By Lily Wan
Above: Onna Meyer shows her opposition to the use of genetically modified organisms at a protest Jan. 24 in front of a Monsanto tent on UF’s campus. “I do it because I’ve got to stand up for what I believe. I believe in environmental justice.” Photo by Erik Knudsen.
Monsanto Hits UF on Nationwide Tour
There’s a new act in town, folks.
Monsanto has had a giant trailer plastered with “AMERICA’S FARMERS” and blown-up images of shimmery fields and harvests parked on the Reitz North Lawn on UF’s campus for the past few days. This trailer is part of Monsanto’s outreach tour, visiting community centers and college campuses in suburban and urban areas across the country.
“Our goal is to let people know where their food comes from,” said Kera Relando, an agricultural educator for Monsanto who is a member of the traveling troupe of Monsanto representatives.
Ed, a man with respectably well-kept scruff, dressed as suavely as a member of the “one percent” himself, was part of the group of Occupy Gainesville protesters demonstrating at the Monsanto trailer on Tuesday. Ed is one of his pseudonyms, anyway. He led the protesters’ people’s mic and die-in.
“There are…15, 16, 17… about 20 protesters. They’re lying on the ground,” one Monsanto representative reported to his earpiece, just after Ed and the rest of the protesters collapsed on the lawn as part of the die-in.
“We want people to become aware of where their food comes from,” Ed said.
Hm, this sounds eerily familiar. Oh right, it’s because we just heard that line from Monsanto’s rep, Relando.
So, if the corporate giant (Monsanto) and the corporation haters (Occupy Gainesville) are at the same place for the same reason, shouldn’t they be collaborating and not butting heads?
Their purposes are essentially identical, but their intentions are “diametrically opposed opposites,” as Ed explained.
The protesters were also there to educate, just like Monsanto. Same motive, yet on complete opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of educational content.
As Ed explained, the protesters stand against Monsanto’s business practices and attempt to control all aspects of agriculture. Protesters handed out fliers all day, urging students to push for responsible food labeling, distinguishing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), or “Frankenfoods,” from unaltered foods. These GMOs, as the flier elaborated, may “increase cancer risks, create super-pests, super-weeds and new plant viruses, increase use of toxic pesticides, and contaminate organic and non-GMO crops.”
Of course, Monsanto had a different story. Their tour took students through three sections: challenges faced by America’s farmers, a 10-minute film featuring farmers attesting to Monsanto’s technology — subliminally relaying a sense of community and trust through presentation of the farmers’ grandparents and children — and finally a room full of promise, cheer and hope for the future, all made possible by the Monsanto’s biotechnology research and genetically modified crops.
Oh yeah, and they were also giving out free lip balm.
The first welcoming room, presenting the farmers’ challenges, even featured a quote relating Monsanto’s agricultural practices to world peace.
The themepark-esque tour was aesthetically pleasing and so were the “educational” handouts, especially juxtaposed with the simple black-and-white fliers the occupy protesters were handing out. Let’s just hope students are smart enough to take a closer look at the content of each.