More than 1,000 people marched through Waikiki today to protest agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto, joining a worldwide demonstration against genetically modified food that organizers said involved more than 2 million people in more than 50 countries.
Local organizers said the noontime march and demonstration was especially appropriate for Hawaii, where Monsanto has been active in developing and testing genetically modified organisms to improve farm productivity and food quality.
“Hawaii is Ground Zero for GMOs,” said Nomi Carmona, who heads Babes Against Biotech, one of several anti-GMO groups that organized Saturday’s event. “We have more endangered species here than anywhere in the world and yet Monsanto has been allowed to release more than 5,000 open-air experimental GMOs here. We don’t want to be poisoned. We don’t want to be experimented on. We don’t want GMOs, period.”
Alan Takemoto, Monsanto’s local community affairs manager, acknowledged concerns over the work done by Monsanto and other corporations involved in agricultural biotechnology, but said that fears have been fanned by misinformation and that the demonstrations may not accurately reflect overall public opinion.
“I believe there is a silent majority that wants to learn more about biotechnology and that is interested in what we can do to find modern solutions and technologies to feed the growing population,” Takemoto said. “We recognize that some may have differing opinions and we welcome open and respectful dialogue with anyone who is truly interested in wanting to learn about who we are and what we do. We’re very proud of the work that we do to make farms nationally and globally become more productive, increase yield and be operate more efficiently.”
The international “March Against Monsanto” campaign was founded by anti-GMO activist Tami Canal with assistance from Seattle blogger Emilie Rensink and Anti-Media.org founder Nick Bernabe. Working with the anarchist website A-Revolt.org, the organizers leveraged social media to raise awareness and promote local demonstrations.
Locally, Babes Against Biotech worked closely with Molokai activist Walter Ritte, Daniel Anthony of Mana Ai, Da Hui, Seeds of Truth, Sustainable Coastlines and GMO Free USA to stage the march in Waikiki.
Carmona said better organization and increased public concern about the potential dangers of genetically engineered food resulted in a spirited but peaceful protest, as demonstrators clad in green marched from down Kalakaua Avenue from Saratoga Road to Monsarrat Avenue, chanting anti-GMO messages and waving homemade signs.
“We were really organized this year and the turnout was incredible,” she said. “This was the funnest march I’ve been involved in.”