a human problem,” another marcher said.

Photo: Jacksonville Monsanto protesters pause for a photograph May 25 (PW/M. Djordjevic).