Monsanto protestors took to the Edmonton streets
Photo by Eric Bowling
“Buzz, buzz, for the bees — bring Monsanto to its knees! Buzz, buzz, for the bees — bring Monsanto to its knees!”
A crowd of concerned citizens took to the streets on Oct. 18 for Occupy Edmonton’s March Against Monsanto, the second of this year.
“The chief concern is the control of our food supply,” explained David Laing of Occupy Edmonton. “In a very short period of time, in a couple generations, food has been taken out of the hands of communities and local farmers.”
“Food is something we need to take back in our hands.”
The march began with a rally at End of Steel Park where a number of speakers voiced their concerns for the lack of clarity in food labeling.
According to Health Canada’s website, current labeling of genetically modified (GM) food is on a voluntary basis. To place a GM food product on the market is a 7- to 10-year process.
During this time, the product is subjected to a series of scientific assessments, including a review of the organism’s development, a comparison of the GM food to a non-GM equivalent, an assessment of the potential for new toxins to be created in the food or for the development of new allergies as a result of the chemical changes, key nutrients and toxicants, and major constituents like fats and proteins, as well as minor constituents like minerals and vitamins.
Following this process, a decision document is published on Health Canada’s website with a complete safety review.
However, many experts are not convinced that Health Canada’s regulations do enough.
“Our bodies are like an equation,” said John Shamchuk, a glycobiologist with over 30 years of experience. “Everything is based on a sequence of events; it’s like 1-2-3-4-5. If that gets out of balance, your body starts stuttering. When you introduce something that is alien to the body, the body has trouble breaking it down.”
While speakers informed the crowd of their plight, a group of police officers arrived to control the crowd. After a brief discussion with David Laing, the officers politely asked the crowd to keep the rally to the sidewalk, which the organizers gracefully agreed to.
The rally proceeded down Gateway Boulevard and then down Whyte Avenue, moving towards 99 Street before finally turning towards Trinity Lutheran Church for a feast of organic food.
While the main focus of the rally was to demand labelling of genetically modified food products, another large concern was pesticide use in the province.
“We have no bylaws in Alberta except for the hamlet of Grandview on Pigeon Lake,” said Sheryl McCumsey, head of Pesticide Free Alberta. “Meanwhile, beekeepers are taking [pesticides] so seriously they’ve launched a $450 million lawsuit against Bayer and Syngenta.”
The Alberta government’s Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development website states that anyone using pesticides requires a pesticide applicator certificate. Using pesticides within 30 metres of a body of water also needs a Pesticide Special Use Approval, unless they are listed as a “certified applicator,” at which point they are exempt from the 30-metre rule.
While the rally itself was to raise awareness of these various issues and to compel citizens to lobby city hall and the legislature for better regulation, people wanting to improve the quality of their food don’t need to wait for the government to start making changes.
“I advise people to start gardening,” concluded David Laing. “Grow your own food, educate yourself. Stop depending on the system.”