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Agitating Against Agribusiness

In Albany and around the world, March Aganst Monsanto draws attention to food corruption

by Ali Hibbs on May 28, 2014 · 1 comment


There was music; there was food; there were people dressed like bees. Approximately 150 people attended the March Against Monsanto event at the Capitol last Saturday. Worldwide, people in more than 420 cities were rallying for the same cause: “the permanent boycott of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS) and harmful agro-chemicals.” Advocates in more than 50 countries called for “food transparency, an end to corporate food corruption, and a transition to local, organic and sustainable agriculture.”

photo by Piotr Gurin

It’s probably my favorite rally of the whole year,” said Jesse Calhoun, local grassroots activist and erstwhile mayoral candidate. “The food and the music—it’s just really fun. And it’s so important. For one thing, labeling [of GMO foods] just makes sense. We label things that may contain peanuts, so why would we not label things that contain genetically modified organisms that studies shown to have carcinogenic effects?”

Calhoun joined the Facebook group for March Against Monsanto in Albany and said that he was asked to help organize the rally on Saturday. “I show up, bring the PA and some tables and play some music. It’s pretty awesome.”

Marches were held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in Quito, Equador and in Sydney, Australia. Seven cities in Africa, eight in India and three in Taiwan took part; more than 1,500 people showed up for the rally in Stockholm, Sweden.

When GMOs were first introduced, said Albany organizer Kristoph DiMaria, “there was some small public outcry at that time—mostly people were saying, ‘This is really new technology, we don’t what this is, we don’t know how it’s going to affect us, we don’t have any information about it, so we’re not really comfortable with it.’ But, of course, the corporations involved assured everyone that it was going to be fine and obviously had incredible support as far as marketing and advertising and so on.”

“We’re not exactly a chapter of March Against Monsanto here in Albany,” he continued. “We are a group of community organizers who are working with March Against Monsanto and utilizing their information to produce an event of our own in order to ally with the international day of action.” The rally this Saturday was the third that has been held in Albany.

David Panza, founder and curator at Earth Force Holistics, helped organize the first one, on May 24, 2013, with a woman named Eva Dech, and has been actively involved ever since. “I was passionate about the issue online and was posting a lot. Then I saw she was hosting the [Facebook] group for the event and I messaged her.”

Dech told Panza that it was his posts that initially inspired her involvement with the issue. “It just synchronized really well and she’s really passionate about it also.” Dech, who is currently out of the country, met Panza after she became interested in the work he was doing with Earth Force Holistics.

“I had a time when I was pretty sick,” said Panza, referring to a staph infection that plagued him for months. Rather than getting traditional medication, Panza opted for a natural, holistic approach to cure his ailment. “I went my own route,” he said. Panza spent long hours online looking for natural cures and nontraditional treatments and said that he was able to cure himself more effectively than others he knew who took the antibiotics prescribed by their doctors. That experience inspired him to start Earth Force Holistics in 2012, an aggregation of all the information and conversation that Panza had found. “It was this kind of divine thing where I felt like I had made an agreement with God—you know, like I was healed of my illness and felt a need to help others to be healed of theirs.”

Then he learned about GMOs. “I didn’t realize I had spent the first years of my life sick,” he said before sharing a favorite quote by author Arnold Ehert: “What modern medicine considers health is actually a pathological condition.”

“I find it to be true. When I was a teenager, I was tired all the time and would get sick a few times a year. I had acne and terrible allergies.” While he doesn’t expect everyone to subsist on a raw vegan diet like he does, Panza insists that he feels better and advocates, at the very least, for a natural diet.

“We need to realize that the seed is a divine technology – it’s a beautiful, perfect design. And to tamper with that, to me, is blasphemous.”

While, ideally, Panza, DiMaria and Calhoun would like to see GMOs banned and Monsanto ousted, they would be happy just to see a labeling law here in New York like the one that just passed in Vermont, requiring all GMOs to be clearly labeled so that consumers can make informed decisions as to the food they put into their bodies. A labeling bill put forth in the New York State Assembly by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal recently was approved by the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee and is now in Codes. According to Rosenthal’s office, they are in the process of amending some language but expect that the bill will be passed this legislative session. The same bill put forth in the state Senate by Senator Ken Lavalle has been languishing in the Consumer Protection Committee since February 2013.

All the organizers of these rallies hope that helping to raise awareness of the issue will inspire others to rally and call their legislators, and also to shop smarter. “If nothing else,” said DiMaria, “you can vote with your dollar and choose not to support these corporations.”

The next March Against Monsanto event is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 24, but the Facebook group is always welcoming members and offers resources for those who might like to learn more about GMOs and the Monsanto corporation.