Tampa activists March Against Monsanto as part of global coordinated actions opposing genetically modified organisms
More than 500 people from around the bay area marched against genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the multinational corporation Monsanto. Activist groups organized the march from Hyde Park to downtown Tampa to raise awareness of the dangers to agriculture.
âItâs very important that we put a moratorium immediately. No new GMO products, no new GMO fields, no advancement of GMOâs whatsoever and, at the same time, we begin an immediate phase out of all GMOâs and a transition to healthy, sustainable, community-based organic farming, which is the food system that we deserve.â
That was 2012 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaking at Tampaâs March Against Monsanto. Protesters held signs and chanted all along the three mile march, which backed up traffic on Kennedy Blvd for over a mile. Nathan Schwartz, one of the organizers, said the march seemed to go on without much trouble.
âWe walked right up Swann then walked down Kennedy, basically straight through to past Ashley and past University of Tampa, and made a left at Tampa Street and came to Gaslight [Park], got water, collected ourselves, and now weâll be going to Curtis Hixon [Park]. The police have blocked off the streets for us, they have been very amiable, they seem to just want it to go swimmingly, and they havenât seen any reason to do anything. Itâs been very peaceful, no injuries.â
Christine Wall, community coordinator for Tampa GreenPeace said one of the biggest concerns is that genetically modified seeds, produced by corporations like Monsanto, are a health threat.
âFor example, corn has been genetically modified to produce its own insecticide called Bt and then that insecticide can flourish in someoneâs intestines if they ingest genetically modified corn. With soybeans, they make them Roundup ready. So you have the cells, you have the genes â theyâve been modified by Monsanto by artificial means â and theyâve been modified primarily to reduce the toxicity of Roundup, which is the herbicide that Monsanto uses. So not only are the soybeans genetically modified, which is sketchy at best, but as well they have been liberally sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, which has carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive consequences.â
Wall, like many of the other protesters, was also concerned with the affect of genetic modification on family owned and organic farms.
âItâs putting a lot of farmers under pressure, a lot of stress, and some of them out of business. Monsanto actually, I believe, investigated over 500 farmers last year because of cross-contamination. They canât control the wind so thereâs transgenic mutation and theyâre genetically modified crops cross-pollinate with organic crops and then they go back to the farmer and accuse them of stealing their technology which is ridiculousness.â
A similar March Against Monsanto in St. Petersburg drew more than 500 people as well. They were part of a larger, international day of protest that accumulated over 279,000 Facebook RSVPs. According to Schwartz, organizers of the Tampa march hoped to network and create connections to continue their campaign against genetically modified foods.
âThis is a movement, this not just a march. This is very similar to civil rights protests and other such big movements that have happened. Itâs not just a hundred people going on a march, a thousand people going on a march, itâs international. And Itâs soccer moms and everyday people who are concerned about there food. Itâs a very empowering thing to have, internationally, so many people marching on the same day and I want Tampa to get the message that this is not going away. This will keep happening: weâll keep marching, weâll keep building these networks, and weâll start making some real results happen on the ground around the city.â
According to Schwartz, Momâs Across America will be hosting an event in July to raise awareness of GMOs and there is expected to be an even larger march against Monsanto on National Food Day in October.
Monsanto did not respond to our request for an interview by air time.
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Here are more photos of Saturday's march in Tampa.