On Saturday, May 25, Maui activists in Kahului joined two million protestors around the world in a global “March Against Monsanto” event, aimed at bringing awareness to the perceived dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and the large multinational corporations that peddle them.
The protesters snaked down Kamehameha Avenue, holding signs and chanting on their march from War Memorial to the Harbor Canoe Hale. Many wore red to signify their solidarity, and spirited demonstrators kept the crowd motivated and alive as Maui Police officers watched.
It was a passionate display, with visceral signs saying “Go back to hell” and “GMO? GTFO” alongside more measured demonstrations that outlined specific grievances against the biotech company: Monsanto’s infamous legacy manufacturing toxins such as DDT and Agent Orange, the usage of Maui as an “experiment zone,” the unproven safety of GM food and the promotion of an exploitative and unsustainable non-organic food production model, among others.
At the Canoe Hale after-party where activists gathered, a band played Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”
What did you hope to accomplish with the March? I asked a few of the activists.
“Awareness” was a big answer and “Excellent” the popular opinion of the day.
“They’re polluting and contaminating everything” a gentle protester named Susan told me. “They’re not telling the truth and the government’s not demanding studies done either. They have this revolving door of officials who work for Monsanto, then they get a job at the FDA.
They’re sleeping together for profit over the people. And we don’t need them! We have plenty of food–it’s just a matter of distributing it properly.”
She continued, “We need to get politicians in office who are pono, who will do the right thing. Roz Baker has knocked out of the Senate twice efforts to label GMOs. Educate yourselves on those politicians. We have to vote.”
The revolving door of officials was a common issue. “Their corporate power is insurmountable” said Ann Evans, a key Occupy Maui member involved in getting the March started on Maui. “We should not have allowed that to happen. That happened with [the] Citizens United [ruling], but who sits on the Supreme Court? Clarence Thomas from Monsanto. Who’s in charge of the FDA? Michael Taylor, from Monsanto… We’re not stupid. There are 66 countries that banned this for health reasons. Why are we still doing it?”
She picked a piece of lint off the shoulder of my shirt and brushed my sleeve with the back of her hand in a maternal fashion. Then she continued, “They have 900 acres on Maui. They’re not growing food! They are not a farming company! They’re chemical engineers.”
Then another major player in Occupy Maui, Cody Darcy, jumped in: “We’re on an island where we import what, 80 or 90 percent of our food, and our greatest agricultural export is Monsanto’s GM seed corn.”
Evans added, “And what are we short on, on the island? Water. We fight about water, water, water and Monsanto has five or six wells in Paia. What about the farmers? It’s a problem, and people have been asking me, ‘what do you see coming of this?’ And I’m like, nothing! Nothing is going to happen in a day.”
Darcy, who has had Monsanto on his radar for nearly a decade, nodded. “Step one is building awareness,” Darcy said. “It’s exploding right now. We had 40 different countries over 400 different events march today. It’s pretty unprecedented.”
But what about after that? I asked. What do you do with this awareness?
“You can’t build things overnight,” Evans said. “If you want this to go through, you have to put people in government who are for it and listening to us and not just somebody who’s going to be bought out. You’d be surprised how many of our representatives have taken from Monsanto. They’ve genetically modified our congress and our food.”
“Another big thing is to get people to stop giving them money” Darcy added. He smoked from a pack of roll-your-own American Spirit tobacco. “[Monsanto’s] a corporation. That’s what they care about: profits. Start boycotting processed foods, RoundUp!, all the products they have out there. Here on Maui we have the opportunity to grow our own organic food.”
Later a performer took the stage. She spoke about the importance of listening to nature and not succumbing to message of hate for Monsanto.
“Love Monsanto straight off the planet!” Susan shouted with a giggle.
Read a longer version of this story at Mauifeed.com