Despite city-wide flooding during the second wettest day in historic record, roughly 200 San Antonians congregated at the Alamo, the much-vaulted “shrine” of Texas liberty, to join an international day of protest chronicling a long list of alleged tyrannies perpetuated by food conglomerate Monsanto.
“Welcome to the March on Monsanto,” Nico Nanoski, a former U.S. Army nurse and co-organizer of the local event, told the still-gathering crowd. “This will be the last March on Monsanto. They will not be here next year.”
The challenge to the multibillion company with patents on more than 600 seed varieties and a litigious streak that has frequently been felt by the smallest of farmers who run afoul of the international GMO giant sounds outlandish until one considers crowds today took to the streets across the U.S. and around the world to shame the company in more than a dozen languages.
San Antonio’s Elisa Gill said she was marching for her grandchildren. “I don’t want them eating genetically modified organisms. It’s too scary,” she said.
She’s not the only one. Farmers in Hungary have been burning crops planted from Monsanto seed suspected of being GMO. “They’re burning incoming shipments of GMO corn from the United States,” Gill said. “They don’t want it. They’re smart enough not to want it.”
Bennie Hernandez (left) said he came out to raise awareness in the city. “They’re controlling a huge aspect of our food, our farms, and it’s poisoning us and they don’t care,” Hernandez said. “Like this sign says, sixty-one countries have decided to either ban or label GMO food. When that becomes an issue in other countries and not with one of the super powers, one of leading nations in the world, there’s definitely an interest.”
Others decried the so-called Monsanto Protection Act, a biotech rider slipped into a federal budget bill aimed specifically at shielding the company from lawsuits, and the decimation of honey bee populations around the world believed to be linked to pesticides produced by other large companies like Bayer now banned in the European Union.
Nanoski urged the gathering: “The biggest act of defiance you can do today is grow your own food. Grow your own food, grow your own food, grow your own food.”
Calling herself The Food Evangelist, Diane Baines aired a lengthy list of complaints about potential health consequences from GMO foods.
“The dangers research is showing in long-term animal studies are development of cancer, lots of infertility problems, there’s less babies born, they’re smaller, there’s a higher infant-mortality rate, development of allergies, accelerated aging, and premature death,” she said. “In one study, 80 percent of the treated rats given GMO corn developed breast cancer. And that was not picked up by the mainstream media.”
That cancer study by Gilles-Eric Séralini, professor of molecular biology at Caen University in France, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, was significant in that it followed the rat’s entire two-year lifespan rather than rolling up results after 90 days, as most regulators require. And it has stirred sharp debate from nearly the moment it was published. So while it hasn’t been ignored by the media, it hasn’t been reported without recognition of the controversy. You can read a good summary at the Guardian’s Environment Blog.
“We are trying to start a dialogue so people start to know about what’s happening, so we can start to care about it,” said local comedian and recording artist Jade Esteban Estrada. “This is a wonderful era, we live in you guys because we can get online and share, we can tweet, we can get on central media. We can let people in Hong Kong know what’s up. Let people in Buenas Aires know we are with them. That we care what goes into our bodies. That is the message we are sending out today.”
For more information, check in with March Against Monsanto. To organize locally, stop by March Against Monsanto San Antonio’s Facebook page. (Oh, and the after-protest party was at Boneshaker’s last I heard. It may not be too late to join in.)