By Toure Muhammad Contributing Writer
CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – A few hundred demonstrators converged on Federal Plaza to put pressure on the federal government to protect consumers from untested or inadequately tested genetically modified foods (GMOs) and deadly herbicides–and a host of what protestors called short and long term health risks.
Dubbed “Frakenfoods” by detractors, GMOs are made by forcing the DNA of one species into another that would never be crossed by nature and can only occur in a lab. Foods most likely to be genetically engineered today are soy, corn, canola, cottonseed and beet sugar.
A leading producer of both GMOs and herbicides is Monsanto, described on its website as “leading in-the-seed trait technologies for farmers.” The company also manufactures Roundup and other herbicides used by farmers, consumers and lawn-and-garden professionals.
But protestors say the negative effects of these “man-made” foods and herbicides are alarming. Health risks associated with GMOs include “infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin issues and changes in the gastrointestinal system,” according to the American Academy of Environment Medicine.
The Oct. 12 protest in Chicago was part of worldwide demonstrations calling for a permanent boycott of genetically modified organisms and harmful agro-chemicals, said organizers. Among protestors were several young Black Chicago area residents determined to add their voices to growing voices of concern.
“If we have GMO labeling, it will be more efficient at this point for us all,” said Cat, from the predominantly Black area in Chicago known as Bronzeville. “Right now, we don’t know what’s going on with our foods. Everything is being genetically modified. It could sicken us. Unless we know what’s going on with our food, we won’t have anything else left to eat.”
“What you eat is who you are. What you eat affects your mentality, even if it’s a little bit of this and that. By itself it may not hurt, but when mixed with other chemicals, it can be harmful,” said Micah Jefferson who currently resides in Oak Park, Ill., just across the city line.
Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has noted experts say Monsanto “is destroying the food supply as well as the environment.” “No genetically modified food is good to eat,” added the Minister, in a recent webcast of The Time and What Must Be Done weekly lecture series. His warning and analysis was contained in “Part 38: Wicked Policy & America’s National Interest,” of the series webcast Saturdays at 6 p.m. CST on www.noi.org.
While 62 countries including Japan, China, Australia and the entire European Union have either banned GMOs or have laws requiring mandatory labeling, the U.S. is the only developed country that does not have mandatory GMO labeling laws, said protestors. Protest organizers want the U.S. government to make labeling of all GMO foods and related products, such as items used for hair and skin care, mandatory.
“This is an issue for everyone. Our polls say that 90 percent of Americans want mandatory labeling so they can avoid (GMOs). This is truly a bi-partisan thing. Monsanto and GMOs are hurting people worldwide and in poor communities,” said event organizer Mike Dershmitt of the Organic Consumers Association, an online and grassroots non-profit public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability.
Over 25 states introduced GMO labeling bills in 2013 and the Illinois General Assembly is considering Bill SB1666 that would mandate labeling of GMO products. The bill was put forward by Illinois State Senator David Koehler. Organizers urge people in Illinois to call or write their state senators in Springfield to fully support and preferably co-sponsor SB1666 to Label Genetically Engineered Foods.
“It’s important to me because a lot of people are being affected by GMOs and they are terrible for our bodies and people need to be informed how Monsanto is taking over crops and genetically modifying them. My generation needs to start getting informed,” said David, a protestor from Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.
“Well, basically it’s all about profit. People must realize that they are trying to kill us over money. It’s not safe for you or anybody’s kids. It hurts farmers, it hurts us small people. It causes cancers, tumors; it’s just not safe. The government is already bought. The government doesn’t (care) about us,” added Mozar Jerome from the Ashburn section of Chicago.