NEWS

Anti-GMO protesters march against agribusiness giant Monsanto

05/23/2015 04:36 EDT | Updated 05/23/2016 05:59 EDT
Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Toronto Saturday in protest of genetically modified organisms and agribusiness giant Monsanto.

In their fourth year, the protests were part of a global day of action calling for labelling of GMOs in stores and a permanent boycott of what some see as harmful agricultural chemicals like pesticides. According to organizers, there was 600 protests planned in 48 countries.

Demonstrators were joined by some Ontario beekeepers, who symbolically dumped a coffin full of dead honey bees in front of the crowd. The bees were gathered from farms across the province where they died over the winter. Significant honey bee mortality rates in North America have been linked to neonicotinoid pesticides used on corn and soybean crops.

Jodi Koberinski, who calls herself a food sovereignty activist, told CBC News that Monsanto and other corporations have not been open about their research into the potential health affects of GMOs and agricultural chemicals. 

"People are here to take back control of the food system," she said. "We want government to hold these corporations responsible for the damage they are creating."

Last year, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs revealed a plan to reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the province by up to 80 per cent by 2017. There's also a federal study underway exploring the possibility of limiting their use nationwide. 

Numbers at the Toronto march appeared to be down this year. Organizers said last year nearly 3000 people took part. While the final number has not been confirmed, police said they estimated about 1200 demonstrators participated in today's events. 

Gaps in opinion

Monsanto has previously denied that its products have any adverse impacts on human health or the environment. In an email statement to CBC News, Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan said "as a leader in the industry, our company is in the spotlight with activists."

"The 300 employees who work here in Canada, including me, believe in what we are doing to help farmers produce more from their land while conserving natural resources, such as water and energy," she said. 

A recent survey conducted by Pew Research in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that the scientific community and the public are largely out of sync when it comes to concerns over the safety of GMOs.

Of the scientists polled, 88 per cent said they agree it's "generally safe" to consume GMOs, while only 37 per cent of the public said the same. 

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