Local folks worried about ‘Frankenfood’ participate in protest
Grand Junction residents joined concerned consumers who were protesting worldwide Saturday, Oct. 12 in a “March Against Monsanto” calling for a permanent boycott of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
A GMO refers to seeds created in a laboratory where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially introduced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes can come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or humans.
Sixty-four countries around the world require mandatory labeling of GMOs in food products, while the United States does not. In May, the U.S. Senate voted against an amendment to a farm bill that would have allowed states to decide whether to require such labeling.
About 15 people representing both ends of the political spectrum came out for the protest in Grand Junction, held on Rimrock Drive near Walmart and several fast-food restaurants.
“This is a bridge issue,” said David Cox, a peach grower and member of Mesa County Patriots, who stood alongside Julie Mamo, director of Grand Valley Peace and Justice, and others typically aligned with liberal causes.
Robyn Parker, mother of two high-school-aged children, said she attended the march because she wants people to be aware of GMO foods.
Monsanto is creating two seeds — one that is pesticide-resistant and will live after being doused with Roundup, and another modified seed that causes insects’ stomachs to explode after ingestion, Parker said. Parker and other opponents contend that GMOs were introduced into the food supply without long-term, independent, peer-reviewed studies.
Cox is concerned about cross pollination where GMO crops contaminate neighboring fields grown with traditional, natural seeds. He’s also opposed for religious reasons.
“In the Bible, it says you should not breed animals together that are not in the same family,” Cox said. “These are brand new organisms. They’re not hybrids.”
Reportedly, frog genes have been introduced into oranges, and fish genes have been added to tomatoes.
“It’s a wild and uncontrolled form of gambling,” with our food supply, Cox said. “They’re polluting the genetic make-up of our plants.
“The government is acting in favor of corporate interests.”
According to Organic Consumers Association, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires no pre-market health safety studies, “and the only long-term, peer-reviewed animal study conducted involving GMO corn sprayed with Monsanto’s Round Up herbicide, found massive tumors, organ failure and premature death in rats.”
While Monsanto is not the only multinational corporation developing GMO seeds, the company has become notorious for suing farmers for patent violations.
Monsanto requires that customers not save the seed, but purchase it new each year. In some cases, seeds have blown onto nearby fields and sprouted. When caught, farmers have been sued for patent infringement.
“Monsanto should assume responsibility that their property doesn’t trespass on to other’s property,” Cox said.
Retired registered nurse Benita Phillips would like to see mandatory labeling so that consumers can choose whether or not to eat foods containing GMOs. According to Organic Consumers Association, a coalition of out-of-state, multinational biotech companies, and pesticide and junk food corporations spent nearly $46 million to defeat California’s GMO labeling initiative.
Not everyone agrees that GMOs might be unhealthy.
A recent article in Forbes magazine disputes claims by a Washington State University researcher David Schubert of the Salk Institute of Biological Studies and “Mother Jones” journalist Tom Philpott that scant research has been conducted determining the safety of GMOs.
“The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically-engineered crops, the scientists concluded,” wrote Jon Entire, referring to a group of Italian scientists who reviewed numerous studies concerning safety and environmental impacts of GMO foods.
In July, Monsanto published on its website “Plant Biotechnology Companies Launch ‘GMO Answers’” — an online question and answer site where people can submit their questions about genetically modified seeds.
“As a nurse I’d give all the information to a patient so he or she could make an informed decision,” Phillips said. “A lot of lawmakers don’t know the difference between a GMO versus selective breeding. They think it’s the same thing. There’s a huge difference.”
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