Hundreds protest outside Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis

2013-10-13T00:00:00Z 2013-10-17T17:24:15Z Hundreds protest outside Monsanto headquarters in St. LouisBy Ken Leiser 314-340-8215

CREVE COEUR • Hundreds of demonstrators descended on the entrance to Monsanto Co. world headquarters Saturday, where they chanted anti-Monsanto slogans, waved picket signs and sometimes waded into street traffic.

Saturday’s “march against Monsanto” was organized by a coalition of groups, including GMO-Free Midwest, to air a variety of grievances against the company. More than 500 turned out for the short march from Stacy Park down Olive Boulevard.

During a news conference that preceded the march, a handful of speakers renewed their calls for labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients and lashed out at Monsanto for the historic ecologic effects of some of its products.

Monsanto officials could not be reached for comment Saturday, but in a statement Friday before the protest said: “We believe we are making a contribution to improving agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving natural resources such as water and energy.”

Organic farmer Mark Brown said Monsanto controls seed markets. Brown drew applause when he told fellow demonstrators he talked an Illinois farmer out of a Monsanto seed contract.

“We have the largest collection of non-GMO corn, wheat and soybeans in this area,” he said. “If you know a farmer who would like to drop their Monsanto contract and get seed (from) us for free, send them to us.”

Wearing a T-shirt reading “Save the Bees,” Mary Wirz of Wausau, Wis., joined pickets along Olive, outside Monsanto’s front gates.

“If we have another year like this summer with massive bee kills — if we have a couple more of those years, the bees are going to be gone,” Wirz said. “And the food source is going to be gone.”

Wirz said Monsanto should shoulder part of the blame. The global honeybee population has fallen significantly over the past decade.

The die-offs have been linked to viruses, stress, poor nutrition, pesticides and declining habitat. But some research suggests the phenomenon is a symptom of an agricultural system that relies heavily on chemicals and monocultures.

In June, Monsanto hosted a “Bee Health Summit” in St. Louis, and two years ago bought an Israeli bee research company.

Don Fitz of Gateway Green Alliance said Monsanto should endorse a precautionary principle of not introducing a new product into the marketplace until it has been proven safe.

Ken Leiser is the transportation writer at the Post-Dispatch. Read his Along for the Ride column online and every Sunday in the newspaper.

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