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March Against Monsanto 2014 Calendar

IMG_0688Portland’s March Against Monsanto Rally is on May 24 this year.

March Against Monsanto is an annual rally organized to protest against the chemical giant, Monsanto, known for making genetically modified seeds that are grown around the world. Representatives from water rights organizations also attended.

Biodiversity researcher and Seed Savers Exchange Board Member, Hope Shand, reported that in 2009, 53% of the globe’s see purchases came from genetically modified seeds purchased from three chemical companies: Monsanto (27%); DuPont (17%); and Syngenta (9%). The top ten biochemical companies supplied 73% of the annual seed purchase that year.

Biodiversity researcher and seed saver advocate, Hope Shand. (Photo hosted on Seed Savers Exchange website)

In that same year, only 21% of the purchased seeds came from farmer-saved seed.

In her report, Shand cites six crops that the largest six biochemical companies have bred for just two traits: herbicide tolerance and insect resistance.

  • soybean
  • cotton
  • maize (corn)
  • canola
  • sugar beet
  • alfalfa

In July of 2013, NPR ran a story follow up story about genetically modified wheat exports from Oregon that were rejected by Japan and other countries on the basis that the crops were found to contain genetically modified wheat.

Some protestors at last year’s rally blame the neonicotinoids in herbicides, like Monsanto’s Round Up, for declining bee populations. Bees, nature’s pollinators are critical to the success of each year’s crops. Monsanto held a “bee conference” this year to address the issue of colony collapse disorder.

This year the protest will be held concurrently at 568 sites around the globe. Last year there were just over 400.

Grassroots organizers facilitate the local events. Tiffany Ayers will be heading the project again this year in Portland, Ore. Interested parties can visit the Facebook page that Ayers and five others moderate to invite friends to the event.

Last year protestors used the Facebook page to organize carpools and sign making parties.

The following is a map to Holladay City Park, where Portland’s rally will be begin at 11 a.m.

A list of rallies that will be held concurrently around the globe is embedded below.

Google Drive

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The People Vs. Monsanto, Modern Day David and Goliath

Josh’s sign showing the diseases linked to exposure to glyphosate, a key ingredient in the household weed killer, Round Up. Picture taken by Kaley Perkins, May 25, 2013.

The Battlefield

Josh is hard to miss in the middle of the crowd that is harder to miss. His six foot six inch frame hoists an enormous polychromatic sign high into the air. His list reads like a Who’s Who of diseases — diseases that result from exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round Up, a common household weed-killer produced by Monsanto. Josh found out about the rally on Liberty News online and hopes for an eventual ban on pesticides and GMO’s.

Josh and thousands* of others from the Pacific Northwest descended upon Halladay Park in Portland, Ore. on May 25 as part of a coordinated and global March Against Monsanto, the Missouri-based biotech and pesticide-producing agribusiness-giant who brought to market the defoliant known as Agent Orange and the insecticide, DDT. It is now under public scrutiny for, among other things, introducing genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) into the global food supply.

Golaith and His Investors

Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto. Shared from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Grant_%28manager%29

Monsanto is the largest biotech kid on the block and sells itself as the global leader in food production and agricultural technology to feed an ever-increasing global population

In an interview with Bloomberg writer, Jack Kaskey, Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, accuses “opponents who want to block genetically modified foods” of elitism. Eliminating genetically modified foods, Hughes believes, will eliminate more affordable food choices for people who can’t afford to buy organic produce.

Critics accuse the company of, with the passage of Section 735 of this year’s Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, subverting the democratic process; controlling mainstream media; and putting profits over long-term global food security by decreasing biodiversity.

Grant presented a strategic analysis of Monsanto at this year’s annual Sanford C. Bernstein investor’s conference in New York City, New York on May 29. According to slide #14 Business Growth is one of the key indicators of the company’s financial performance: “Global business portfolio drives gross profit expansion, with continuation of business momentum, expansion of U.S. base and international acceleration.”

That is business-speak for selling more expensive seed brands to farmers, extending biotech engineering into new crops, and planting more land both in America and abroad with GMO seeds.

According to the same slide, the company is using its profits to repurchase its own stocks, further consolidating its value to owning stakeholders. Monsanto’s unaudited quarterly earnings report for 2Q 2013 posts a net profit of $3.07 billion.

2012 Sanford C. Bernstein’s 29th Annual
Strategic Decisions Conference
financial report by
Monsanto CEO, Hugh Grant
David and His Fellow Rock-Flingers

The March Against Monsanto rally was organized by Tami Canal as a response to the passing of the “Monsanto Protection Act,” a six-month variance that allows harvesting of genetically modified crops not allowed under current legislation. Local Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and other legislators are fighting to overturn the legistlation; signatures were gathered on Merkley’s behalf at the May 25 rally.

Skyler Veek learned about the March Against Monsanto on Facebook. She and her son, Rain, traveled to the Willamette Valley from the Oregon Coast to take part in the march. “Keep your laws off my seeds!” reads Veek’s sign. She wants to raise awareness about local Oregon Senate Bill 633, legislation that acts much as the Monsanto Protection Act but for the state of Oregon.

Skyler and Rain Veek want people to fight against legislation that would take control away from localities and put it in the hands of special interests. Picture by Kaley Perkins, May 25, 2013.

People from the small Oregon town where Veek originates may have considered her activism to be alarmist until May 29 when reports surfaced that some of Oregon’s wheat exports this year have been rejected by Japan and South Korea on the grounds that they contain genetically modified wheat. Thailand has put its ports on notice.

Monsanto has issued a statement that indicates it intends to fully cooperate with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) investigation into the “GE glyphosate resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states between 1998-2005.”

Annual wheat crops in Oregon range between $300-500 million, with 2011’s crop hitting $492 million. Oregon, which mixes its wheat with that of Washington and Idaho, exports 90% of its wheat. Japan and South Korea are not the only countries to reject GMO crop imports.

The Slingshot

Ronnette Steed, Julia Degraw, and Leah Maier at the main information booth after the rally. Picture by Kaley Perkins, May 25, 2013.

Julia Degraw, keynote speaker of Portland’s March Against Monsanto and Pacific Northwest organizer of Food and Water Watch, is not intimidated by the global scope and seemingly endless pockets of Monsanto.

“This is a huge warning cry (to Monsanto),” Degraw says about the day’s turnout, citing the support of over 2,000,000 people in 49 countries. “This is proof that we have a lot of power behind us.”

Earlier in the day, the articulate and undaunted Degraw encouraged the crowd to be fearless in its goal to unseat the global biotech giant. She cited multiple European countries that have successfully banned GMO’s; she cited civil protests that have had sweeping socio-economic results throughout American history:

  • Anti-trust laws during the robber baron years
  • The New Deal
  • Women’s right to vote
  • Unions and an eight hour workday
  • Civil rights legislation

“For right now all the vegetables and fruit for human consumption are generally not genetically engineered,” Degraw explains. “This is why we want GMO food labeling sooner rather than later.” According to Degraw, for now, genetically engineered food is primarily in soy and corn found in processed food and animal feed. “You’re going to want to know where your meat is coming from,” her tutorial concludes.

While Degraw proudly identifies herself as a political food activist, she offers the following advice to people who simply want to affordably avoid eating GMO’s:

  • Shop the edges of your supermarket.
  • Buy real food.
  • Avoid Processed food.
  • Cook. You have to eat real food.

Degraw refers people to Michael Pollan, a non-political food writer who educates people about the food system, as a resource for people just learning about GMO’s and wanting to know more.

Gathering More Stones

But for Degraw and others who want to take an active role in eliminating GMO’s and pesticides from our food supply, the fight is just beginning. “We need to actually have legislation that works for us,” says Degraw. Citing Oregon’s SB 633 as did Veek, she points out that current legislation, “…actually encourages Monsanto to take over the food system.”

[embedit snippet=”monsanto-slideshow-2″]


*Portland’s march was second in size only to that of New York City, New York. Estimates range between 2,000 (in an interview with Julia Degraw) to 6,000 from a local online news article. In an email, Sergeant Pete Simpson, Public Information Officer for Portland Police Bureau reports that his office is not in the habit of reporting crowd sizes.



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March Against Monstanto Portland (#mampdx): the People, the Issues, the Personality, the pictures

[embedit snippet=”monsanto-slideshow”]

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#MAMPDX: Everyone Gets Prepared and 5 Tips for Being Safe in Crowds

The Event and The Senator

Saturday May 25 at 11 a. m. PST, concerned citizens and food activists around the world will sip freshly-juiced, locally-grown, organic fruits and vegetables on the way to their local March Against Monsanto venues. Organizers plan 421 synchronized, family-friendly rallies across six continents to increase public awareness about the infiltration of GMO’s into the global food supply and to protest biotech-giant, agri-corporate, Monsanto’s, alarming influence over the federal legislative process.

Portland, Ore. local, Tiffany Ayers, a first-time organizer and food activist and her small cadre of volunteers and friends has been tirelessly working on the logistics and promotion for Portland’s event which will begin at 11 a.m. in Halladay Park. “Success (for this rally) will look like more public awareness of GMO’s,” reports Ayers, adding in “increased public pressure on legislators to create mandatory labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms.”

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is also concerned about Monsanto’s involvement in food legislation. According to Ayers, the Senator’s office contacted her and asked if today’s rally could also promote his online signature-gathering campaign. Merkley’s goal is to force a vote in the United States Congress to repeal the “Monsanto Protection Act.”

For security reasons, Juan, Senator Merkley’s receptionist was unable to confirm whether the Senator planned on attending today’s march. He was also unable to speak to the Senator’s knowledge of allegations that Missouri Senator Roy Blunt worked with Monsanto to craft the legislation in question, stating, “You can find the Senator’s opinions on his website.”

The Permit

In preparation for today’s event, Ayers filed a “Special Event / Special Use Permit” with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. Applying for a permit for a special event with the City of Portland is a process that eventually involves law enforcement. “We want to work with the police to make sure this is a peaceful event,” Ayers says.

Photo of Portland Public Information Officer, Sergeant Pete Simpson is from http://connectedcops.net/2011/06/30/portland-or-police-bureau-embracing-social-media/

“It has nothing to do with free speech or the content of the gathering,” Sergeant Pete Simpson, the Portland Police Bureau’s Public Information Officer emphasized in a phone interview late Friday afternoon. He is addressing criticism he has heard from protestors that frequently accompanies the requirement for groups who gather to get permits to do so. “(The permit) is all about logistics,” Simpson continues. “If we know the location, the number of people, and the proposed route, we are better able to work with organizers to adjust routes to take traffic into consideration.”

Simpson explains that police have a duty to uphold all citizens’ rights: not just event attendees’ rights. “We also need to consider the rights of citizens who want to be able to drive on roads that may be blocked by unorganized assemblies,” he reasons.

Not all events are as organized as Ayers’ and not all event organizers apply for a permit. “When we hear about groups that are gathering and have not filed for permits, or groups that have content that has been historically confrontational, we have red flags from Jump Street,” Simpson says.

Not filing for a permit is an indication to law enforcement that organizers don’t intend to work with them cooperatively to manage the flow of people, and it puts law enforcement on alert that there may be trouble brewing. Simpson cites anti-police brutality marches and anti-corporate marches as examples of previous marches that have led to property damage in the City of Portland.

The Safety Tutorial

Simpson reports that he had been on the March Against Monsanto Facebook page and had seen the threads from parents asking if the event was going to be safe for children. He reports that he has no indication of threat whatsoever about this morning’s march, adding: “We get the issue. This is global.”

[embedit snippet=”masked-men”]

Video captured by Sue Edmunson on May 25, 2013 at Holladay Park in Portland, Oregon

According to Simpson, trouble-makers thrive in the anonymity of a crowd; they can become emboldened and confrontational and put other people at risk. He offered the following general tips for individuals and families to remain safe in public gatherings:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention.
  • Be on the lookout for alarming behavior. If people start putting on masks, carrying sticks, or shouting obscenities, it’s time to get your family out of that area.
  • If the speakers’ content changes from what you came to hear and the crowd begins to feel confrontational, move away.
  • Stick with groups of people you know and feel safe with.
  • Report suspicious activity to law enforcement. Alert, intelligent crowds are the best deterrent to trouble.

“Crowd behavior can be a funny thing,” Simpson explains. “People gather because they feel passionately about something and they want to express that, but people can get caught up in it. Use common sense and pay attention.”

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First-Time Portland Activist to Lead World’s Second Largest March Against Monsanto

Tiffany Ayers, organizer of Portland’s March Against Monsanto. From Ayers’ LinkedIn profile, used with permission.

Sitting on a porch, Internet twizzling, on a tranquil breeze-kissed afternoon in the Pacific Northwest­­ is an idyllic way to time-while. In late March of this year, Tiffany Ayers found that it also works well for stumbling into instantaneous activism, and that’s how she did.

The Accidental Making of a Food Activist

“I was sitting outside reading an article about the passing of HR 933 and I got so angry I had to do something.” Ayers refers to Section 735 of the bill: the “Biotech Rider’” also called the ‘Monsanto Protection Act,’ a piece of legislation crafted by Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri that has amplified the global conflict between agri-business and food activists. In 2011-2012, between campaign committee and leadership PAC committee donations, Blunt received $98,250 from Missouri-based agri-business giant, Monsanto, a company under intense public pressure.

“I don’t remember exactly how I got there, but I found a site by Tammy Canal and contacted her to ask how I could get involved,” recalls Ayers. Canal is the founder of March Against Monsanto, a grassroots NGO seeking to raise awareness of GMO’s in the world’s food and crop seed supply, promote the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, and increase grassroots activism to insure seed diversity and eliminate environmental pollutants.

Two months later, Ayers, a media student with an event-planning background, finds herself rally organizer for Portland, Ore. “I had no idea how much work this was going to be,” says Ayers, sounding like a harried mom after of a long day who finally gets to sit down for a full deep breath. She pauses, gathering her thoughts:

“I’ve always worked with an established team, but I’ve had to do this from scratch… We’ve had to do this from scratch,” Ayers revises, citing the assistance of a handful of friends and volunteers. Of the 421 cities, spanning six continents, this small band of first-time Portland activists expect the second highest projected turn out of them all, trailing only New York City, New York.

The Welcome Reach of Social Media

Ayers credits social media for the sudden rise in organized food activism, and Facebook in particular for increased March-Against-Monsanto awareness. On March 26, when, President Obama signed the bill, she had 750 Facebook friends. She sent invitations to them all, and like the 1980’s Faberge shampoo marketing campaign, word spread exponentially. As of this writing, the Portland rally has 6,500 “confirmed” and “maybe” attendees, with just under 49,000 non-responding invitees.

With a sudden semi-celebrity status, Ayers has had to make some changes in the way she interacts online. The campaign dominates the content of her Facebook page, and she has gained over 150 new “friends”: she will create another private page when she regains some dispensable time.

Connecting online, Ayers and other rally leaders, many of whom are also first-time organizers, offer one another support. Their goal is to create a family-friendly feel to what they view as a first step in a food revolution: building community awarenesss. According to Ayers, organizers recognize that certain elements will use any public gathering to create discord. “That is not what this is about,” Ayers affirms.

Ayers, in the interest of creating a safe, family-centered, community-awareness event, welcomes the support of Portland Police. “I initially got some flack for that on the Facebook page, so I made it very clear that no violence of any kind will be welcomed.” Ayers recognizes that pesticide contamination and threats to bio-diversity threaten us all equally — that March Against Monsanto isn’t an “us” vs “them” issue. “Policemen need to eat real, whole, safe food too. This is about all of us,” she says.

The Full-Circle Journey to a Calling

According to her LinkedIn profile Ayers worked at Ashland Chemical from 1999-2005 where she was first trained to read and file Material Safety Data Sheets (“MSDS”), the informational sheets that OSHA requires businesses and commercial vehicles to carry for each chemical present. She always felt a bit of tension about being a “bit of a tree-hugger working for a chemical company,” but it was there where she realized the pervasive reach of petroleum chemicals in her everyday life.

Reflecting more, she appreciates the inside view she gained of the industry as the big six petro-chemical, bio-tech, agri-business giants were consolidating with various mergers and acquisitions.

When the bullhorn is neatly tucked away Saturday evening, Ayers’ activism and community organization will not be at an end. Her life has a new trajectory. Ayers looks to get involved in the food labeling movement, locally, with GMO Free Oregon and has been talking with staff from Food and Water Watch. “I have found something I am really passionate about that matters,” she notes.

The Logistical Details of the Event

Portland’s march will begin on May 25 at 11 a.m. PST at Holladay Park near Lloyd Center. Attendees are encouraged to take the Max lightrail into town as parking will be limited.

View MAM Route Map in a larger map



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