About 50 protesters turned out on a raw, windy Saturday in Montauk to support an international March Against Monsanto, the producer of the herbicide RoundUp and of genetically modified seeds that work their way into an estimated 70 percent of processed foods in American grocery stores.
Tucked under umbrellas and often wearing red, the protesters at Montauk’s Kirk Park included a number of children, one of whom carried a hot-pink posterboard announcing, “I am not a science experiment. Label GMOs.”
“Monsanto, maker of Agent Orange, now brings to your table GMO,” said another one of the kids’ handmade signs.
“These countries banned GMOs,” said another, which had a long list of them beginning with Italy. “Ban GMOs, US!!!” it said.
Jeannine Logie, who helped organize the event, was stoked. “I love this, coming together and doing something instead of letting it happen,” she said. “This is the United States of America, and we have the right to make our own decisions about what we put in our bodies.”
Maybe so, but there is no mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, even though the vast majority of Americans reportedly support it. In fact, the Senate this week overwhelmingly rejected a move to allow states to decide whether genetically modified foods should be labeled as such.
Standing on a park bench under the gray sky, Stefanie Sacks, a culinary nutritionist, listed crops and foods she said were nearly certain to have been genetically modified unless they were grown organically. Among them were corn, soy beans, sugar beets and canola oil, common ingredients in any number of products on supermarket shelves.
Last week the Supreme Court upheld Monsanto’s right to prevent an Indiana farmer from planting its genetically modified soybeans, which were included in a mixture of beans from the previous year. The soybeans are “RoundUp-ready,” meaning they can survive an application of the herbicide when it kills everything around them.
The Indiana farmer and others have argued that seeds are self-replicating and objected to what they call the chemical company’s “patent on life.” Meanwhile, Senate Republicans were fending off attacks last week on what some people are calling the “Monsanto Protection Act,” a federal provision allowing seeds considered unsafe to be planted even when a court seeks to prevent that from happening.
Organizers of Saturday’s rally urged the participants to visit www.nongmoproject.org to learn how to verify that their food is GMO-free and to put pressure on lawmakers to support healthy agricultural practices.
After talks by Ms. Sacks, Ms. Logie and Sarah Conway, the protesters walked east on Main Street to the Montauk Community Garden near St. Therese Catholic Church, with a contingent of mostly kids singing “This Land Is Your Land” and chanting “Say no, say no, say no to GMO.”
It being Memorial Day weekend, there was a fair amount of traffic, and a couple of drivers honked applause. There was a show of thumbs-up from the passengers in one passing vehicle. As the line of marchers went past the Montauk Artists Association tents on the Green, which were closed due to rain, one bystander asked what a GMO was.
At the Community Garden, Susan Vitale led a prayer and Stephen Anderson led a prayer song while the participants held hands in a circle, Both expressed the human connection to the earth, which was affirmed afterward, in a different sort of way, with a round of “Happy Birthday” for one of the marchers, Elizabeth Willoughby.
According to ABC News, 250 such protests were planned in United States cities on Saturday in addition to others abroad. Ms. Willoughby said a Mothers Against Monsanto protest is planned locally on July 4.