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Protest march planned against GMO company

As part of a global “March Against Monsanto” movement, Bainbridge Island farmers are gearing up to demonstrate against the agriculture company in downtown Winslow this weekend.

Monsanto, which began as a chemical company in 1901 and later helped to develop DDT and Agent Orange, has come under fire recently by those who oppose its creation and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and seeds.

Anne Weber, who owns Farmhouse Organics along with her husband, Peter, is coordinating the event. The march will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 25 in the town square.

“As a farmer and a mom, I’m really busy and I don’t really have time to organize protests, and I’ve never organized protests before,” Weber said.

“It’s not my normal thing. Normally I’m just working, and growing food, and taking care of our family, and just getting through it all, but I feel so strongly about this,” she said.

The demonstrations against Monsanto will be held worldwide on Saturday in 36 countries in more than 250 cities, according to the March Against Monsanto webpage. With a Facebook page gone “viral,” the movement has grown in recent weeks.

“It’s just been changing really by the minute,” Weber said.

Last week at the farmers market, where Weber and her husband have sold produce since 1991 as one of the market’s first farm stands, she and her three farm interns were mulling over ideas about what part they could play in the movement.

When Weber decided to walk around asking fellow vendors if they were interested in forming a demonstration, she found an overwhelmingly positive response.

“Every single person said, ‘Count me in,” Weber said. “Basically all the farmers that participate at the farmers market are all in on this.” Weber was delighted to see that the local farmers would take the time out of their day to march.

“Especially this time of year for farmers, it’s our busiest time of the year,” she said. We’re planting, we’re harvesting we’re doing the farmers market, we’re doing everything. It’s a hard time for us to do stuff like this so I really appreciate all the other farmers’ efforts.”

Weber hopes the event could attract up to 500 people, but admitted it was an ambitious goal, made more difficult by the fact that few people she tried to recruit had even heard of Monsanto.

“I feel like I’m in this conspiracy movie where I’m trying to tell people what’s happening,” she said, “and I just feel like for our future and our kids’ future, we have to do something.”

Weber said two pieces of legislation in particular served as the impetus for organizing the march.

One, a bill signed into law in March, includes a controversial provision some say will let Monsanto and similar companies have carte blanche in the sale and manufacturing of genetically modified seeds.

“People, especially on Bainbridge, make the choice to buy organic and they feel kind of protected from GMOs and Monsanto has been buying up the names of organic heirloom seeds,” Weber said. “People are unknowingly supporting Monsanto.”

Another provision in the proposed Farm Bill is something Weber says will make it illegal for states to pass laws ordering GMOs be labeled. Such provisions are things critics of both laws say will benefit companies like Monsanto.

“I want to let parents know and our customers know and people that we’re willing to take some time out of our life and take a stand against this, something we feel really, really strongly about,” Weber said.

“If you really feel passionately about something and you just do one thing, that … can make a difference and also just for yourself it makes you feel good,” Weber added. “I’m really glad to do it. It’s my pleasure and it makes me feel really great about where we live and how we live.”

 

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