Detroit stands up to Monsanto
By Phreddy Wischusen
Special to the Michigan Citizen
“Worldwide on all seven continents today people are marching. They’re moving and creating the tipping point for us to push back against corporate interests,” Charity Hicks, coordinator of the Detroit Food Justice Taskforce and one of the founders of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, told an energized crowd gathered in Detroit’s Eastern Market May 25.
Hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered at a gazebo on Russell Street to raise awareness about the dangers of agricultural conglomerate Monsanto’s products and U.S. government policies that benefit the company.
Many of the protesters came dressed in costumes or bearing colorful hand-drawn signs. The signs featured slogans such as, “Once you know Monsanto, you’ll say NO Monsanto,” “Monsantoter, we don’t want your FRANKENSEEDS” and “BEE-ware of GMOs.”
Valerie Jean and Stephen Fuzzytek of Occupy Detroit, Tia Lebherz of Food & Water Watch, Zach Schaffer of No GMO 4 Michigan, and Jarret Schlaff of the organization Plan it 4 Planet organized the march in conjunction with 378 other events throughout 49 countries.
The Eastern Market Corporation generously made the space available for the protest.
Just after 10:30 a.m., drummers and a large banner that read “March Against Monsanto” led protesters north to Erskine Street, east, then south towards the Fisher Freeway, while chanting, “NO. MORE. G. M. Os!”
As the large group wound around the colorful stalls, the ripe produce and the blossoming flowers of the market, shoppers began to merge with the protesters. The group grew to approximately 1,000 in number.
March organizers and activists made speeches about the issues at hand.
Schaffer revealed how the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder, responsible for the death of millions of pollinating bees leading to lower fruit yields, is a result of Monsanto produced pesticides.
Instead of terminating the production of the poisonous pesticides, Monsanto chose to buy Beeologics, the world’s largest bee research firm, ostensibly to suppress research that links Monsanto products to irrevocable environmental damage.
Tia Lebherz called Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and had the crowd chant “break up with Big Ag” on to her answering machine.
As chairman of the Senate’s Agricultural Committee, Stabenow has blocked legislation that would force companies to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Monsanto is the world’s largest producer of GMOs, which are believed to damage the soil, weaken human immune systems, cause liver damage, and possibly lead to sterility and cancer.
Jose, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, told stories of how use of Monsanto crops had devastated farms throughout the world, forcing farmers to immigrate to America seeking jobs.
Hicks spoke about how pending trade legislation called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could cost Americans jobs while profiting Monsanto.
The protest ended in song, and the protesters networked, made new friends and vanished into the fray of the market to buy fresh organic produce from Michigan farmers, putting their money and their health where their mouths were.
To learn more about Monsanto or GMOs, or to get involved in the conversation, visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org or www.nogmo4michigan.org