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Thousands March Against

Monsanto In Phoenix Metro

Video by YouTube user 21stCenturyEconomy.

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Rally members stand at the side of the road protesting against Monsanto and GMOs.
Held In Conjunction With Protest Marches Throughout The World, Several Thousand March In Downtown Tempe Saturday In An Effort To Bring Attention To Genetically Modified Crops, Animals

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By John Guzzon

Modern Times Magazine

May 26, 2013 — Several thousand people marched through the streets of Tempe, Ariz., Saturday morning, protesting Monsanto and its development of bioengineered crops and animals as part of a global event that included more than 450 cities and estimates of 2 million participants.

The march began and ended at the Tempe Farmer’s Market, 805 S. Farmer Ave., at about 10 a.m. Marchers walked about three abreast with the line stretching nearly a mile as they travelled south down Mill Avenue, west at Third Street then south on Ash Avenue. The Tempe action was organized by a variety of local residents and was supported by many local activist groups including GMO Free Arizona, Tonatierra, Puente, Occupy Phoenix, Valley Anarchists Circle, Article 21 and a handful of others.

There were many signs and chants, most calling for the company to stop pushing genetically modified plants and animals or for labeling requirements that would allow consumers to choose which type of food stuffs they want to eat. Labelling is required in the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Venezuela, Taiwan, Russia, India, Chile and South Africa. Each country has a different of percentage of GMO that mandate the requirement. The percentages range from 0.9 percent to 5 percent.

Monsanto and many scientists claim there are no harmful side effects to GMOs, but critics point out that the impact on human health and the ecosystems where GMOs are grown have not been adequately tested or for any sustained length of time.

Many also point to the fact that Monsanto has participated in some of the most controversial uses of chemicals that have harmed human health — while under the watchful eye of the U.S. government — as reasons why the company's claims cannot be trusted. The most high profile instance is Agent Orange use in Vietnam, but other more recent concerns over the use of the herbicide RoundUp have also generated much discussion.

“First, I lost my husband to Agent Orange. He did two tours in Vietnam, was a rear-gunner on a convoy most of the time. The convoys also sprayed the defoliant so you can see how he would be exposed. He died of mouth and throat cancer and U-Mass Medical Center said it was due to Agent Orange,” said Merrily Hall, who marched Saturday in Tempe.  “Secondly, I am not from this country – I am from a civilized nation that has been labeling their GM products for as long as I can remember (the UK). Since I came to this country, I have always said the food here tasted ‘carcinogenic’ — it was the only word I could find to describe it.”

Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher said in a prepared statement that those protesting Saturday were misinformed.

"Agriculture and its uses are important to each of us. Among the challenges facing agriculture are producing food for our growing population and reducing agriculture’s footprint on the environment,” Helscher said. "While we respect each individual’s right to express their point of view on these topics, we believe we are making a contribution to improving agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving natural resources such as water and energy.”

Many marchers have heard that argument before and say it is nothing more than a company protecting its own assets.

“The assumption that these foods will cure world hunger is preposterous as evidence shows it is more dangerous than good,” said Cynthia Ellerington of Phoenix.

The success of the Phoenix march was duplicated across the country according to March Against Monsanto, the group that formed after Tami Monroe Canal, 31, a mother of two daughters from Salt Lake City created the Facebook page that started it all in February. March Against Monsanto said protests were held in 52 countries, 436 cities and all 50 U.S. states.

“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.

The increasing backlash against their products has likewise inspired Monsanto to leverage some of its Washington leverage in order to stymie state and public attempts to force labeling or limiting of the right to grow genetically modified crops.

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 Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA) prohibits states from entering into trade protectionism by forcing cost prohibitive production methods on farmers in other states,” "The Constitution of the United States reserves the regulation of interstate commerce to the Congress, not the states," said King in a statement. “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.

"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,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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