Hundreds rally against Monsanto, crop pesticides and GMOs in Ybor City

05/27/14 Crystal Farina
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Tags: Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, GMOs, pesticides, Organic food, protests, Ybor City

photo by Crystal Farina

This past Saturday, protesters gathered in 52 countries to March Against Monsanto. Groups in St. Petersburg and Ybor City gathered to send a message that poisoning food is not OK.

Organizers say three hundred protesters marched a mile through Ybor City to protest. The target was Monsanto, that’s a giant agribusiness company that manufactures pesticides and genetically modified seeds. Other agribusiness companies were also targeted. Organizer, Nathan Schwartz, says the purpose is to raise awareness of the possible dangers of genetic modification.

“I don’t inherently think that genetic modification is bad, the problem is that genetic modification is happening to corn and soy, and corn and soy is being processed into other goods that are really bad for us such as meat, where we’re feeding grain-based feed to our cattle, they get fat and sick, we get fat and sick.”

The health of the public was on the minds of the demonstrators. Organizer, Susie Shannon, says she thinks the public is becoming more aware of the problem in the food supply.

“I think because there’s been a huge cover-up. Because they really, there’s been a revolving door between the corporation and the public sector and Obama appointed a former Monsanto executive as his food czar, so while Michelle can grow all the organic food she wants in the White House garden, they’re allowing this in our food supply and of course, they’re blaming it on the poor, ‘well we have to feed poor people,” we have to feed poor people, we don’t have to poison them. Everybody deserves real food, good food, so part of this to me, is also about food security."

It’s not just GMO foods. It’s pesticides, too. Greg Wilson, an environmental activist, says that Europe and Russia recently adopted a proposal to place a moratorium on a pesticide that may be affecting the honey bee population.

“The reason bees are becoming endangered are the neonicotinoids. They’re called 'neonics.' It’s a coating that they put on crop seeds to keep the bugs from eating them. And it’s basically a poison and along with Round-up being sprayed from airplanes and all the others chemicals that companies like Syngenta and Bayer are spraying, that it’s really putting a strain on little insects like bees and butterflies and wasps and things like that, are all part of our ecosystem. And it also affects earthworms, which make a really good fertilizer.”

Monsanto declined to be interviewed. Instead, Charla Lord, a spokesperson from Monsanto, sent a written statement, which read in part, “The 22,000 people of Monsanto are committed to having an open dialogue about food and agriculture – we’re proud of the work we do, and we’re eager for people to know more about us.”

Other protesters and Shannon, one of the organizers, realize that marching, which creates awareness, is only part of the equation.

"You can’t just do a march. You have to--this is a being, we are being against Monsanto all of the time, it’s a lifestyle basically, and so it was started here in Tampa, the artist who made this design lives here and is one of us and he’s sent these all over the world, so it’s almost a unifying meaning that actually started here in Tampa, that’s gone everywhere.”

Tampa organizers meet every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., at Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse on Busch Boulevard. They are planning another march for October.

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