Rally in Valpo seeks to raise awareness of genetically modified food
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 12, 2013 5:32PM
Audrey Isbey of Chesterton, right, and Danette Shelton of Portage join other protestors against the Monsanto corporation and their effect on the food supply. Dozens rallied along Lincolnway in downtown Valparaiso on Saturday, October 12, 2013. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Monsanto, on its website,
says plants and crops with genetically modified traits have been tested more than any other crops in agricultural history — with no credible evidence of harm to humans or animals. It says governmental regulatory agencies, scientific organizations and leading health associations worldwide agree that food grown from GM crops is safe to eat and that consumers who still aren’t convinced can look for and choose those products that are labeled “certified non-GM product” or “certified organic” products.
Updated: November 14, 2013 6:53AM
VALPARAISO — Amanda Bruce’s hand-lettered T-shirt said, “I shop local organic in my backyard.” Her sons, Ben, 7, and Alex, 4, wore comparable shirts.
Saturday, almost 100 other people expressed similar sentiments on the courthouse square, where they gathered to raise awareness about corporate giant Monsanto and the impact of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which are in most processed foods.
The protesters, whose signs garnered honks of support along Lincolnway, said the long-term impact of using GMOs on people and the planet is still not known, but concerns include cancer, tumors, organ damage and infertility.
They demanded that food containing the altered ingredients, used in corn and soybeans, for example, to make them weed- and pest-resistant, be labeled as such, so folks can avoid them if they so choose.
“We have been trying to go GMO-free for a while and it’s very hard because of what’s offered,” said Bruce, who lives in Chesterton.
Bruce shops at local farmers markets, where she can ask growers if they use GMOs, but that’s a seasonal food source. She also started her own garden this summer.
“I feel like the more people know about GMOs, the less they’ll buy them,” she said.
Valparaiso resident Whitney Hibbitts organized the “March Against Monsanto” rally, which included a march through the farmers market at Central Park Plaza and a speech by Griffith chemist and biologist George Smolka.
More than 50 countries hosted hundreds of similar rallies across the globe, Hibbitts said, adding the event was timed in advance of World Food Day on Wednesday.
She first started reading up on GMOs after a friend asked her to go to a similar event in the spring in Chicago, and she learned about the potential health impacts of genetically modified ingredients.
“This is what my 2-year-old is eating. When it’s your child that’s eating this stuff, it hits you even harder,” she said, adding she eats organics but they are expensive, and it would be cheaper if she could look at a label and determine if a food was made with GMOs.
Those attending the rally carried a wide array of signs to make their point, including “I would rather eat this sign than a GMO,” “We are not science experiments,” and “Monsanto has become a monster.”
Smolka referred to Monsanto as “a gorilla in the closet,” and said the chemical company has morphed into a global biotech firm.
The changes being made to animals and plants through genetic modification have not been tested over time, he added.
Plants are being developed to be resistant to pesticides, but that’s generating pesticide-resistant weeds, which will require different or stronger chemicals, the opposite result Monsanto is after.
“It’s a never-ending cycle,” Smolka said. “The bottle should read, ‘Continued drinking will lead to continued drinking,’ and the same is true of GMOs.”
Greg Engel held a sign that said, “Farmers against GMOs.” He raises grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry and pigs on his Valparaiso farm. It’s difficult and more expensive to find GMO-free feed for his animals.
He believes people should educate themselves and know what they’re eating, and labeling would help that.
“More and more, people are becoming aware of the problems. I don’t believe that you can manipulate genes, or should manipulate genes,” he said.