March Against Monsanto: Kansas City

In Kansas City a crowd gathered at J.C. Nichols fountain to share their concern about our food industry with fellow residents and to join in with millions of others marching today in protest against the GMO giant Monsanto.  Here are some pictures from the days event.  To learn more about Monsanto and the dangers of GMOs click here or begin your own internet search for the truth, you won’t catch it on any television broadcast.

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Urgent: Food Matters.

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“Saturday is going to be a busy day,” I acknowledged to my husband. We had just put my daughter to sleep and shared a moment to reconnect about the day and the weekend plans to get together with friends. “First the march and then the barbecue.” I finished.

“The march?” He frowned looking at me unsure of the reference.

“The March Against Monsanto,” I replied with equal questioning, wondering how he could have missed these plans.

“What’s Monsanto?” He asked, growing the frustration inside of me. First he was unaware of the March and now claimed no recollection of the company either?

“Monsanto? Really, you haven’t heard of it?” I said shaking my head in disappointment. “They are the largest distributer of GMOs.”

“Uh, what’s GMO?”

Exacerbated by the conflict in his love of cooking and his complete lack of food knowledge, “Genetically Modified Organisms.” I said just waiting to hear the next ignorant statement.

“Oh, that’s a good thing. I’m for GMOs.” And there is was, the uninformed opinion of a typical American food consumer. And so the purging of education on the food industry, Monsanto and GMOs began.

We all have to eat and we have the right to know where it comes from and how it gets to our table. Our health and lives depend on it and we need to be able to trust it is safe. However, as so many industries in the United States and the world are, this is a business of making a profit even if it means sacrificing the quality of the product. When it comes to consuming food, we need quality products.

Here are the quick facts you need to know about Monsanto and GMOs to be informed.

  • Monsanto is a company created in 1901 and began working with chemicals in the 1920’s. They are best known for their production and sale of Roundup for killing weeds. Their science in the last two decades has focused on genetically modifying seeds to make them resistant to Roundup. Essentially making the food crops able to be sprayed with toxic chemicals to prevent growth of weeds. Monsanto is the largest conventional seed company in the world and has control of over 90% of the produce grown in the United States, contributing to many of the products you consume on a daily basis.
  • Monsanto was the company responsible for providing Agent Orange to the U.S. Department of agent_orangeDefense during the Vietnam War. Monsanto claimed it a safe means to defoliate the dense forest and prevent guerrillas from using it as their cover. The direct result was over 500,000 children born with birth defects and the Vietnam Red Cross estimates up to one million individuals are disabled or have health problems related to Agent Orange. A clear example of putting profits before ethics.
  • Rat TumorA recent study published in The Food & Chemical Toxicology Journal used trace levels of Roundup in the water supply of lab animals, deemed safe and appropriate by the FDA and USDA. Rats developed large tumors, suffered premature deaths and organ damage. Other animals demonstrated reproductive failure including smaller/fewer offspring, great rates of infant mortality and even hair growing in mouths. For more on this click here.
  • GMOs have been linked to cancer, birth defects, endocrine disruption, Parkinson’s and other diseases. Click here for an article published by the International Journal of Biological Sciences comparison study.
  • If it’s really all true and it’s so bad, why aren’t we being protected from it? A rational consumer might ask. Well Monsanto has their hands in this too, dozens of Monsanto employees have been making their way back and forth from leading positions with the company to leading positions in congress, FDA, EPA, senate and more, establishing a substantial conflict of interest with the business of profit over the health of consumers. For a list click here.
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  • On March 26th, with pressure on the government to pass a new spending bill the Farmer’s Assurance Provision was carefully slid into pass as law too. It has become better known at the Monsanto Protection Act, preventing federal courts the ability to halt the sale or production of controversial GMOs.
  • While our government passes a bill of protection for Monsanto, 27 other countries have bans in place prohibiting GMO products while another 61 countries require products to be labeled GMOs.

Now that you have the information, here is what you can do about it:

  • Join the March Against Monsanto, Saturday, May 25th (TOMORROW). Drop everything and makemonsanto plans to be at a March, there are 372 taking place around the world and in a city near you. If you are in Kansas City the March Against Monsanto will be starting from JC Nichols Fountain at 1:00pm at the Plaza. For a list of cities click here. Tell your friends they must be there too.
  • Sign a petition. There are already over 2 million signatures of people who care about their food and want to protect the health of America. Click here to add your signature now.
  • Send a letter to your representative letting them know you don’t support what is happening with your food. Click here for a draft of a letter you can use and send immediately online.
  • Avoid Genetically Modified Foods. There are already hundreds brands and thousands of products in the grocery stores which can be hazardous to your health. Click here to find out how to shop and avoid GM products.

What we eat matters to our health. Spread the word and make sure everyone knows about Monsanto.

Grassroots for Women & Children

If you examined the laws in India you might consider the country to be progressive in human rights, finally putting person equality before cultural traditions and religious justification.  As a society with its own history of discrimination, we can understand how the attitudes don’t immediately change once a law is put in place and it often takes decades for perception to shift and acceptance to find its place, even then there are some exceptions.

So why is it that despite laws being in place to protect the rights of women and children in India, there is still such blatant disregard for their welfare?  The Child Marriage Restrain Act was established in 1929, yet there are still too many cases of children under 18 being arranged to marry.  This is only one of many issues – human trafficking, child labor, infanticide, and the exchange of a dowry.

A dowry is one representation of why women are not valued in Indian culture, it is a gift or form of payment a women’s family must pay to the family of her future husband.  Although dowry became prohibited by law in 1961, it is still common practice in India.  A daughter being born does not benefit her parents at all, she is seen as needing to pay off a debt from a previous life.  The daughter will be taken care of then a dowry raised to marry her into another family where she will help to take care of her husband’s parents – not her own.  Since a son is valuable in terms of meaning and future roles he will play for the family, a boy is what Indian parents want.  Because of this view gender selection has begun to curve the ratio of male to female in India.  Infanticide happens with poor or rural families who cannot afford to care for a girl, and aborting a female fetus occurs with couples who can afford the prenatal care and want to avoid the stigma of a girl.

The dowry perpetuates the idea of women being less than men and leads to so many other problems.  Despite the laws being established to protect rights, the laws don’t appear to be enforced for the welfare of the women and children.  Beyond corruption in the systems and the desire to hang on to how things have always been, slow progress is occurring because of the lack of knowledge women have.  Most Indian women believe they are nothing without a man, either their dad, brother or husband.  They don’t know what their rights are or where to get help.  They are born into a world where they are looked down upon simply for being a girl and limit themselves accordingly.

One of the field trips our group went on in Kolkata was to an organization creating changes with their grassroots effort.  Child in Need Institute (CINI) focuses on empowering women with the idea if you can help the mother you can help the child.  They have centers throughout Kolkata serving different purposes.  CINI focuses on the health of the mom’s and their infants, educating them about nutrition and conducting support groups.  Health workers act as a first means of contact going door to door in villages and slums to provide basic health needs and resources, then can help support mothers and children in getting in to the CINI offices if further medical assistance is required by nurses or doctors.

We toured one location during a time when there was a free health clinic.  Hundreds of bright-colored sari adorned the women gathering with their wide-eyed infants.  They weighed babies, obtained supplements, and met with nurses or doctors for medication.  Another CINI location we visited was in the middle of the city, it was designated for street children.  Kids could go there for safe overnight shelters or attend evening school.  Even though the Child Labour Act has been prohibiting this practice since 1986, many children work as child laborers and miss out on gaining an education.  CINI provides education to help reintegrate children back to regular schools within 6 months to one year.  Making this program even more impressive is considering the behavioral problems some children have from both trauma and the need to be independent to survive on the street.

Because of the efforts Child in Need Institute, and other programs like it, has made towards bettering the lives of women and children there is hope for changing the culture in India.  With women coming together to gain confidence in how to do things and knowledge of how the laws protect them, attitudes will turn.  And with the next generation of youth pushing to gain an education, they will be different.

Much of the beauty and intrigue of India lies in its cultural and religious practices.  Their dances, food, and tradition are uniquely Indian and should be valued and preserved as such.  I wonder, is it possible for India to maintain their rich traditions and religious practices while omitting the inequality?  Maybe as the women take power…

If you are interested in learning more check out the Child in Need Institute’s website.  They accept donations to continue their work and proudly contribute 90% of donations directly to the women and children – greater than average for an NGO.  http://www.cini-india.org/

This post is part of a series written about my travels to India as part of a social welfare class.  Feel free to look back through previous posts about my experiences or return to see what’s been added.