Say No to Monsanto!


(Source: Oh My News)

On May 21, I participated in the South Korean “March Against Monsanto” protest, an annual grassroots event that fights against the global reach of Monsanto corporation, a producer of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Farmers’ organizations, consumer cooperatives, environmental organizations, and citizens from all over Korea participated, shouting the slogan “No to GMO and No to Monsanto! “, marching outside S Tower (the home of Monsanto’s Korean office), and flying yellow paper airplanes with their message on them. The march ended at Insadong, where we distributed flyers with information about the dangers of GMO.

Why were we protesting so furiously against Monsanto? What impact does this company have on the food we eat, and what kinds of problems is this causing?

March Against Monsanto first started in 2013, when California Proposition 37, a California ballot initiative that called for mandatory labeling of GM Food, was rejected by voters, due in large part to an $8.1 million opposition campaign spearheaded by Monsanto. Shortly after, Tami Monroe, a mother of two daughters, started a social media campaign to protest Monsanto’s monopoly over the world’s food supply, which quickly gained popularity and spawned protests in cities across the world. This year, the march was held in over 400 different cities.

Monsanto was established in 1901 and started off producing saccharine, an artificial sweetener. Now, it’s a transnational corporation and one of the “Big 6 Biotech” corporations. Monsanto has risen to notoriety over the years for its role in producing and selling several toxic chemicals, some of which people continue to suffer side effects from today. .For example, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were used for 50 years in pesticides, adhesives, and refrigerants until it was found to be toxic and banned in 1979.

However, during a lawsuit against Monsanto, it was discovered that the company had known about the danger posed by PCB and did nothing. Similarly, Monsanto denied all negative effects caused by DDT, a commonly used pesticide that they manufactured, until it was proven to be harmful to humans and banned in 1972.[ref] 한국의 GMO 재앙을 보고 통곡하다.[/ref]

With such a dark history, it is unsurprising to hear that Monsanto has found yet a new way to exploit consumers. Monsanto owns 90% of all GMO patents and 67% of seed rights in the world yet it refuses to acknowledge research that shows the dangers of GMO and its agrochemicals. Oh Roji, author of “Wailing in Disaster of GMO in Korea,” noted that “research results show that glyphosate in the herbicide produced by Monsanto begins accumulating in one’s bone marrow, eventually causing cancer. However, Monsanto keeps selling it, and has even developed GMO plants that requires that same herbicide.” Also the researches show the danger of GMO since the protein transplanted by genetic modification is abnormal, it causes allergies or produces toxins in human body.[ref]"GMO때문에 호남 곡창지대가 위험하다"[/ref]

As Monsanto continues to grow through mergers and acquisitions, its impact on our daily lives grows as well. For instance, most of the world’s high fructose corn syrup, which is found in many processed foods, is made from GM corn. Most canola, frequently processed to make canola oil, is cultivated in the US and Canada, where 90% of the supply is GMO. And 80% of GM corn and 93% of GM soybeans produced in the US, Brazil, and Argentina are owned by Monsanto. As we can see, Monsanto has deeply invaded our lives already without or even knowing it. One participant in the March Against Monsanto from Hansalim, a Korean organic cooperative, noted that “GMO is not only a threat to our food, but a dangerous and absolute threat to all of us. We are eating GMO food without realizing it, and farmers unbeknownst to them are raising crops contaminated by GMO plants through cross-pollination.” Furthermore, they carry out their activities in secret and hide from public accountability. During the March Against Monsanto, we marched to S Tower, where Monsanto’s Korean office is located. Even though I’ve passed that building many times, I had no idea that Monsanto was located there, on the twelfth floor, because there is no sign of their presence.

In the face of the threats and secrecy posed by GMOs and Monsanto, we need to ensure that corporations and the government make this information public. A farmer from Wanju in Jeollabukdo, where Korea’s GM rice testing field has been established, said that “the Rural Development Administration keeps lying. First, they told us there would only be one GM testing field with apples. But then, they changed the number to nine testing fields after we asked them to make the information public.” When both the government and Monsanto have a history of lying, it’s hard for us to believe that the information we’re getting is accurate and accountable to the people: the only way to ensure this is to demand their activities be made public.

Monsanto claims to be a company that develops “various solutions for sustainable agriculture” - but as a transnational corporation that sells GMOs and toxic agrichemicals, it does the exact opposite and threatens the future of agriculture and food safety. We have to educate more people about the truth and join together to march and shout, “No to Monsanto!”

written by Hwang Jeong-eun (General Secretary, ISC)