Marching orders

June 2013
March against Monsanto rally in San Francisco's Union Square
March against Monsanto rally, San Francisco.
CC Photo by Steve Rhodes on Flickr
Two rather momentous things happened in May 2013.

The first involved Monsanto's decision to discontinue its lobbying for more cultivation of GM crops in Europe.

This announcement in itself wasn't too surprising: other biotech giants such as Bayer CropScience, BASF and Syngenta had already come to similar decisions, and the rising concern about GM foods in America is probably enough to deal with without tackling Europe at the same time. Monsanto is, instead, content to concentrate on supplying GM animal feed which is much bigger business, has largely escaped the dreaded labelling, and whose end-consumers who are a lot less fussy about what they eat than humans are.

The 'momentous' part of Monsanto's decision is the reason given: its spokesman said 
“The reason is, among other things, low demand of the farmers”. 
 It's no longer the environmentalists, greens, Luddites, idealists, middle-classes, excessive regulation etc. previously being blamed: it's the farmers themselves.

Monsanto's announcement came just after the first momentous event. This was a world-wide 'March Against Monsanto' on 25 May.

An estimated two million people from 436 cities, 58 countries and six continents hit the streets in protest against Monsanto's control of the global food system, and its threat to our food safety, biodiversity and food sovereignty.

March Against Monsanto
Oslo. CC Photo by  Caroline Hargreaves on Flickr
Demonstrations against Monsanto aren't new. However this one was unprecedented in its scale, and in the fact that it had been organised entirely at grass-roots level. No national or international environmental bodies were involved, yet the world-wide awareness generated was clearly second to none. The multiple events involved ordinary folk from all walks of life who had been brought together through a Facebook page created only three months previously. Unlike previous such rallies, the marches were uniformly peaceful. March Against Monsanto's founder and organiser described the turnout as “empowering and inspiring”.

Melbourne March against Monsanto
Melbourne. CC photo by OccupySmallStreet on Flickr
GM/Monsanto sceptics have, of course, noted the strategic timing of the Company's announcement of its withdrawal from efforts in Europe. The March Against Monsanto was making things just too hot to be worth handling: a situation which called for a quick bucket of cold PR. Neither did it escape the notice of sceptics that Monsanto's press release was immediately misquoted all over the world: good PR can rely on bad journalism to put out the message it wants, rather than what it actually said (most media reports said something along the lines of 'Monsanto has stopped the marketing of GMO seeds in the EU').

Can we expect Monsanto to lie low for a few years and then come charging back into Europe?

Contre Monsanto
Montreal. CC photo by Lea-Kim Chateauneauf on Flickr
Given that much the same sort of 'withdrawal' announcement was made by the Company when its terminator technology was proving a PR nightmare, and again when everyone in the wheat business made it clear they wouldn't countenance GM wheat (both of which have continued to be developed by Monsanto despite suggestions to the contrary), the answer to the above question is clearly YES.


It would be a good idea to keep your finger on the pulse of where the March Against Monsanto goes next. Check out the Facebook page and website of 'Scotland Against Monsanto'.

  • Sean Poulter, American 'Frankenstein food' company pulls plug ..., Mail Online, 3.06.13
  • F. William Engdahl, Monsanto's Deception Game On GMO In Europe
  • Millions march against GM crops, Guardian, 26.05.13
  • Mainstream, Organic Consumers Association, May 2013
  • OCA Calls for Immediate Moratorium on Open-Air Field Testing of GE Crops, Organic Consumer Association Release

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