On its website, Monsanto, the St. Louis-based biotech corporate giant, calls itself a "sustainable agricultural company" that's focused on empowering farmers and conserving natural resources. An advocacy group says the company is an evil "Biotech Bully" with a "dastardly plan to lie and cheat its way to more profits and power."
The company has long been vilified by environmentalists for its use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), but the current outrage was mostly prompted by legislation: H.R. 1599, a House bill that would give control over GMO food labeling to the FDA rather than individual states—which critics say is really an attempt to smother the labeling. It's up for a vote in June. This Saturday, marches against the company will be held in over 400 locations around the world — including right here in Miami at the Omni/Arsht Center Metromover station.
"The people want to know what's in their food," says Miami march spokesman Adam Kain. "The government should allow us to know."
Kain says he expects more than 1,000 people to show up at the march. Jill Stein, the 2012 and likely 2016 Green Party presidential nominee, will address the crowd afterward. Surely she won't have nice things to say about the world's most hated biotech company.
H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, was introduced in March by Mike Pompeo, a Republican congressman from Kansas. The bill was introduced amid myriad state efforts to mandate a kind of warning label on food products that contain GMOs; Pompeo's bill, backed by the agricultural industry—"written by Monsanto," Kain's group says—would dictate that the labeling is controlled by the federal government instead of individual states.
Advocates tout the effort as an attempt at transparency and efficiency. But environmental advocates are emphatically calling what they see as a Kansas-sized bluff.
"Clearly this is a legislative Hail Mary designed to not only block states like Vermont from giving people the right to know what they're eating, but to make it much harder fro the FDA to craft a national mandatory labeling solution," Colin O'Neil, with the Center for Food Safety, told the Washington newspaper, The Hill.
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Pompeo, for his part, makes no bones about his strong opposition to GMO labeling: "Activists in nearly 30 states are considering legislation that would require government warning labels on food products containing ingredients derived from biotechnology," he wrote in a bill summary on his website. "These common ingredients, which include corn, soybeans, and sugar beets, are safe to eat...If consumers are misled to believe the food supply isn't safe, there is little incentive to innovate or grow these important crops." Sounds like he's not a Whole Foods guy.
Saturday's march is also intended "to call for an end to Monsanto’s global seed monopoly and toxic monocultures" and protest its use of the herbicide Roundup; glyphosate, the product's key ingredient, was recently declared a probable carcinogenic, the group says.
The protest begins at 2 p.m., with more information here.
"There are going to be millions of people across the world marching against Monsanto," Kain says.