The March Against Monsanto at the Allen County Courthouse Green Saturday was no isolated protest.
It was a movement that stretched all over the world, with protests in Ghana, a nation in West Africa, in Seoul, South Korea, in Sydney and in Moscow.
The third annual March against Monsanto had activists in over 50 countries calling for the boycott of genetically modified food and agro-chemicals produced by the biotechnology corporation.
About 100 people attended the protest in Fort Wayne.
Environmental activist Amanda Kaminskas believes Monsanto and its products, due to the company's suppression of research, could be behind an increase in a number of allergies and auto-immune diseases with its genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs.
“Education is my No. 1 thing. I talk to people on a regular basis that are not aware who Monsanto is or what GMOs are,” Kaminskas said. “Even though there's a lot of media on it, not every one is involved in social media. People are going to drive by and get educated on what they should be eating and what they shouldn't be eating, and then maybe eventually we'll get Monsanto out of our food supply.”
Along with the protest, the day included speeches by Kaminskas, Tim Tiernon, founder of Fort Wayne for Peace; Joe Renner, who unsuccessfully ran for county council this month; and Kimberly Koczan-Flory, local liaison for 3 Rivers Co-op natural grocery and Fort Wayne Urban Gardening, a local organization.
“It's community building,” Kaminskas said. “The bigger the crowd we have, the more people we have to organize and make it more powerful.”
GMOs were approved for U.S. human consumption in 1995. Monsanto, along with its subsidiaries, produces seeds, biotechnology trait products and herbicides that are meant to improve crop productivity, reduce farming costs and produce a better quality of food for human and animal consumption.
But studies pointing to GMOs as the source of health risks like organ damage, sterility, birth defects, auto-immune conditions, allergies and cancer have increased an interest in boycotting Monsanto, Kaminskas said.
“People are scared. They're scared of the diseases that are happening, and we don't know why,” she said. “There's an increase in all of the auto-immune diseases and autism, and the increases were not there prior to genetically modified food. We don't know if that's the cause, but if it is the cause, we need to know that. We have a right to know what's in our food.”
The Monsanto website states the company's “GMO crops have been tested more than any crop in the history of agriculture” with years of research, field trials and internal reviews. Monsanto also says GMO crops, which are regulated by the FDA, EPA and USDA, are consistently successful after being scrutinized by independent health and environmental agencies.
However, Kaminskas said that since test results are not readily available to consumers, the company's motives deserve skepticism.
“The FDA requires years of studies before they release a medication and even then, medications are recalled because they are found not safe,” she said.
“This hasn't been studied. Could there be some GMOs that are safe? Maybe, but we don't know. The question is are we willing to risk our lives or our children's lives.”
Koczan-Flory said that one solution is supporting a local, sustainable food supply. During the protest, there was an heirloom seed and plant exchange, while participants were able pin their own garden sites on a city map.
Expanding local farmer's markets and community gardens, like the ones established in Foster Park West, not only ensure control over food quality, but also promote a better way of living all around, Koczan-Flory said.
“It helps with food security, as far as neighborhoods being able to feed themselves. We have a lot of food deserts in Fort Wayne, where there isn't any local or fresh produce available,” she said. “The bonus of using our unused lots and our unused land is that neighbors get to know one another, they get to look out for one another. There are community and safety benefits of urban gardening that go beyond the health benefits.”