Protesters marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement gathered at three St. Louis area locations to protest against Monsanto Co., including the biotechnology giant's Creve Coeur headquarters.
The protests here, organized by a network calling itself Occupy Monsanto and by the group GMO-Free Midwest, were among 45 other "actions” held across the country Monday, organizers said.
Calling on the company to more rigorously test and label genetically modified ingredients, the protesters first gathered outside the Millenium Hotel downtown, then outside the Whole Foods Market in Brentwood and finally outside the company's offices.
“We're celebrating the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street,” said Barbara Chicherio, of the Gateway Green Alliance and Safe Food Action St. Louis, and a spokesperson for Occupy Monsanto's efforts here. “We had a lot of concerns about large corporations controlling the government, but it wasn't very focused. Now we're focusing on Monsanto.”
The protests are the latest in a series of events over the past year in which activists have called for mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. A petition urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require labeling gathered more than 1 million signatures earlier this year, and a proposition requiring labeling will go before voters in California this November.
According to records filed with the California Secretary of State, Monsanto has contributed more than $7 million to defeat the proposition.
Now, activists say, they are reaching beyond the labeling issue. "Over 1 million signatures were sent to the FDA and they were basically ignored," said Adam Eidinger, a coordinator with Occupy Monsanto. "So what's left to do? It's time for civil disobedience."
Eidinger said the company temporarily suspended operations at two of its California facilities in the past week because of protest actions.
Monsanto would not comment on the suspension of operations, saying only that the safety of its employees was paramount.