March Against Monsanto and Local Fresh Food Movements Pushing for Reforms in Pennsylvania and United States

Last week, thousands of fresh food advocates hit the pavement and asphalt in hundreds of cities around the United States and the world as they demonstrated against Big Agriculture’s largest corporation, Monsanto, and in Pennsylvania, business owners, farmers, and environmentalists are pushing for bipartisan GMO labelling legislation in Harrisburg.

There were headlines like “Thousands Expected to Protest GMO’s in Edmonton,” “March Against Monsanto Protests Trickles into Filer,” “Ashville Protesters Call for GMO Labeling” and “Agricultural Minister Defends Attendance at Protest Against GMOs,” in local and regional newspapers throughout the United States, Canada and Australia, but in the 24 hour, multi network news cycle there wasn’t anything of substance coming from the three major media networks (Fox, CNN and MSNBC) nor was there anything coming from national media outlets like the New York Times.  These demonstrations brought out dozens, hundreds and thousands of people in small townships, cities and major metropolitan areas around the country, and locally speaking, there was hardly any media coverage about March Against Monsanto demonstrations in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania.  The only media coverage that came out of these events, locally and nationally, were from local media outlets, mentioned above, liberal and libertarian echo chamber news outlets like Alternet or the Examiner, or from local activist press blogs.  In a letter to the Express-Times editor, Lori Jacobs, a Lehigh Valley resident, stated that she was surprised when she saw no news coverage from Easton’s March Against Monsanto rally in the next day’s paper.  Jacobs went on to explain why Monsanto is seen as one of the most evil corporations to ever exist.  She wrote:

GMOs aren’t tested for safety nor are they labeled, they’re simply deemed safe. Vegetables such as corn, soy, canola, sugar beets and some fruits such as strawberries, have genetic material from insects, fish or bacteria inserted in them. This process makes them resistant to massive amounts of the herbicide RoundUp and insecticides.

Although GMOs are banned in 27 countries, Americans are not even afforded the benefit of having their genetically modified foods labeled….

Monsanto is the very same company that created DDT, Agent Orange and PCBs, claiming they were safe.

In Philadelphia, there was one blog that actually sent someone to the event.  According to the Philly Declaration, the Philadelphia demonstration drew over one thousand protesters.  The demonstration started at the GMO free Rittenhouse Square farmers market and then marched onward to Love Park.  In a video posted below, Philadelphia March Against Monsanto organizer Diamond Mauriello brings up Sauron’s Monsanto’s troubled history when it comes to use DDT and PCB’s.  In the video, Diamond went on to ask the crowd “In the 1950’s, Monsanto claimed that DDT was safe.  Is DDT safe?”  The crowd responded with an emphatic “NO.”  The use of DDT and the side effects that that pesticide caused in the environment sparked the environmental movement in the 1960’s when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring.  In her book, Carson explained that DDT weakened the eggshells of many birds and when mother birds were to nurture those eggs, the shells would break.  Again, Mauriello asks the crowd “they told us that PCBs were safe.  Are they safe?”  Again, the crowd responds with an emphatic “NO.”  PCB is an organic molecule that is shown to cause cancer in humans and animals and in the early 2000’s, the Washington Post revealed that Monsanto was concealing the harmful effects of the toxic organic molecule for over 40 years.

On top of hawking DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange and other pesticides, Monsanto is under scrutiny for using pesticides that have been associated with the collapse of honeybee colonies in the United States and Europe.  In 2012, Monsanto bought Beeologics, who developed a “chemical agent” that can help stem Colony Collapse Disorder, which is partly caused by pesticides created by Monsanto, Dow and Bayer.  The pesticides in question are neonicotinoids and as the Saint Louis Dispatch reports:

Published last year, a study by Purdue University found that dead bees that had foraged in and around corn fields contained high levels of neonicotinoid compounds. The study was prompted by massive bee die-offs that happened in the spring, when corn planters were spewing neonicotinoid-containing dust.

“I know, definitively, that there’s a relationship between treated seed and spring die-offs,” said Christian Krupke, the study’s lead author. “It (neonicotinoids) blows out behind the planter and gets in the air, it lands on dandelions. It lands on the bees, even.”

On the legislative front, fresh food activists are pushing for GMO labeling in Harrisburg, which has bipartisan support.  Later on today, farmers, small business owners, environmentalists, and the Tom Peters, the owner of Monks, which is one of Philadelphia’s most famous hangouts to grab a craft brew, will be joined by Democratic State Senator Daylin Leach, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 653, Republican House Representative Mario Scavello and Democratic State Representative Peter Daley, who introduced House Bill 1770.  According to a press release issued by Food and Water Watch, “cosponsors of Pennsylvania’s legislation to label genetically engineered food will be joined by farmers, restaurateurs and food advocates to push for the measure’s passage.”

The legislative fight to label genetically modified organisms began in March 2013 when State Senator Daylin Leach introduced Senate Bill 653.  At the time, State Senator Leach said:

 “I’ve introduced this bill not to ban genetically engineered foods, but to allow consumers to choose which items they purchase. I am concerned about the lack of information available about the presence of genetically engineered food, and I believe it is every consumer’s right to know what ingredients are found in the products they buy. We can find out how much fat and sodium are in our food, with a full list of ingredients and nutritional information on every box, but we are not informed about the inclusion of ingredients that could be potentially detrimental to our health and wellness.”

The two pieces of legislation have six Republican legislators as co-sponsors, seven if Scavello signs on to House Bill 1770.  Last summer, the New York Times reports that 93 percent of Americans support GMO labelling, but if there were to be any action in advancing this legislation in Pennsylvania, it would have to go through House Agriculture Committee Chair John Maher, who, according to Food and Water Watch, “has yet to schedule a legislative hearing or meet with advocates of labeling.”

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About Sean Kitchen 595 Articles
Assistant Editor of the Raging Chicken Press and living in Harrisburg pursuing journalistic opportunities. You can send tips to SeanKitchen@RagingChickenPress.org and reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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