Hundreds of protesters marched Saturday in Akron against seed company Monsanto, saying they want to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and giant food corporations.
The protesters gathered at Casacade Locks Park on West North Street for the “March Against Monsanto.” They walked to Highland Square and back to Cascade Locks. Organizers said nearly 500 people participated.
Similar protests were planned in about 250 cities across the country against the St. Louis-based seed and agriculture company.
Some T-shirts and signs read: “Hell No GMO,” a reference to genetically modified organisms and food.
Bill Baker, 52, of Mansfield, wearing a hard hat with plastic skull affixed on top, said his gripe with the company was “global control, corporate control over our food supply.”
Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. But some say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment.
The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.
The Food and Drug Administration does not require the labeling, but organic food companies and some consumer groups have intensified their push for labels, arguing that the modified seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating traditional crops. The groups have been bolstered by a growing network of consumers who are wary of processed and modified foods.
The Senate last week overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.
Leah Szarka, 35, of Westlake brought her two children and husband to the Akron protest.
“I am concerned they are going to take over the whole food system,” she said.
Julie Costell, owner of Ms. Julie’s Kitchen, a vegan and organic restaurant in Akron, charged that Monsanto is “leading the way in genetically modifying our food.”
Thomas Helscher, director of corporate affairs for Monsanto, said claims made by protesters “are not accurate, not true, and there is a huge amount of evidence to the contrary.”
In fact, Helscher said, “the safety of genetically modified crops being grown today is well established.”
The 21,000 people who work at Monsanto, Helscher said, “are proud of our efforts to help improve farm productivity and food quality.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.