LOS ANGELES – Hundreds of people marched Hollywood Boulevard Saturday afternoon to protest the multinational agrochemical corporation Monsanto, leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seeds (also referred to as GMO), the toxic herbicide glyphosate (brand name Roundup), and neonicotinoid insecticides which are decimating honeybee populations.
On Saturday morning, community marches gathered in four cardinal directions to commute on public transportation and by carpool to a central rally at Sunset Blvd and Vermont Ave. The North wind of the march gathered at the far north end of the North Hollywood Farmer’s Market, across Chandler Blvd from the North Hollywood Metro Station. The crowd grew to several dozen people by noon.
One black-and-white poster read “If they’re so proud of it, why don’t they want to label it?” followed by the word “GMO” with a red circle and slash through it. A bright green poster showed the revolving door between Monsanto and the FDA, encouraging the reader to “Wake Up.” Another white poster decorated with flowers affirmed: “This planet cannot sustain this system.”
A valley girl waved a fluorescent yellow “GMO. OMG. WTF?” poster, which declared “Hell No GMO” in a pink reverse image. Artist Jay’sen displayed a double-sided canvas. One side showed a skull with the words “GMO” emblazoned on the forehead giving way to some menacing toxic drips. The reverse read, “It Stops Now!!” around a cartoon image of a Monsanto employee and a United States FDA regulator lying in bed together.
Another less-artful cardboard sign carried by a woman in an Occupy Love t-shirt listed the crimes of Monsanto Company: Agent Orange (war crimes in Vietnam), DDT and PCBs (decades of pollution), Round-up ready GMOs (poisoning our food), bee colony collapse disorder (bought company that discovered it was caused by Monsanto products), control of EPA and FDA (revolving door of Monsanto employees in regulatory positions), and seed patents (patenting nature hurts farmers).
The north wind marched to the corner of Chandler and Lankershim Boulevards at 12:30 PM, chanting “Hell No, GMO! Hell No, Monsanto!” and “GMOs Have Got to Go!” Crossing the street towards the Metro Red Line, they chanted a call-and-response: “I do not give my consent! To be a science experiment!”
Underground, the north wind marchers boarded two subway cars. A Chatsworth High School student team videotaped interviews with protestors, including the filmmaker of a dramatic thriller called “Consumed,” set in the complex world of GMOs. The students were marching of their own volition, but also recorded interviews for a service learning project.
Arriving at the Vermont/Sunset shortly after 1 PM, the north wind of the march emerged from the underground to meet the East Wind (which also traveled the Metro Red Line, from Pershing Square), the South Wind (which rallied in the morning in Liemert Park), and the West Wind (which arrived from the Community Gardens in Venice by shuttle bus and carpool).
Hundreds of protestors filled the corner, bearing signs with messages such as “Until You Wake Up, We Will Fight For You” and “Keep Corporate Greed Away From Our Food.” A fluorescent orange sign pleaded, “Don’t let the company responsible for Agent Orange have control of our soil and crops.” A cheerful woman dressed as a bee held aloft a poster with an appeal to “Bee Open ~ Label GMOs.” Spontaneous chants of “Hell no, GMOs! Hell no, GMOs!” and “Two, four, six, eight! We wanna know what’s on our plate!” broke out as people kept arriving at the Hollywood rally.
The open microphone portion of the rally begin with a short announcement by Alissa, “A lot of us, who are a part of this, come from a bigger movement known as Occupy.” She went on to explain, “We’re not single-issue activists” and “what’s going on with the murder of black and brown people around this country is just unacceptable.” March Against Monsanto has traditionally been a celebration of our fight for food freedom, but it is also connected to “our fight against poverty. This city has more food deserts than almost any other city in this country!” Alissa concluded by asking the crowd if they would be willing to have a discussion at the end of the march about “how our struggles are connected,” to which the audience cheered in agreement.
Grassroots activist Lauren Steiner was thrilled when the crowd booed in response to her first question, “I want to ask how many people in this crowd have heard of the TPP?” She was pleased with the resounding response because when she spoke about the TPP last year, and the year before, “hardly anyone had heard about it.”
Speaking with a black-and-white poster under one arm (Protect our Food and Water: Stop Secret Trade Deals), Lauren explained, “The TPP stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and it’s a trade agreement that is being negotiated with the United States and other 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim. It’s responsible for 40% of world trade.” The TPP has been negotiated in secret for the last eight years. “If the people knew what was in it, it would never be passed,” said a former trade negotiator. Lauren summed up the agreement as “one big give-away to corporations,” offering Hollywood copyright extensions that will infringe on fair use and innovation, extended pharmaceutical patents which will prevent low-cost generics from reaching developing countries, factory shut-downs in search of the lowest wage, and overall wage deflation for everyone but the top 10% of wage earners.
To pass this trade agreement, “Obama is trying to get fast-track approval, which means that Congress is abdicating their responsibility under the Constitution to regulate trade, and they’re giving it over to the executive branch.” Fast-track approval passed last night in the Senate, so it must be stopped in the House. Lauren passed out flyers asking everyone to contact their representative with a message to vote no on H.R. 1890 (the TPP Trade Promotion Authority) and H.R. 1599 (the Deny Americans the Right-to-Know or DARK Act, which would grant the Secretary of Health and Human Services sole authority on GMO labeling).
How does the TPP relate to March Against Monsanto? “Monsanto is one of the 600 corporations that has had a heavy hand in writing this bill. In the fast-track bill itself, there’s a special carve-out that requires U.S. trade negotiators fight these regulations in other countries that require GMOs.” The 64 countries that have GMO labeling laws would be banned from having them if the TPP passes. States in this country—Vermont, Alaska, Connecticut, and Maine—also face overturn of their GMO labeling laws if the TPP and/or the Dark Act are passed.
The next speaker was Neelam Sharma from Community Services Unlimited (CSU), which was created in 1977 as the southern California arm of the Black Panther Party. “When the party ceased to exist, its founders kept the non-profit intact to continue programs the party was known and loved for around the world,” she explained.
“Since about 2000, CSU has been building from the ground up in South LA, a local food system. Essentially, what we are doing is creating open farms, working with small regional farmers to build their market, and embedded in everything we do is youth training and job creation.” According to Neelam, this very localized work in South Los Angeles connects to the global effort to mitigate climate change, which is inextricably linked to the way we choose to grow, harvest, distribute, and consume our food.
We can measure the success of these efforts and others aligned with March Against Monsanto because “Monsanto is not doing as well as it used to, financially, which is the result of the undeniable power of the people.” Citing founder Huey P. Newton’s definition of power as “the ability to define phenomena and make it act in a desired manner,” Neelam Sharma declared, “Monsanto is a blood sucking leech and what we need to do with it is, once we’ve defined it as that, we need to mash it up. We need to destroy Monsanto and all the corporations like it.”
In addition to protesting, Neelam argues, “We need to build models of the world that we are trying to build.” As an example, in 2007, when CSU began working in South L.A. to provide access to good food, an estimated 90 local families were positively impacted. At the end of 2014, CSU impacted 8,000 local families, and by the end of 2018, the group is set to impact 20,000 families. Neelam invited everyone to the May 30th pre-launch of the first community-owned, completely organic market in South LA. She concluded, “We are the answer we have been waiting for. We have to build our own solution.”
The March Against Monsanto Los Angeles event invitation will be kept open throughout the year, and anyone with a group, or starting a group, to liberate food in their community is asked to connect efforts because, as Alissa announced next over the public address system, “This is not a one day fight.”
The local grassroots effort “Healthy Farms – Healthy Families” to get antibiotics out of our food (https://www.facebook.com/LASaysNoToAntibioticsInFood
) was next addressed, by volunteer Amy Turnbull with Food & Water Watch. The Los Angeles effort out of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s district seeks support for two bills in Congress to prevent antibiotics in our food sources. The initiative spans 50 cities, uniting people against corporations like Monsanto controlling our food supply.
As the open mic portion of the rally concluded, the crowd made space for the native cultural spirit of Danza Azteca. This traditional Mexica/Azteca music and dance group has led every March Against Monsanto in Los Angeles (downtown Los Angeles in May 2013, Santa Monica in October 2014, and West Hollywood in May 2014).
The blowing of a conch shell signaled the arrival of Danza Azteca. Brightly-decorated dancers wearing feathered headdresses entered to a percussion rhythm accented by rattling shells and seed pods. The opening ceremony offered a prayer seeking harmony between mankind and Mother Nature:
“Facing the east, the direction of liberty, for the freedom to have healthy food!
Facing the west, the direction of equality, for everybody to be equal in access to healthy food!
Facing the north, for life, to have healthy food, to be in safe waters, to breathe good air, to provide our children with the best food and environment! For fraternity!
Facing the south, the direction of justice, to the trees, the water, for justice!
“To the outside, to the Great Universe, show at that everything, everybody has dignity! The mountains, the trees, those who walk on two feet, those who walk on four feet, those who have wings, everybody, the trees, the mountains, the surf, to live and die with dignity. Dignity for all!
“Facing down, facing the hearth of our Mother, she is the greatest and she sees no difference. She makes everything good for everybody. Today, let’s work for our Mother. She needs her freedom, her equality, for her fraternity, for justice, then we will have a good, good life. To our Mother!”
As the prayer concluded, the dancers of the Aztec Dance, or Mi’totiliztli, began weaving around the square at Vermont/Sunset, forming a human river that picked up momentum as other marchers joined, spilling into the street and occupying three lanes of traffic traveling north on Vermont Ave.
March Against Monsanto Los Angeles traveled north on Vermont to Hollywood Blvd, chanting “Free Our Food!” and “Hell No, GMO!” Signs on display included “Monsanto Distorts Science,” “Stop Poisoning Us, Monsanto,” “Evil Seed of Corporate Greed,” and “Glyphosate kills human microflora.”
Siren blaring, a police cruiser from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) drove up from behind and then alongside the march. The marchers chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” After no one heeded LAPD orders to get out of the street, the cruiser drove to the front of the march and proceeded to block traffic at an upcoming intersection.
March Against Monsanto Los Angeles marched a 2.1 mile route from the 1500 block of N. Vermont Ave to a hillside just before 2333 Fern Dell Dr in Griffith Park. The march ended in a lush, green, secluded hamlet along a hill. The stone steps and ramps of picnic area formed a natural stage for the late afternoon rally.
Elderberries Café, the host of last year’s #FarmLA and Plant Against Monsanto events, fed hundreds of marchers a vegan, organic, GMO-free meal from a picnic table in Griffith Park. Painted Anonymity painted faces using all-natural, vegan face paint. Face paint designs included bees and flowers, all designed to throw off facial recognition technology. Painted Anonymity offers a do-it-yourself alternative to wearing masks for privacy at protests.
Other free activities at Saturday’s March Against Monsanto picnic included screenprinting by volunteers from Occupy Venice and Occupy Los Angeles. Marchers who were prepared for this three-year tradition brought t-shirts to get screened. Other people donated clothing to be imprinted with an “Occupy Monsanto” toxic warning image. Comrades from Occupy Los Angeles reunited at the event, celebrating Sunshine’s birthday along with Robert and Didi from the food tent, Richard Eastman with his message to “Free the Weed,” Pirate, photographers Patti, Damon, Jessica, Cynthia, and many others. Nowhere Man marched against Monsanto and published a brilliant photo essay of the event: https://www.facebook.com/nowhereman3/media_set?set=a.10204375948581546.1073741852.1315217726
One of the many speakers at the Griffith Park rally was a high school environmental science teacher who reminded everyone to water their plants with grey water because of the drought, and thanked his students and all the youth for attending this year’s March Against Monsanto. Other scheduled speakers included T. Matthew Phillips, the lawyer who filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto for false advertising. Monsanto claims on their product labels that “Glyphosate targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” The lawsuit, filed in April 2015 in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims Monsanto’s advertising is blatantly false: “The same chemistry that kills backyard weeds likewise kills gut bacteria, and this bacteria kill-off compromises our digestion, metabolism, and vital immune system functions.” The lawsuit is “not trying to prove that Roundup is harmful or carcinogenic,” says T. Mathew Phillips, just that “Monsanto is lying about the enzymes that Roundup targets.”
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research group, however, has recently listed Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup as a “probable carcinogen.” People are protesting Monsanto because long term, independent, peer reviewed studies were not conducted before GMOs were introduced for human or animal consumption. GMO pesticide use in our food supply is strongly linked to pervasive digestive ailments, including gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria), inflammation, leaky gut, and food allergies such as gluten intolerance. Other scientifically established health risks include, but are not limited to: organ damage, sterility, infant mortality, birth defects, auto-immune conditions, allergies and increased cancer risks.
Monsanto also suppresses any research containing results not in their favor. Why are were so many adults, children, and dogs dressed as bees for March Against Monsanto? “Save the Bees!” Significant honey bee mortality rates in North America have been linked to neonicotinoid pesticides used on corn and soybean crops. Monsanto bought the company Beeologics in September 2011 to control the flow of information on beehive colony collapse disorder (CCD)—a disastrous bee genocide caused by Monsanto's crop technologies. Now that Monsanto controls the scientific research on CCD, the answer to this scientific disaster will most certainly be “more chemicals!” manufactured by none other than Monsatan.
Monsanto never asked our permission before seeding their world with their harmful seed patenting campaign, which causes soil infertility, loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, and beehive collapse among the world’s bee population. GMO crops cross-pollinate with traditional crops, risking peasant farmers' livelihood around the world and contaminating organic and heirloom crops. While Monsanto seeks a monopoly over the world food supply, organic and small farmers suffer devastating losses, as the corporation viciously enforces exclusive seed patents.
Why don’t Monsanto and other agribusiness and chemical corporations want GMOs labeled? If they were proud of their product they would have nothing to hide, yet Monsanto has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to obstruct all labeling attempts. March Against Monsanto was initially sparked by the people’s outrage at the outsized spending of agribusiness corporations to defeat California’s 2012 Proposition 37 ballot initiative, which would have required labeling of genetically engineered foods. The $9.2 million spent by small and medium-sized donors in favor of the measure was dwarfed by $46 million from Monsanto Company, Dupont, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft, BASF Plant Science, Bayer Cropscience, Dow Agrosciences, and Syngenta Corporation, to defeat the labeling law via scorched-earth media campaign.
Despite the spending of corporations who want to control our food supply, the majority of people are in favor of labeling GE or GMO foods. Tami Monroe Canal was inspired to start the March Against Monsanto movement to protect her two daughters. She has observed, “Monsanto’s predatory business and corporate agricultural practices threatens their generation’s health, fertility and longevity. MAM supports a sustainable food production system. We must act now to stop GMOs and harmful pesticides.”
Not only does Monsanto poison our food supply with their GE crops and the toxic weedkiller Roundup, the corporation has an ugly history of poisoning Mother Earth and her children. Monsanto produced chemical weapon Agent Orange for the United States war crimes in Vietnam: poisoning the local soil, water, and food supply via rampant use of the herbicide Agent Orange to defoliate Vietnamese agricultural land. The toxins have permeated the food chain. Devastating health consequences include birth defects (cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias, and extra fingers and toes) and cancer (of the lungs, larynx, and prostate, to name a few) that affect an estimated 1 million people (Vietnamese Red Cross estimate) to 3 million people (Vietnamese government estimate). Yet Monsanto still claims no casual link between its chemicals and chronic disease.
In addition to aiding U.S. war crimes, Monsanto has a track record of producing toxic chemicals with no regard for devastating health and environmental implications. Monsanto was the leading producer of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) until that particular chlorine compound was banned in the late 1970’s for causing cancer and liver damage in humans and animals. Monsanto Company poisoned the community of Sauget, IL by leaking PCBs into surrounding waterways, including the Dead Creek, for years. Another Monsanto factory in Anniston, Alabama polluted the local drinking water with over four decades of intentional discharge of mercury and PCBs into local creeks, as well as the improper disposal of millions of pounds chemicals in open-pit landfills.
Monsanto’s insecticide DDT was sprayed heavily in the 1950’s with tragic consequences for bird reproduction, including the near extinction of the bald eagle and peregrine falcon. Also, despite claims by the multinational biotech giant that genetically modified crops would lead to a decrease in Roundup use, U.S. Geological Survey data reveals the use of Roundup’s key component glyphosate has increased 16-fold since the mid-1990s when GMO crops were first introduced.
Monsanto achieves corporate control of government via a revolving door of Monsanto employees in regulatory authority positions; in the United States, Monsanto figures occupy key positions of power at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The U.S. Congress passed the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” in 2013 baring federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of GE seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future. The fight against legislation to protect Monsanto continues to the current day. Ask your representative to vote “No” on H.R. 1890 (the TPP Trade Promotion Authority) and H.R. 1599 (the DARK Act). For more information about the many other reasons to stop the TPP, go to exposethetpp.org.
March Against Monsanto Los Angeles 2015 represented a chance for families to connect with food-forward ideas in their own communities. The winds of the march gained momentum and found solidarity among the public at large as they traveled to East Hollywood for a hundreds-strong march to take back our food from corporate agribusiness. Following the march, families and protestors of all ages enjoyed a communal picnic and free activities in the shade of Griffith Park. #HellNoGMO #MAMLA #MAM2015
March Against Monsanto Los Angeles #MAMLA #MAM 2015
Photos by Occupy Los Angeles OWS: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.741936735923184.1073741887.405414422908752&type=1
March Against Monsanto LA 2015
Photo essay by Nowhere Man https://www.facebook.com/nowhereman3/media_set?set=a.10204375948581546.1073741852.1315217726
March Against Monsanto LA 2015
Photos by Adriana M. Galvez: https://www.flickr.com/photos/35776401@N06/sets/72157653339609272/
Short video March Against Monsanto Los Angeles 2015 traveling up Western from Hollywood Blvd: https://youtu.be/sBGK4lhqqE0
#Ustream MAMLA 2015 Livestream by @PMBeers http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/62601273
Monsanto Glyphosate Class Action Lawsuit: http://www.monsantoclassaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Monsanto-Glyphosate-Class-Action-4.20.2015.pdf
Community Services Unlimited on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CSUINC
L.A. Against Antibiotics in Food on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LASaysNoToAntibioticsInFood
Stop TPP: http://stoptpp.org/
Find contact information for your representative in Congress: http://contactingthecongress.org
Painted Anonymity on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaintedAnonymity
March Against Monsanto Los Angeles on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marchagainstmonsantolosangeles
March Against Monsanto Los Angeles 5.23.2015 event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/476970795793660/
Occupy Los Angeles OWS on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OccupyLosAngelesOWS
Visit Elderberries Café at 7564 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046.