The 2014 March Against Monsanto and Asheville GMO-Free Street Festival is slated for Saturday, May 24, at Pack Square beginning at noon.
The gathering is a demonstration against Monsanto and genetically modified organisms — foods whose ingredients were created through gene-splicing the DNA from a variety of plants and animals. In America, GMO labeling is not required by law, though the nonprofit Non-GMO Project estimates that 80 percent of conventional processed foods contain GMOs. Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically modified seeds, as well as the Roundup brand of herbicide.
For the local nonprofits GMO Free WNC and Do Not Alter, which are organizing the protest along with community volunteers, the event is about promoting public awareness of GMOs and petitioning for labeling, but it’s also about thinking to the next stage.
“We want GMOs labeled, [so that] we’ll be able to vote with our wallets and boycott them” says Louise Health, a lead volunteer. “And, in the end, we want them banned. We want GMOs out of the Blue Ridge Mountains, out of North Carolina and out of our farms.”
Guest speakers will include permaculturist Allan Kennedy; Samm Simpson, associate producer and writer for the film Genetic Roulette; Paul Berry, the director of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, who will discuss GMOs in pet food; Sue Huelbig, a geo-engineering activist; and Samantha Holland, a community organizer and volunteer with Moms Across America.
“We have the right to choose,” says Holland. “If you don’t give us the right to know what’s in our food and beverages, then you take away our freedom. I believe we have the right to freedom.”
Holland’s interest in the potential health threats of genetically-engineered food began after she experienced two miscarriages, which she believes were directly correlated to the processed foods that were a large part of her diet.
“I noticed the trend with my miscarriages and my diet, and that’s when I started to get really serious about this,” says Holland, who has a son and a daughter. “Because the majority of processed food is GMO and the majority of animal feed is GMO, even [with] a label we don’t have much of a choice, and that is an issue. I personally don’t want to consume GMO and I don’t want my children consuming GMO.”
Asheville activist Marion Felter says she is participating in the event because she is wants to see GMO labeling.
“I just can’t imagine that there’s any reason why we shouldn’t know what’s in our food supply,” Felter says. “Roundup- ready food has the pesticide built into the food. In other words, you can’t wash that pesticide off.”
The event is family-friendly, with music by local bands Free Radio, The River Rats, Jarvis Jenkins and The Old Guard, and drums, bells and hula hoops welcome. Local food trucks will also be on hand, with over 20 local vendors represented.
“A lot of kids my age, and I’m 21, have a really big misconception about this event, and [about] protest itself,” says Andrew Scotchie, lead singer of The River Rats. “I think, to them, it comes off as just a bunch of people waving signs. I’d say, come open your ears a little.”
Asheville’s March Against Monsanto is being held as part of an international day of action, with demonstrations taking place throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s a basic right, of not just humans but every entity on the planet to have clean, unadulterated food, clean air and clean water,” says Heath. “It’s that simple, and that’s what the March Against Monsanto is on a global level.”
For more on the March Against Monsanto, visit occupy-monsanto.com.