ROB VARELA/THE VENTURA STAR – Alyssa Davis (from right), Ellie Loiacono and Heather Power-Gomez, all from Thousand Oaks, join the Occupy Monsanto protest and yell, “Label the seeds!” on Monday in Oxnard.
Local food activists chose Monday, the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street activist movement, to start a global outcry in Oxnard against agribusiness giant Monsanto Co.’s chemicals and genetic modifications of plant seeds.
Less dramatic than Tuesday’s protest at Monsanto’s seed distribution plant Seminis Vegetable Seeds Inc. on Camino Del Sol, in which nine protesters in chains and shackles were arrested when they blocked the gates, Monday’s event at the same site drew about 35 protesters who limited their opposition to signs, masks and shouting on the sidewalks.
“Stop Patents on Life” read a sign held by a graduate student wearing a paper mask over her mouth and caution tape around her neck with the word “Hazard.”
“My concern is what genetically modified organisms do to the sustainability of our environment and the ability of farmers in Third World countries to support themselves,” said Tracy Long, of Ventura, who attended a May protest at the plant.
No arrests had been made as of 5:30 p.m. Monday. Oxnard Police Department officers circulated the block in police cars.
The demonstrators were part of a group called Occupy Monsanto, which identifies itself with Occupy Wall Street.
Monday was the first day of the group’s weeklong series of 65 events planned worldwide to protest Monsanto, its relationship with Third World farmers and the seeds it develops.
Tom Helscher with corporate affairs for Monsanto, which has headquarters in St. Louis, said Monsanto helps improve farm productivity and food quality.
“Agriculture and its uses are important to California, the U.S. and the world,” Helscher said. “We respect each individual’s right to express their point of view on these topics.”
California’s Proposition 37, a November ballot measure that would require labeling on most processed foods to explain whether they have ingredients from genetically modified organisms, gave several protesters a tangible action to support.
Several Thousand Oaks teenagers came after school to their first official protest.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, we’ve got a right to know,” shouted the teens to passing cars.
Seventeen-year-old Heather Power-Gomez, a Westlake High School student from Thousand Oaks, said she came because she thought food should be labeled.
“In biology class, we learned about genetically modified organisms and how they can affect your body,” she said. “They (Monsanto and scientists) can change the genetic structure of the seeds so your body doesn’t know how to react.”
Power-Gomez said scientific and medical studies she read in class suggested links to cancer and autism.
Occupy Monsanto’s spokesperson, Adam Eidinger, whose role in Washington, D.C., is to facilitate the Monsanto events by posting the company’s locations online and inviting actions there, says the group is “a subgroup (of the Occupy movement) and focused on food issues and one company.”
“We feel a part of group,” Eidinger said. “I think we realize we belong in the Occupy movement because we’re talking corporate control of food.”
Actions by the Occupy Monsanto group also took place Monday and were planned for other days this week in Woodland, Gilroy, Davis, Ohio, Hawaii, Australia and Argentina.
Only one activist Monday was celebrating Occupy’s birthday.
A Camarillo resident wore a party hat with a foxtail pinned to the back of his pants and a full-face mask. He declined to give his name.
“Happy /b/-day Occupy! 7,435 political prisoners and counting!” his sign read, referring to those arrested in a year’s worth of Occupy protests.
Source: Ventura County Star