Thousands of protesters will unite against multinational bioengineering corporation, Monsanto, in Melbourne’s CBD next Saturday.
The March Against Monsanto is scheduled for 2pm, May 25 outside the State Library of Victoria on Swanston Street. The march is also organised to take place throughout 36 countries, in over 250 cities, on the same date.
Monsanto is responsible for producing and distributing 90% of the world’s genetically modified (GM) foods, but their products have been considered harmful to consumers’ health.
Genetically modified organisms including corn, wheat, soybean and cotton are engineered to make the crops resistant to viruses, insects and more tolerable to herbicides.
The agricultural corporation’s controversial history includes numerous lawsuits, where Monsanto paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, usually over health issues related to their products.
I recently interviewed Tami Canal, March Against Monsanto Founder and International Coordinator, on May 17:
- Firstly, how did you get involved in the fight against Monsanto? Did you have any employment or personal history in relation to the corporation, bioengineering or food industry?
I actually did work as a server for 10 years in the food industry. I was always amazed at how unhealthily people ate and without regard to how damaging the “wrong” food could be to the body. I have always been extremely health concious, but really became aware of the dangers of GMO while living in California during the Prop 37 campaign. It was shocking to learn how blatant Monsanto’s regard is to public health. It is irresponsible and unacceptable.
- What are the short- and long-term goals you hope to achieve from the global protest on May 25?
My short term goal for this global event is to raise awareness. Consumers need to be aware of what they are buying and feeding their children. As a company that is responsible for 90% of the world’s genetic food supply, Monsanto has a moral obligation to label their product. Ultimately, my goal is to have an outright ban of GMO. The adverse health effects are too severe to have these products in existence. We need to take back our food and environment from poison.
- When organising the March Against Monsanto, how has the topic been generally received? Have you found a lot of support from companies and the public, and have there been many set-backs or any scrutiny?
Overall, the response has been overwhelmingly favorable. I think the timing of The Monsanto Protection Act being signed, which happened a few weeks after I created the event, greatly fueled the fire. People are very angry at being proverbially stabbed in the back by our elected officials. Here in the United States, the majority was against this bill being signed, which basically granted Monsanto judicial immunity. To have our politicians go against the wishes of the their constituents is a gross misuse of power. We haven’t really experienced any setbacks. We have a great core group organizing on the international level and locally the organizers have been amazing and their passion and hard work has been very inspiring. This is a collective issue and we have all united wonderfully.
- Monsanto have become so rich and powerful, how do they influence the processes and decision-making of food protection agencies, such as the FDA in the U.S and ensure their products are distributed internationally?
A big part of the problem is the cronyism taking place within our government towards Monsanto. Michael Taylor, who is currently the Commissioner of the FDA, has spent the better part of the last 2 decades ping-ponging back and forth between Monsanto, the USDA and the FDA. This is a huge conflict of interest. Also, one of our Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas, is a former Monsanto attorney. He refuses to recuse himself from proceedings involving Monsanto and this is a direct violation of judicial law. There is no justice if the Supreme Court allows Monsanto full rights to fake data, claim illegal patents and to produce crops that threaten health. I think there is a lot of deception that goes along with the international distribution of Monsanto’s product. For instance, Monsanto claims that their product is drought resistant and will end world hunger. This is an illusion, as world hunger is about access, not production. World hunger could easily be erradicated, but where would the profit be for the money-hungry corporations??
- Aside from the march, what advice could you give to students and other readers to challenge Monsanto and inspire direct action? What do you think it will take to ultimately bring them down?
Boycotting is one of the best ways to take down Monsanto. Vote with your dollar. Don’t support companies that produce irresponsible and dangerous food. Also, growing a garden is key. We, as a population, need to become more self-sustainable. There is no better way to remove the shackles Monsanto has over us than by planting our own food. If you can’t plant a garden, foster a relationship with a local farmer. Buy locally grown, organic food. Do not support this food giant and their monopoly over our food supply.
By Aimee Cunningham