March Against Monsanto hosted a World Food Day rally on Saturday against a federal bill that intends to ban mandatory GMO labeling state laws.
The rally was held at Lake Eola, and the 30 organizers who attended marched around Downtown Orlando, making stops at Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson’s offices.
Monsanto is a self-proclaimed sustainable agriculture company. March Against Monsanto is an organization that opposes the use of GMOs in food products and aims to increase public awareness of bills in Congress involving genetically modified foods.
With this rally, the organization aimed to increase awareness of H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, also called the DARK act — an acronym for Denying Americans the Right to Know — by its opponents.
Justin Harvey, a 28-year-old UCF alumnus who majored in business and a lead organizer for March Against Monsanto Orlando, joined the rally because he finds it upsetting that Americans are not given the knowledge required to make an informed decision about what they’re eating, particularly compared to other countries that have more regulations protecting consumers’ right to health and information.
“If I’ve got to eat three meals a day, I want to know what’s in my food, but then I found out I didn’t know what was in my food, and then I found out that it was banned in 30 other countries and labeled in 64, and I’m thinking something needs to be done about this,” Harvey said.
H.R. 1599 would prevent the Food and Drug Administration from requiring mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods, but would allow labeling on a voluntary basis. It was approved by the House of Representatives on July 23 and is scheduled for a Senate vote later this year.
UCF senior hospitality major Jasmine Hanley became passionate about this cause after conducting research that led her to believe that the portion of the population that purchases GMO-laden food products — which are generally cheaper than organically grown crops — are those with lower incomes.
“Most people can’t afford to get the best ingredients or buy organic. Most people can’t afford to care, basically. We have a lot of people on government-subsidized programs, and they’re not going to get organic,” Hanley said.
Daniel Griffith, a 44-year-old retiree who now spends most of his time supporting political movements and who volunteers for the organizations Orlando Light Brigade and Speak Up Florida, became involved after noticing that most of the food coupons him and his family cut from fliers were from Monsanto-owned companies.
“This is a game-changer, this DARK act. I don’t know why anyone thinks that not labeling what’s in our food is at all good. It’s just mind-boggling to think people believe this is a good idea,” Griffith said.
However, most Americans do not think this is a good idea. According to the most recent poll conducted by ABC News in June 2015, 93 percent of 1,024 adults who participated in a phone survey believe that the federal government should require labels on food that indicate whether or not it’s been genetically modified or bio-engineered.
Another rally attendee, Keith Lehmann, 44, got involved with March Against Monsanto after experiencing health problems as a result of his diet.
“It was a combination of both the personal medical maladies which I concluded came from poor food, and also the concern over the massive bee die-offs, and then realizing there was a connection between those,” Lehmann said. “We should at least have the right to know. As Americans we should know what’s in our food,” Lehmann said. “The labeling is done in other countries. It is not an impossibility. It can easily happen. They oppose it because it will continue waking up Americans to what’s in their food.”
Gabby Baquero is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.