Robert Bright reports on the Toronto March against Monsanto:
SPECIAL TO THE BOVINE: On a chilly, but sunny Saturday afternoon in Toronto, I made my way down to St. James Park on King Street East between Jarvis and Church Streets. Despite the chill, I decided against wearing a jacket so I could prominently display my snazzy, new “Monsanto – Biohazard” t-shirt. (It was a toss-up between this shirt or my, “OMG! GMO! WTF!?” t-shirt.) Strolling up Jarvis Street from The St. Lawrence Market I felt exhilarated to be going to my first protest march in years.
As I neared St. James Park at around 1:45 pm, I saw about 150 or so protesters who had gathered near the gazebo where organisers had set up a crude sound system. The facebook event plan notice I checked out said they were expecting about 1,600 people. Where was everybody? I started to worry that the march was not going to be that big after all. Armed only with Nikon P-510, I decided I had better get down to business and start snapping some photos. Hopefully the throngs of people that were expected would show up soon. The organisers (Millions Against Monsanto in Toronto) had lined up some speakers before the actually march got underway to get the crowd amped up and excited.
As I busied myself with taking some pictures I did not notice the crowd slowly growing all around me. It seemed dozens of people were arriving by the minute and it was getting more difficult to move around. People from all walks of life, young and old, small groups and families, people of all types of backgrounds began organising their signs and costumes.
Drums and horns and cowbells were being tested, and the cacophony of noise was beginning to grow when the first speaker took the microphone. (I can’t tell you exactly who the speakers were, or even what they were saying most of the time. The sound system was not the greatest, and the buzz of the crowd was adding to the din.) Whatever the message being delivered, some were hearing it loud and clear, as was evident by the sporadic cheering and applause.
By 2pm, the time the actually marching got underway, the crowd had swelled to some 500-700 people or so. (This is just my own estimation, and I am unsure what the official count might have been.) Suddenly, we were off and heading west on King Street toward Church Street. An entourage of drummers, cowbell beaters and other percussionists led the way, and led the chanting: “Hell No! GMO! Hell No! Monsanto!!” Police officers on bicycles blocked traffic at the intersection at Church Street and funneled us down toward Front Street. Hundreds of people with homemade signs and costumes, chanted anti-Monsanto slogans and banged on drums.
People of all ages and walks of life came together for the common cause of bringing awareness to their fellow citizens about the giant biotech corporation known as Monsanto, and the genetically modified foods they produce. Foods that have been deemed unsafe and untested by many, and that have infiltrated our food supply system without our knowledge or consent. Signs demanding these GMOs be labeled, signs demanding that they be banned outright, signs accusing Monsanto of destroying the environment and feeding us poison for their own profit at our expense.
What an amazing experience! One I won’t soon forget! It was so encouraging to see so many people get that loud about a common cause, for a common goal, for our collective common good. People in their cars, delayed by our parade, didn’t seem to mind being stopped in their tracks as we paraded by them. Many honked their horns in support and joined in the chanting.
People lined the sidewalks to watch us, taking pictures with their phones and sending them to friends. Several people stopped me to ask: “Who is this Monsanto?! What is all this fuss about?” (Note to self: the next time we have a March Against Monsanto I am going to come armed with information pamphlets that clearly spells out the dangers Monsanto is exposing us to, and our lax government’s refusal to let us know what is in our food.)
The only real let down at the rally was the complete absence of any of Toronto’s media. No newspapers, to television cameras, no representation from the media anywhere. For whatever reason, the hundreds of people marching in protest through the city’s downtown core was somehow not deemed to be newsworthy. This was both surprising to me, and incredibly disappointing. Could Monsanto (or the biotech industry more generally) so powerful that they could control what news media reported about them? I have to assume that this is the case. Not only has the media in Toronto been silent, but for the most part the media has been silent everywhere on this world-wide event.
I guess the lesson to be learned from the March Against Monsanto event is that we will need many more marches of this kind. And, it is likely, we will need to learn how to do the media’s job for them.
Rachel Parent’s talk at the Toronto March against Monsanto
March against Monsanto Vancouver
““Hell no Monsanto – we don’t want your GMO”
The chant reverberated across the open grounds before the art gallery in Vancouver, in pouring rain, and over a sea of umbrellas. I had never met Laura (NoEnbridge) Yates face to face before. And in a few minutes, she became one of my heroines.
In a strong and unflinching voice, she started the gathered crowd going, raising the level of passion till the protesters matched her in full throated cry – hell no Monsanto, we don’t want your GMO.
There were quite a few people with massive TV cameras wrapped in waterproof covers. Some were likely from the media. But what I saw in the TV later on, they missed the point, and the passion. Monsanto was just a news item, nothing more. But for the people gathered, it was far more than having fun shouting around in the rain. It was a call at arms for protection of farmers, farm produce and the very food we chose to eat…..”
Video from the Vancouver March against Monsanto
Featuring a talk by Common Ground publisher Joseph Roberts (www.commonground.ca)
A few photos from Marches against Monsanto in the United States:
Video of photos from Marches against Monsanto around the world
A few mainstream media stories on the marches:
Protesters march against GMO giant Monsanto in 430 cities
“Organizers say two million people marched in protest against seed giant Monsanto in hundreds of rallies across Canada, the U.S. and dozens of other countries on Saturday.
“March Against Monsanto” protesters say they wanted to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it. Founder and organizer Tami Canal said protests were held in 436 cities in 52 countries.
Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply….”
Washington Post: Marchers in over 400 cities protest Monsanto
“LOS ANGELES — Protesters rallied in dozens of cities Saturday as part of a global protest against seed giant Monsanto and the genetically modified food it produces, organizers said.
Organizers said “March Against Monsanto” protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Washington and Los Angeles, where demonstrators waved signs that read “Real Food 4 Real People” and “Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.”…”
Ontario Farmer: Monsanto protests circle the globe
“The ‘March Against Monsanto’ movement began just a few months ago, when Canal created a Facebook page on Feb. 28 calling for a rally against the company’s practices.
Gary Null’s documentary on GMOs, “The Seeds of Death”
Vancouver Mutants March against Monsanto
Thanks to the writers and photographers and video makers whose work is featured here, as well as to Raoul Bedi for his assistance in assembling the material.