On Saturday afternoon, nearly 3,000 protesters marched against Monsanto Company from Union Square Park to Washington Square Park, calling for the labeling of or permanent boycott of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and other harmful agro-chemicals.
The event marks the first anniversary of March Against Monsanto NYC, an organization that protests the use of GMOs and pesticides by Monsanto, a sustainable agriculture company that delivers agricultural products to farmers worldwide. The marches took place in 400 cities in 52 countries across six continents. In the United States, solidarity marches occurred in 47 states.
Speakers included Eric Weltman, senior organizer for Food & Water Watch in New York; American stand-up comedian Lee Camp; Noelia Pasi of the Animal Battalion, an animal rights protest group; political and animal rights activist Mickey Z. Vegan, who author of “Occupy this Book”; John Stepanian of Long Island Food Not Bombs; Malik Nakhjo, New Jersey coordinator for the Zeitgeist Movement; and Michael Basillas, an MAMNYC organizer.
The speakers urged protesters to spread the word about the consequences of using GMOs and pesticides, speaking about its effect on the environment and overall well-being of individuals. They condemned Monsanto, President Barack Obama for his support of Monsanto and mainstream media's unwillingness to address Monsanto's actions.
“Monsanto doesn’t want to feed the world, they want to control the world food supply,” Camp exclaimed. “There’s a big difference between those two, but most of you are here because you have gotten your information outside of the mainstream media! The mainstream media talks about Monsanto about as much as Santa Claus’ criminal record.”
Vegan stressed the importance of targeting other corporations similarly destroying the ecosystem vis-à-vis the food industry, including McDonald’s, Tyson, Smithfield, KFC and Nestle. Wall Street is also implicated in the matter, he said, noting that the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, would hurt the environment as third-world countries would have to shift to factory farming to remain competitive.
“We must bring down Monsanto but we can’t forget all the other corporations and this is where our food choices and our commitment to food justice connects directly to Wall Street,” Vegan said.
Tami Monroe Canal, a California resident, founded the March Against Monsanto to protect her two daughters, after noticing that their health improved when they started eating organic food. Patti Woods, 56, an MAMNYC organizer, and other individuals decided to bring the march to New York City. The first march, held last May, drew roughly 3,000 people, and another march in October drew a smaller crowd.
Monsanto, she said, is trying to monopolize food supply and genetically modify seeds so they can become resistant.
“What they are actually trying to do is to get the whole food supply under their control,” Woods said. “They’re making it so that the farmers can’t reuse their seeds anymore. They have to buy them every year, and that’s completely contrary to how they used to do it.”
Protesters marched from Union Square Park to Washington Square Park and back, chanting slogans such as “Hey hey, ho ho! GMOs have to got to go!,” “Hell no, GMOs” and “Fuck Monsanto!” At one point, protesters stopped in front of McDonald’s, protesting against the fast food chain for its use of pesticides.
Protesters said they enjoyed seeing hundreds of people united against the same cause. Michelle Garrison, 22, who recently joined the organic food movement, said she was motivated by fellow marchers.
“It was very empowering. It was moving,” Garrison said. “I couldn’t say anything more. I think these people are amazing and stand up for something that we all believe in and be together, absolutely empowering.”
Nathaniel Keyes, 75, condemned the lack of government action on GMOs, which he says are harming current and future generations.
“There’s been demonstrations of animals and you can see the difference, so I don’t know why the government is slowing down about doing something about it. It’s not fair. We’re killing ourselves.”
Ahmed Moustafa, 27, a volunteer for Muslims Giving Back, a nonprofit that helps needy families in New York City, said that people have control over the food they consume but are more concerned about making profits than individuals' well-being.
“It’s more of, how can I use this whole to make a dollar extra for this economy?” Moustafa said. “It’s all about money, it’s not more about the well-being of the world anymore.”
But for some, the event demonstrated that more work needs to be done to educate people about the issues.
“It’s exciting but it’s also disheartening because there are a lot of people that showed up, but we live in a city of 6 million people and to have only a couple of hundred people, maybe a thousand show up, it’s a good step, but I wish that there could be more that could be done,” Elizabeth Miller, 23, said.