Saturday, May 25, 2013
A march through the streets of Old Town Saturday morning was part of a worldwide protest against what some claim are dangerous genetically modified foods and Monsanto, the agribusiness company that develops many genetically modified crops.
Some protesters taking part in the March Against Monsanto even claim the company is poisoning the world's food supply and the environment. Monsanto and others say that simply is not true.
Those participating in Saturday's protests, which took place in cities around the world, say foods produced with GMO crops -- crops modified to be pest-resistant, disease-resistant or higher-yielding -- are dangerous and there is not enough study into their safety.
"We don't have any long-term studies of what possible effects there might be," protester Jolger Meyer said. "It's necessary to study this first because we can't undo it if there is damage."
Monsanto says it and other companies use rigorous testing to determine the safety of GMOs. Companies must provide years of internal and independent data in order for federal regulators to approve products and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it cannot approve a new seed variety until it conducts an environmental assessment. That process requires public input.
The measures are not enough for those skeptical of GMOs.
"If you control the food, you control everybody and everything," shouted one protester at the Wichita rally.
"People lived here for tens of thousands of years without GMOs, agribusiness and agri-chemicals," said another.
Some protesters pointed to what they call the "Monsanto Protection Act," which they claim shields the company from liability if any of its products are dangerous. The measure, Section 735 of HR 933, is a provision attached to an agricultural spending bill signed by President Barack Obama in march. Its backers say it allows farmers to request a temporary permit to cultivate crops if they have become subject to a legal protest as long as there are measures minimizing any negative environmental impacts.
Still, those protesting Saturday said consumers should be told what they are buying.
"If they have nothing to hide, then they should label GMO foods," Meyer said.