The "March Against Monsanto" made its appearance at the California State Capitol on Saturday, October 12 as SacTV was there to cover the event. A few hundred people showed up to march around Capitol Plaza and Capitol Park to protest genetically modified organisms (GMOs) marketed through Monsanto seeds to American farmers. The event included musical performances by Oakland political band Fresh Juice Party and Sacramento folk singer/songwriter Jenn Rogar.
Monsanto, the maker of the destructive chemical Agent Orange during the Vietnam War that caused illness and birth defects, is a multinational corporation that insists their seeds, which dominate the U.S. food industry, are safe. But independent scientific studies have shown that food derived from GMOs causes tumors in lab rats, which is partly why many countries around the world have banned or restricted GMOs. Three California counties – Marin, Mendocino and Trinity – have also banned growing GMO crops.
The crowd was orderly and there did not appear to be any arrests. Law enforcement followed the march, but there was no sense that any crackdown was taking place. They merely made sure marchers did not block traffic, as the assembled crowd voiced its protest peacefully. Even though the crowd of marchers seemed small, we were still seen by hundreds of Sacramentans that were driving or walking around Downtown.
It was the first time I had ever found myself in such a situation, despite years of researching college campus protests. I was curious what effect these type of marches have on the bigger picture, in addition to supporting deeper scientific studies on GMOs.
The core issue of protesters at this point is that GMO food should be labeled so that people know what they’re eating. Monsanto outspent California proponents of Proposition 37 in the 2012 election by a 4-1 margin, which explains why it was defeated after gaining overwhelming support months earlier. But since then talk about GMO labeling has actually increased.
Like most other Americans, I’m not a scientist, but it doesn’t mean I can’t explore science. For many people science isn’t popular because it’s too serious, too objective and isn’t as movie-like as science fiction. People, just like corporations, tend to defend scientific findings that back what they support and discard the evidence that interferes with their buying or selling habits. For me, GMOs are more evidence to a bigger study I’ve done that the "free market" is mostly controlled by a short list of big corporations that are concerned more about profits than safety.
I’m somebody who believes in an actual free market instead of a market dominated by big business, which pushes smaller players out of the competition. The biggest question I have about Monsanto is: why should a company that’s been involved with the development of nuclear weapons and banned cancer-causing pollutants like PCBs be allowed to have such a massive influence on the U.S. agricultural industry? If safety were a concern, wouldn’t they want to do more testing?
Even though Monsanto recently reported a 48 percent revenue decline from the previous quarter, the company is still valued at over $50 billion by Wall Street. Quarterly revenue is usually in the billions.
So does Saturday’s march affect Monsanto in any way? It may not affect their finances, but the event became a part of Sacramento history as well as an international protest, which has involved millions of people in hundreds of major cities around the world. Marches were held over the weekend in San Francisco, San Diego, Kansas City, Maui, Nashville, Savannah and other U.S. cities, along with marches in Canada, Europe and Australia.
It’s bizarre that organic food is one of the fastest growing industries in America, yet it’s so scarce in Sacramento. Why aren’t there more businesses embracing the organic food revolution in some form? An actual free market would automatically answer this question with new businesses rushing to serve the well publicized demand.
Grass roots movements can grow over time, but usually what’s on television or marketed through mass media is what drives trends, even in the biggest state’s capital. Then again, YouTube is starting to change the way media is consumed. It’s still interesting when the local community comes together over any cause.
Fresh Juice Party’s song "Monsanto Monstruo" and Jenn Rogar’s song "Monsanto Ain’t Sexy" show that the independent music scene feels the need to speak up about genetically modified food. Out of the hundreds of possible song topics, how does a chemical company keep showing up in song titles, not just in our community, but around the world? If you run a search on "Monsanto songs" or "Monsanto music" you will get enough results to keep yourself listening for hours.