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Voices from the Street during Biojustice 2001 Protests

by various Tuesday, Jun. 26, 2001 at 12:50 PM
mgconlan@earthlink.net (619) 688-1886

various comments from participants in the Biojustice 2001 demonstrations in San Diego through June 25, 2001

error The following is a compilation of what activists had to say at the Bio 2001 protests.

"According to the United Nations, we're already producing enough food to feed one and a half times the world population with an adequate, nutritious diet. The fact that the US government and the people of BIO 2001 are arguing that a genetically engineered future is the solution is just diverting attention from the real causes of hunger, the real causes of poverty, the real causes of ill health, the fact that most people in this world still don't have access to clean water".-Luke Anderson

"If we're really serious about improving the health care of millions of people on this planet, we can do so. But that takes political change. That takes change from the bottom up. That takes people demanding that their right to equality on this planet is not only answered but acted on".-Luke Anderson

Americans don't know about biotechnology. They don't know that they're eating it, they don't know they're drinking it. They don't know that these are the technologies that are shaping their medical futures. We are here to counter that trend. We're here to build awareness and to give people the opportunity to learn what this technology is. -Chaia Heller, professor of Ecological Philosophy at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont:

I've done observations in both open- and closed-air research facilities and you'd be astounded to see people walking around with trans-genetic pollen on their clothing and walking right out of the laboratory. And the idea that you can have an open-air field test that is contained is ridiculous.-Chaia Heller, professor of Ecological Philosophy at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont:

I think this is very, very dangerous. Once you introduce biologically modified organisms into the environment, at a certain point you cannot go backwards. This is going to affect people for generations to come. So I think our challenge is to make the links between biotechnology and the people across the border who are living under colonial conditions. Those issues are inextricably connected.-Chaia Heller, professor of Ecological Philosophy at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont:

When you really understand what biotechnology is, it's not just a technology that's rearranging the food supply and medical products for generations to come. It's a new mode of capitalist production. The same capitalist system that is producing biotechnology that is creating the kind of trade wars and the kind of economic structures that are keeping people impoverished all over the world. It's the same system.-Chaia Heller, professor of Ecological Philosophy at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont:

We don't believe that genetically modified organisms in their untested state should be coming into our bodies or into our food system or into the environment.-Group of young women from the Bay Area:

The issue is commodification of life itself. Humans can only exist as part of a community and that's not just a human community, but an ecological biosphere community. For any one person to try to say they own something like that and to try to put a patent on something and put a dollar value on it is to pretty much deny what makes us human.-Group of young women from the Bay Area:

All of us have learned some very serious life skills of being individuals, and there's some unlearning that we have to do to have a kind of sharing and generosity and connectedness with ourselves and the natural environment.-Group of young women from the Bay Area:

We are trained to believe in the individual 'I', meaning myself, and 'if I have my food and my car and my house I don't have to worry about the peel in Mexico because they're not me'. Other paradigms would define 'I' as 'my community' and that community extended to the biotic community of the world. I'm concerned about the workers in Mexico because they are really not that separate from me. If they're being pushed off their land, if they're being commodified and having their knowledge taken and patented by the corporations, well, that's mine too. I'm a part of that.-Group of young women from the Bay Area:

I just informed myself about a week ago. There was not a lot of information out. I went to the Starlight yesterday and that informed me a lot. They had booths set up. I picked up information and gave it to my friends and passed it all out.-Nineteen-year-old woman from San Diego dressed as an ear of corn

Im trained as a botanist and Id like to do agricultural work in the future. Im concerned for a lot of reasons about biotechnology and I think its a really important issue and something we should pay attention to. Theres obvious consumer and labeling issues, like where people dont know theyre eating GMOs. Theres also a lot of affects on the family farmer in America and on third world farmers in terms of the monopolies these countries are having. There are detrimental effects on organic farming that these bred plants are having.-Woman botanist from Oregon

One of the most common organic farming methods to deal with pests is a naturally occurring soil bacterium, and organic farmers for a long time have sprayed concentrates of this bacterium on plants to deal with insects. Well, biotech companies are now breeding that into their plants, and that functionally renders its use by organic farmers useless.-Woman botanist from Oregon

In college, every opportunity I had on any project in my class, if there was any way I could study plant biotech, I did. I started off skeptical, but I didnt start off thinking this is a bad thing. And the more Ive gotten into it, the more concerns I have. The thing that I find most shocking and horrifying is, in a very basic sense, these companies are patenting life. What could be more offensive to a living being than a company, a corporate entity that their sole purpose is to make money patenting life? That is offensive on a basic and spiritual level. These companies are fucking patenting genes, organisms. Thats just so not OK.-Woman botanist from Oregon

Im here for the cause. Like, no GMOs. Theyre getting away with a lot of stuff. I feel like every time these protests come around, people are saying, You know what? Were watching this. Its like a show of unity. Everybodys here for the same cause. People show up and support everybody, because its a great cause.-Latino youth from LA active in the Youth Student Network of the October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality:

Young anarchist, marching with the black bloc:

I started learning a lot more about the biotech industry just recently. Genetic engineering I think thats messed up. Its totally manipulating the environment and its not benefiting people. Its benefiting more corporate greed. Its the whole system in general, not just one part.

Its a plutocracy, its a system where wealth controls, and thats why we have so much fucked-up shit. Thats what capitalism leads to, plutocracy.

Woman in her 20s from San Francisco who was leading chants during the march:

I think one of the most horrifying pieces of the biotech industry is research into really owning a womans body, turning her breast milk into something thats patented. Thats pretty horrifying. Im not going to let anyone own my body. I think its something that attracts women in particular, to defend the rights of our own bodies.

High school science teacher, 33, from North County San Diego:

Were not being allowed into this debate; all of the decisions are being made for us. These decisions are not being held up to scientific rigor, theyre being held up to whats profitable for the few.

In this society youre free to say anything you want until somebody actually hears you. Their concern was that our voice was going to be as loud as Seattle. This is a good showing. Whats really interesting is that this group represents so many different groups and yet its managing to be cohesive. Its going so beautifully, and I know the cops are hating it.

Chant in front of the convention center:

Thats bullshit! Get off it!
The enemy is profit.
Disease and starvation
Will not be solved by corporations

Woman member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade:

Im here because Im a revolutionary and I love the people. We want to unite with people from all different areas. Theyre destroying the fucking earth. The very idea that there s like terminator seeds, that Monsanto would make a seed that destroys itself so that people cannot grow food and they can make money off this stuff is preposterous, its almost unthinkable. Theyre using all the technology that people have developed and in the service of profit, not in the service of the people: Its one more reason to make revolution.

These people who are coming forward, theyre searching for solutions, theyre searching for a way to save the environment, theyre searching for ways to stop this genetic engineering and all this stuff. Ive talked to more than a few youth today, and I say, Have you ever considered revolution? and they say the same thing, three youth said this to me: All the time. I think about it all the time. People really are grappling with changing the world.

Jim Thomas, Greenpeace:

In about 35 countries worldwide there are laws that say if you have genetically engineered ingredients in food, you have to label it. Its pretty straightforward. Whats interesting in the United States is the vehemence with which the lobby and the government, which is the same as the industry, have resisted the basic mandatory labeling of food. This guy in the FDA said that if you put a labeling saying its genetically engineered food people would think that was the skull and crossbones, they would treat it as poison and they wouldnt buy it and they wouldnt eat it.

Well, thats actually true. The reason this industry is able to get away with putting genetically engineered ingredients into 17% of our food is that nobody knows that its there. Its been their strategy all along to maintain that ignorance.

Just labeling a problem doesnt make it go away, just like labeling a toxic outflow pipe doesnt stop stuff from running out of it. What we do need globally is a ban on the release of genetically engineered organisms because of the threats they pose to the environment.

Labeling is in one sense tactical. It lets people know whats going on in their food. Its just a very basic right to know. But if you merely label, give it five years and everything is going to be contaminated.

Twenty-six-year-old woman from San Francisco:
I found the march really inspiring. A huge community from San Diego came out and stood in the streets to challenge the biotechnology industry, an industry that is the epitome of corporations trying to take over our lives. While we came together in San Diego to fight back, people all over the country and all over the world are joining in that battle, drawing attention to what we did here and taking that message to their own communities. That's how we're going to create change.
We're constantly told that young people don't care about things and we're apathetic, but that's such a lie. The more young people I meet that are just so smart and concerned about what's going on in the world, and want to create a world that we can bring people into for future generations.

Man in his 30s, activist from Los Angeles:
Yesterday we had a celebration, we had a lot of people in the streets of San Diego. We sent out a clear message that there's strong resistance to genetic engineering in the US. We came to the gates of the castle, and they saw what the 'riff-raff' is really concerned about.

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