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Monsanto, GMO Protests

Jon Stewart discusses the Monsanto amendment to the 2013 spending bill.
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Flyer from March Against Monsanto.
More Than 2,000 Are Expected To Gather And March In Opposition To Biotechnology Giant Monsanto And Their Push For Genetically Modified Crops In Tempe May 25

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By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine

May 19, 2013 — Downtown Tempe will be awash in protest Saturday as thousands are expected to protest agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto and their pursuit to continue to sell genetically modified crops for human consumption.

The grassroots protest is an internet phenomenon that has been spread by many groups, including Anonymous. But the Facebook page that started it all was created by the very non-anonymous Tami Monroe Canal, 31, a mother of two daughters from Salt Lake City.

“I feel Monsanto threatens their generation’s health, fertility and longevity. I couldn't sit by idly, waiting for someone else to do something,” Canal said in a statement about why she was inspired to act.

Canal has inspired more than 350 events across the globe on Saturday May 25 in pursuit of a million-person globally coordinated event. According to Canal’s group, March Against Monsanto, a symbolic event will happen worldwide at 11 a.m. PST.

Monsanto has been at the forefront of creating and marketing genetically engineered crops. The company introduced its first genetically engineered crop — a Roundup-ready soybean in 1994 — two years after a company it eventually bought, Calgene, brought the first genetically engineered plant to market.

The chorus of dissatisfied consumers has gotten louder recently over the as-of-yet unknown impacts of genetically engineered food on human health and has begun to crow for mandatory labeling of products made from GMOs. Monsanto has fought back, however. In 2012, the company snapped victory from defeat when a California ballot amendment that would have mandated food labeling was ultimately rejected by voters thanks to a multi-million dollar spending spree after polls predicted a victory for labeling weeks before the election.

Not willing to sit back and wait as the tide against GMOs continues to swell, Monsanto has gone on the offensive by using long cultivated Washington clout to limit what states and the federal government can do to regulate genetically engineered food products. Earlier this year, a rider was attached to the 2013 funding bill that was signed by President Obama that banned federal courts from prohibiting the planting, harvesting or selling of genetically engineered crops — even if they are deemed illegal. The amendment also banned the USDA from stopping a company from planting and selling crops even if the USDA determines their is a risk. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has said he would introduce a repeal of the amendment.

Then just this past Wednesday, Congress passed the 2013 Farm Bill that includes the protect interstate commerce, or PICA, amendment that would prohibit state legislatures from passing laws that would regulate food stuffs made in other states. Now known by the name of its sponsor, U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the King Amendment is on the surface an attempt to stop California from regulating chicken eggs.

"The Constitution of the United States reserves the regulation of interstate commerce to the Congress, not the states," said King in a statement. "The Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA) prohibits states from entering into trade protectionism by forcing cost prohibitive production methods on farmers in other states. PICA covers all agriculture products listed in section 206 of the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946. By 2015, California will allow only eggs to be sold from hens housed in cages specified by California. The impact of their large market would compel producers in other states to invest billions to meet the California standard of 'means of production.' PICA will also shut down the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), PETA and other radical organizations from creating a network of restrictive state laws that will slowly push agriculture production towards the demise."

And those watching watching Monsanto say the King amendment is more about genetically engineered crops than eggs in California.

"If the King Amendment survives, and is included in the 2013 Farm Bill, it will wipe out more than 150 state laws governing agriculture, food and food safety," said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association. "The biotech industry knows that it's only a matter of time before Washington State, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and other states pass GMO labeling laws. Rather than fight this battle in every state, Monsanto is trying to manipulate Congress to pass a Farm Bill that will wipe out citizens' rights to state laws intended to protect their health and safety."

In the Phoenix Metro, events will be held beginning at 10 a.m. at the Tempe Farmer’s Market, 805 S. Farmer Ave, Tempe, in conjunction with the Really Really Free Market which begins at 8 a.m. The march will travel through downtown Tempe and will include a stop at the nearby Food and Drug Administration, 51 W. 3rd St, suite 265, Tempe.

"I will be singing at March Against Monsanto because I believe we have a fundamental right to know what is in our food and more importantly what it is doing to us,” said Arizona resident Celia Farran who will perform at the Tempe gathering.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/500280013363081/ or http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6536375475#

John Guzzon is editor and publisher of Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at jguzzon@moderntimesmagazine.com.
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