Monsanto Protest: A Lesson for Labor?

MonsantoIn a world that is increasingly influenced by wealthy multi-national corporations, change can seem unattainable.

 But the tools for change are changing too. And that was apparent on Saturday when the power of social media sent tens of thousands of protesters in 44 countries to the streets in a “March Against Monsanto.”

 (Hmmm … Could the labor movement effectively use the power of social medial strategy to achieve positive change in the workplace?)

Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, is a leading global provider of seeds, herbicides and ”biotechnology trait products”  or GMOs. The protest focused on the lack of labeling of genetically modified organisms, including crops and animals whose DNA has been altered. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified.

Organizers said it was the first global, unified protect for this cause but it would seem to be the first or  one of the first global protests targeting a multi-national corporation and its products.  

 In my own big/little city of Reno, NV, a couple of hundred protesters, several wearing honey-bee costumes, lined the streets with signs that said “It’s Our Right to Know”  and “Why Won’t You Label Your GMOs?” 

 On Thursday, the U.S. Senate rejected – by a vote of 71 to 27 — an amendment to let states require labels on food or beverages made with genetically modified ingredients.  

Meanwhile,, state legislatures in Vermont and Connecticut moved ahead this month with a vote to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages.  The supermarket retailer Whole Foods Markets Inc. has said that all products in its North American stores that contain genetically modified ingredients will be labeled as such by 2018.

 A Monsanto spokesperson told the Associated Press on Saturday that the seeds it sells help farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources such as water and energy.

 The debate over genetically engineered food has been going on since the crops became widespread in the mid-1990s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded in 1992 that there was no difference between genetically engineered and non-engineered plants.

 In its annual report, Monsanto tells investors:

 “The degree of public acceptance or perceived public acceptance of our biotechnology products can affect our sales and results of operations by affecting planting approvals, regulatory requirements and customer purchase decisions.”

 It doesn’t seem like a stretch to conclude that global protests such as the one on Saturday could very well influence public acceptance of GMOs.

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