Sunday, March 27, 2011

White House Weekend: GE Food Policy Protest

US Rep. Dennis Kucinich sends manifesto to be read at anti-GE "Rally For The Right To Know"...
Beyond the fence line of the North Lawn of the White House on Saturday afternoon, a group of worried citizens gathered for the Rally For the Right to Know. A call for action against genetically modified/genetically engineered food, the event was organized by the Organic Consumers Association, as part of its Millions Against Monsanto campaign. (Above: The protest)

The protesters--including kids--carried placards decrying GE foods, as well as a big red banner that read GMO's *Don't Buy Them *Don't Sell Them *Don't Grow Them. US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) sent a letter for rally leaders to read aloud at the White House, as well as at nineteen simultaneous rallies planned for cities from coast to coast.

"We are all participating in one very big experiment every time we consume GE food," Kucinich wrote in his letter.

Whether or not that is true, a February poll conducted by MSNB.com had 96.1% of 43,439 respondents answering "yes" when asked if GE foods should be labeled as such--not due to safety concerns, but because it's an "ethical issue." The poll came at the end of a story that aired activists' concerns over the dangers of GE foods.

With the rallies, the Organic Consumers Association also hoped to draw attention to Monsanto's "monopoly" of the marketplace. The group has a page on its website devoted to "Monsanto's Crimes," and refers to the Missouri-based behemoth, which employs more than 21,000 people in 66 countries, as "The Biotech Bully of St. Louis."

Kucinich noted in his letter that 160 million acres of US farmland are planted with GE crops, and cited cases of cross contamination of non-GE crops with GE genetic material. He touted his past efforts to introduce legislation in an effort to protect all farmers, whether they grow crops conventionally or with organic methods, and urged rally attendees to pressure their lawmakers to act.

"Congress must provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all GE products," Kucinich wrote. "In the past three sessions of Congress, I have introduced three bills that will do exactly that. The GE Food Right to Know Act, the GE Safety Act, and the GE Farmer Technology Protection Act, if enacted, would provide a commonsense approach to making sure GE crops do no harm."

Kucinich vowed to reintroduce the legislation again. Download Kucinich's full letter here.

On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislack announced that USDA is seeking nominations for a new discretionary committee, the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). The committee will be advising USDA on the kind of GE issues that Kucinich is seeking to legislate.

The GE protesters at the White House competed for attention with two very large protests going on about the war in Libya--one for, and one against. Kucinich made headlines earlier this week when he suggested that President Obama might have committed an impeachable offense by sending US military support to the Libyan rebels without first seeking Congressional approval. Kucinich was walking this rhetoric back by Friday. (Above: Protesters in action)

The rallies were planned for, among other cities, New York, Seattle, Tampa, Nashville, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Saint Paul, and Ann Arbor. The actions got fairly low attention in the media; a news story about one rally in St. Petersburg, Fl., is here. The Rally For The Right to Know Facebook page is here. The poster advertising the White House Right To Know rally is here.

Related: Last September, a coalition of groups gathered in front of the White House to protest genetically engineered salmon.

*Photos from Rally For the Right to Know Facebook page