Concerned Creston residents will join two million protestors in 50 countries as they take to the streets to protest in a March Against Monsanto on Saturday.
“It’s time to take back our food,” is the theme of a growing movement to take on the global corporation that was founded in 1901. Monsanto has a long history of innovation and also produced the insecticide DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange.
Locally, Karolyn Whitford, a mother of four, is helping to spread the word about Saturday’s march along Canyon Street, which will start at 2 p.m. at the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market site on Northwest Boulevard.
“I got interested when I started learning about what I was feeding my children,” she said on Monday. “I was shocked about what I learned about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and that Canada doesn’t require those products to be labelled. The fact that China requires labelling and we don’t is amazing.”
Monsanto has been a world leader in the research and development of modifying plants through genetics, introducing genes from other species to create modified plants that are disease resistant and intended to be more productive. Some countries, including those in Europe, do not allow genetic modifications at all, while others require that food products from genetically modified plants be labeled to allow consumer choice in purchasing. Canada and the US are exceptions.
“I was surprised at how many people I talked to didn’t know about GMOs and Monsanto,” Whitford said. “My generation is the one with small children — test subjects for the Monsanto generation.”
A common belief among those who support genetically modified organisms, Whitford said, is that plant modification in the form of hybridization has been used for centuries.
“But hybridization happens naturally, too,” she said. “GMOs include the transference of genes from one species to another — that would never happen naturally.”
Whitford’s hope is that the March Against Monsanto will pressure the Canadian government to require labeling of genetically modified products — there is currently legislation, Bill C-257, before Parliament that would make genetic modification labelling mandatory.
“We have always trusted government but now it is not speaking for us, and Monsanto has an open door to the government of Canada,” she said. “It is important that we take back our voice. We are the government.”
While other companies are involved in genetically modified organism production, Monsanto produces 90 per cent of the world’s genetically modified seed, a market domination that forces farmers to purchase modified seed annually. Seed saving is prohibited because the products are patented, and farmers around the globe have found themselves in court cases, fighting against a corporate giant with apparently endless resources to protect its interests.
“It’s not like there aren’t alternatives to GMOs,” Whitford said. “In Europe they are available in every grocery store.”
Among her concerns are suspected negative impacts on health, and she doesn’t want her children to be lab rats in a global experiment that could end in disaster.
“Canadians need to show that we have a backbone.”