Savannah, GA - About 100 people marched from Johnson Square after a large rally against the Monsanto Corporation, a bio-technical and chemical giant. Monsanto plays a major role in industrialized agriculture. Marchers voiced concern or opposition to Monsanto’s genetically modified crops, unfair labor practices and poor treatment of workers. Today, genetically engineered crops account for 93% of all U.S. soybeans and about 90% of corn.
People demonstrated as part of the wider March Against Monsanto movement, an international campaign. Protesters raised health concerns about consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs). For example, most of Monsanto's seeds, including soy, corn, alfalfa and cotton, contain glyphosate resistance - a chemical used to combat weeds while protecting the crops. Scientists are debating the health and safety of GMOs, while Monsanto attempts to stifle discussion.
Frank Bessinger of Veterans for Peace stated, “The chemicals used by Monsanto are dangerous to workers. Many migrant workers die from exposure to Monsanto products.” In contrast, laborers working directly for Monsanto wear biohazard suits to avoid direct exposure to chemicals declared safe by the company. Monsanto also sells the strong chemicals used by the U.S. military for spraying fields in Colombia. U.S. planes spray wide areas to kill all the crops grown by poor farmers in rebel areas of Colombia. Glyphosate burns farmers’ and animals’ skin, leaving rashes and ulcers, and some children reportedly suffer asthma attacks.
Some at the march talked about ending the super-exploitation of the migrant farm worker by Monsanto. In 2012 a group of migrant workers in Texas sued Monsanto over poor labor and housing conditions. The farm workers were paid significantly less than the U.S. federal minimum wage. They were also lived in inadequate housing and were forced to pay for it. Farm workers claim the company promised free accommodations.
According to Daniel Moss, one of the lead organizers of March Against Monsanto and a member of the Revolutionary People's Union of Savannah, said, “The goal of March Against Monsanto is to raise awareness of industrialized food and to encourage people to support their local farmers.”
When asked about public awareness concerning the company’s exploitation of migrant workers, Moss said, “We have not made enough progress...but we have begun to move in that direction. The system that Monsanto is part of can only continue through the exploitation of the migrant worker and because the U.S. government supports it.”
In March of 2013 President Barack Obama signed the Farmer Assurance Provision, often referred to as the “Monsanto Protection Act” because the bill protects Monsanto from litigation. This is the third protest in Savannah against Monsanto and organizers say they will be back again next spring.