Seeds at root of protest march

Rebekah Krause, 31, of Goose Creek, is a mother of five children, including 8-week-old Abel, and is concerned about the impact of genetically modified food on future generations. David Quick/

A 31-year-old mother concerned about her five children and their generation was among a diverse crowd of about 125 who gathered Saturday for Charleston’s March Against Monsanto.

“I’ve only been aware of genetically modified foods for year, but what I’ve learned makes me particularly concerned about their future,” said Rebekah Krause of Goose Creek, with her 8-week-old baby snuggly strapped on her torso in a homemade cloth carrier.

On it read: “Let us choose! Label GMO Foods.”

Generally, those opposed to genetically modified foods say no long-term studies prove that GMOs (geneticaly modified organisms) are safe, increasingly that seeds are engineered to be herbicide-tolerant and infertile (making farmers dependent on buying new seed), and that companies such as Monsanto bully small farmers through lawsuits, resist labeling and have ethically questionable ties with policy makers.

In Charleston, people gathered at Cannon Park and sent several marches down the Calhoun Street sidewalk to a bustling Marion Square, where thousands gathered during the course of the day for Piccolo Spoleto events, and handed out brochures detailing the issues.

Beth Dalton, an organizer of the Charleston event, and others said that many people they interacted with Saturday are unfamiliar with genetically modified plants and foods.

The march in Charleston was among 330 going on this weekend in 44 nations. Of those, about 250 marches were held concurrently in the U.S.

The global event was a social media-generated call to action against genetically modified foods, or GMOs, and the multinational corporations that produce them, most notably the St. Louis-based Monsanto.

The company said Saturdaythat it respects people’s rights to express their opinions on the topic, but stands by the seeds it sells. Monsanto officials said the seeds help farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources such as water and energy.

The impetus behind the international march was largely due to the federal passage of the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” in March that protects the company from lawsuits as the result of planting genetically modified seeds even if courts find evidence that the produce or feed is deemed unhealthy for human consumption.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans denied an attempt to overturn the measure.

However, some at Charleston’s rally, however, says the issue transcends political affiliations.

“This is not a partisan issue,” said Bill Fagan, who describes himself as “leaning toward Libertarian.”

“Anyone who doesn’t want their children and grandchildren eating toxins in virtually all the food the average American eats would be behind this cause if they only knew what was going on secretly behind closed doors,” says Fagan, noting that anyone who spent five minutes investigating GMOs would be “outraged once the shock wore off.”

“The word is getting out and I believe we’ll all be together on this issue.”