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Southern California demonstrators join worldwide March Against Monsanto

By Frank Lynch

March Against Monsanto in San Diego, CA.

San Diego, CA – People assembled across the globe, May 20, to protest the corporate chemical behemoth Monsanto. These demonstrations are an annual event, facilitated by the organization March Against Monsanto, and organized at the grassroots level by concerned people. One such local protest was in sunny Temecula, California, known for its own booming small farming sector. People from San Diego and Riverside counties came together in 90-degree heat to show their discontent with the industrial agribusiness giant.

“Monsanto is putting small farmers out of business,” said Gary Lotspeich, a demonstrator who is also a former budget officer for the California Department of Water Resources. He was referring to Monsanto’s prohibition on seed saving. The seed saving ban forces farmers to buy new seeds each season because of the patent on genetically modified crops.

“Yeah, small farmers are struggling anyway,” added Hanna Alfaddaghi, a Cal-Poly Pomona student in the agricultural studies program. “Monsanto sends employees out to test farmers’ seeds for their patented genes and sue them out of business.”

In fact, Monsanto collected $23 million from small farmers for patent infringement by 2014. Farmers were forced to pay an average of $412,000, even if the infringement was the result of natural cross-pollination carried by insects and wind.

Monsanto is most infamous for the toxic chemical Agent Orange, used to defoliate large swaths of forest during the Vietnam War. The corporation was caught falsifying data on the amounts of toxic ingredients in Agent Orange, including PCB and dioxin. Yet Vietnam veterans overwhelmingly report devastating side effects from exposure to the chemical and many Vietnamese are still suffering from residual effects to this day, including many birth defects.

Monsanto was part of chemical warfare again under the U.S. Plan Colombia. U.S. military contractors flew over and sprayed Monsanto’s Roundup Ultra on poor peasants’ crops in Colombia, as part of the U.S. dirty war. Poor peasants were forced to abandon their land as the U.S. sprayed in areas under the control of FARC rebels, while wealthy landowners were largely untouched.

Monsanto is also an example of the revolving door between private industry and the U.S. government. Monsanto employees take jobs at the FDA and EPA, setting policy in the company’s favor regarding genetic modification and acceptable levels of toxicity. Under George W. Bush, Monsanto associates filled the office of Attorney General, Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and even Defense. One can only speculate as to how much data on the harmful effects of its toxic products like Roundup Ultra is concealed through such conflicts of interest.

Monsanto is monopolizing the seed and pesticide markets through its patents on genetically modified commercial crops. This not only impacts domestic farmers, but also overseas in India, Asia and South America. Monsanto will certainly be the subject of further public actions and demonstrations because of these destructive practices.

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