Numbers may have been down, but local March Against Monsanto organizers were still encouraged by the opportunity to educate people about their campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered seeds.
Just 65 people turned out for the rally on Saturday afternoon in downtown Red Deer at Veterans Park and then carried on as a protest march up and down Gaetz Avenue.
“It doesn’t matter about the size, it’s a very passionate crowd,” said organizer Wendy Shroeder.
“It’s just education, everyone has to learn a few things about GMOs and learn what’s happening to the bees … there’s a lot of things that we have to focus on with genetically engineered products.”
April Reeves, a former director of the Genetically Engineered Free B.C. and currently a Bowden area farmer, spoke to the gathered crowed about her 17-year battle with Monsanto, a leading producer of genetically engineered seeds.
For her, the issue is not so much about the science or genetic engineering so much as it is the process of what is being used to stabilize the genes in the seeds. The movement’s belief is that GMOs are responsible for a myriad of diseases and other health related issues in today’s society, as well as the collapse of bee colonies.
None of the healgth related issues has been proven, however, the group contends their lack of access to testing the GMO seeds is keeping them from getting that proof.
“This battle was really tough for the first 10 years … but everything has momentum to it and we’re getting close to a tipping point where it’s starting to make a big difference,” said Reeves, who’s goal is to be a founder of GE Free Alberta in 2014.
The march was made up of people from all demographics, from toddlers and Elementary school-aged children to senior citizens.
For Marian Slomp, a farmer from Rimbey, demonstrations like these are important in bringing exposure to a growing issue.
“I think they should teach this at schools,” said Slomp. “You need the right to choose to eat healthy, and now we don’t have the right to do that anymore. If I want to be organic, I should be able to be organic. If I want to save my own seeds, I should be able to do that. Now you can get a big ticket from the government because Monsanto says I’m not using their seeds.”
The march started in May of 2013 and is held world-wide. Edmonton’s march was expected to get 2,000 people, while two million were expected to take part in marches around the globe.
The march was originally started in California by Tami Monroe Canal, whose goal was to protect her daughters and support a sustainable food production system.
Reeves says it comes down to knowing what you are putting in your body. One of the groups biggest campaigns is for foods with GMOs to be labelled.
“I grow food and I take it seriously. I don’t want to grow something that might harm somebody,” she said. “I was so sick at one point that I had to change everything I ate, eventhough I ate my own food I still bought stuff in stores, and I really had to become educated on that and bring my immune system back. It was a wake up call for me.”