The March Against Monsanto/Local Food and Farm Street Jam, held Saturday, May 24, brought an estimated 250 activists to protest the chemical and biotechnology corporation — less than the 1,000-plus who gathered at the June 2013 March, but more than those who attended a rainy October protest.
“It was a very positive event,” says Louise Heath, event organizer and volunteer for GMO Free NC, a local organization that is close to getting its nonprofit status.
Organizers say they were still pleased with the turnout but attribute the decrease in attendance to an unexpected change in venue. Instead of rallying at Pack Square as planned, the gathering was moved to The French Broad Food Co-Op on Biltmore Avenue. Demonstrators marched through downtown Asheville, and rallied at the Co-Op, where local vendors, musicians, guest speakers and food trucks assembled.
The location change boils down to a request by the city to present proof of insurance for the three participating food trucks. (Read the specifics in a public announcement she made on Facebook — click here to read her post). Xpress was unable to reach Jon Fillman, economic development specialist with the City of Asheville, for comment due to the Memorial Day holiday.
Despite the change of location, local demonstrators raised their fists, waved signs and showed up to take a stand against Monsanto, the lead producer of genetically modified seeds and herbicides in the United States. Asheville residents and demonstrators spoke with Xpress about why this issue is of concern to them. Here’s what they had to say:
Autumn Duvall, who came to the protest with her young son, said: “I’m here because it’s obvious that Monsanto takes no responsibility or accountability for making sure our food is safe. The FDA puts the responsibility on the food producers; so it’s really up to us to fight back against the owner of 90% of genetically-modified seeds, so our food is not poisoned. And, I’m here to teach my child that every voice counts and to protest at a young age.”
Robert Eidus a local farmer and vendor at the event said: “Monsanto, by taking terminator seeds and not letting indigenous peoples collect seeds for the next year, are criminals as far as I’m concerned, and they should be put in jail for doing that. Nobody should control the seeds, and nobody should be allowed to control the seeds.”
Volunteer Samantha Holland said: “Thank God, the French Broad Co-Op allowed us to come here. … The public deserves to know. They need a choice. I will be marching with Moms Across America on July 4, and I’m always doing my part and spreading the word on GMO and their potential dangers.”
Activist Judith Pritchard said: “I vote with my dollars, with what I eat and what I put on my skin. We live in a democracy: What happened to our freedom of choice? If Monsanto is so proud of their GMOs for ‘saving the world and feeding the world,’ then why can’t they label them so educated consumers can make a choice?”
Heath Moody told Xpress: “I’m here to make a stand again Monstanto… They have patented life. They’re suing small farmers, and they’re basically trying to control the world’s food supply. Bigger is not better, and it’s time to support organic and small farmers and label GMOs.”
Demonstrator Jodie Appel said that: “I feel corporate greed breeds mutant seeds. Monsanto shouldn’t be in control of our seeds.”
Mia Elias of Asheville said: “Today’s important because it’s an international [day of action] with over 350 cities that are Marching Against Monsanto. The bottom line is that we have a right to know what’s in our food and where are hard-earned dollars are being spent.”
Jenny Andry told Xpress that: “Monsanto is a company that had produced nothing but toxicity — from Agent Orange to being involved in the production of D.D.T. Now they’re involved in producing genetically modified food, and they’re telling us that [it's] safe and that [it's] not harmful to us in anyway. A lot of the research is saying otherwise.”
David Einzig said that: “It’s important to understand what’s in your food, because your food is what you’re putting into your body everyday. If your food is not natural, then neither are you.”
For more about the March Against Monsanto in Asheville and info about upcoming events, click here. Photo provided by Louise Heath.