By Morgan Rogers

May 26, 2013
321a3af6d8300ceb-wmon1Citizens in Maine protest against Monsanto and GMO’s in food on May 25, 2013 in Portland, Maine. photo by Morgan Rogers

Over 600 Mainers participated in a protest against the agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto May 25th in Portland. The event happened simultaneously around the world in 52 countries and 436 cities, according to organizers.

“With this kind of corporate power that has been growing the whole concept of ‘We the people,’ is now in danger of becoming a footnote in our history instead of the foundation of our nation’s existence,” said Malory Shaughnessy, co-chair of the Greater Portland Move to Amend Group.

Protesters gathered at Monument Square, listened to speeches, and marched in a rally to bring awareness to the health hazards surrounding genetically modified plants and to push for genetically modified organisms (GMO), food labeling. GMO plants are grown from seeds that are altered to resist insecticides and herbicides.

The protest against Monsanto and GMO’s in Monument Square in Portland, Maine. photo by Morgan Rogers

“We just want the right to know what is in our food,” said Whitley-Nabintu Newman, organizer of the Portland March Against Monsanto. According to Newman, Monsanto is now looking to approve Agent Orange ready genetically engineered crops. Agent Orange is a chemical that became widely known after its use in the Vietnam War. Monsanto and Dow Chemical manufactured Agent Orange for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Monsanto maintains that it helps farmers by improving their seeds to increase yield and reduce water and energy usage.

Maine is currently considering legislation that will require package labeling of GMO’s in foods as the alterations to the seeds has been brought into question.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association urged citizens at the protest to attend a lobby day, Thursday, May 30th, at the Capitol, to show support for LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock. The proposed legislation is currently up for vote in the House and Senate.

Action stalls in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.-

Similar legislation to label GMO’s was introduced to Congress with a bill cosponsored by first district Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

“GMO labeling is an issue I’ve cared deeply about for a long time and is one of the things I hear most often about from constituents,” said Pingree, when the bill was introduced. “I think people have a right to know exactly what they’re feeding themselves and their families. The choice of whether to eat GMO food is best left to the consumer – but there’s no choice to make if we don’t provide them the information.”

715b99706a838246-wmon3-197x300Organizers of the protest against Monsanto in Portland, Maine. photo by Morgan Rogers

The U.S. Senate recently rejected a bill that would allow states to require labeling.

Earlier this year the U.S. Congress passed the so called “Monsanto Protection Act” as part of the budget, which allows Monsanto and other companies to continue growing GMO food even if the food or seeds are deemed unsafe by judicial order.

An attempt to repeal the “Monsanto Protection Act,” was blocked by Senate Republicans.

The Vermont and Connecticut state legislatures have voted in favor of GMO food labeling.

Sixty-two countries around the world label foods that contain GMO ingredients, including all of Europe, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

A Supreme Court Ruling will have an impact in Maine-

Farmers may not use a patented seed for more than one planting, according to U.S. Supreme Court.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ordered Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman to pay Monsanto close to $84,000 in damages. Bowman asserted that because the company’s herbicide-resistent Roundup Ready soybeans replicate themselves, he was not violating the company’s patent by planting progeny seeds he bought elsewhere. But the justices unanimously rejected that claim, with Justice Elena Kagan writing there is no such “seeds-are-special” exception to the law.

The justices ruled that farmers must pay Monsanto each time they plant the company’s genetically modified soybeans thus rejecting an Indiana farmer’s argument that his unorthodox techniques did not violate the company’s patent.

While the case was about soybeans, the broader issue is about patent protection. Makers of vaccines, cell lines, software and other products might be considered self-replicating. Corporations worried that their investments would be threatened if patents were honored only on the first sale of self-replicating products.