Protesters rallied in Downtown Orlando against food industry giant Monsanto. Eric Gutierrez, Central Florida Future


Protesters rallied in Downtown Orlando on Saturday against food industry giant Monsanto to raise awareness about the controversies surrounding the company's products.

The third annual March Against Monsanto campaign brought attention to the recent national and international scrutiny of Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation based in the United States that operates on a multinational level.

The campaign took place on six continents, in more than 40 countries and in more than 420 cities, according to a March Against Monsanto press release.

Organized by UCF alumnus Justin Harvey, the campaign allowed protesters to march from City Hall to Lake Eola Park — where they took a pause to rally — and then back to City Hall.

"We have a right to know what we're eating. Currently, we have no long-term testing, no labels, no knowledge of what's really in our food and what we're feeding to our children," Harvey said.

The protest began with guest speakers who discussed the effects of Monsanto's products and genetically modified seeds, Monsanto products' effect on the bee population and the importance of growing organic food.

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Monsanto is one of the leading producers of GMOs and Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a guest speaker and district nine representative of the Florida House of Representatives, has proposed bills to the Florida Legislature that mandate the labeling of GMOs — but the bills were shot down.

"There are folks all over the world who care about this issue for many different reasons," Vasilinda said. "It's extremely important for us to get together and say, 'We want organic, non-GMO food. We want to know what's in our food and we want it to be wholesome.'"

GMOs have thoroughly undergone more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies that support the safety of GMO crops, according to an information graphic released by Monsanto. Biotechnology has helped farmers in more than 60 countries grow food on more than three billion acres of farmland since 1996.

Monsanto produces various agricultural products and their Roundup brand herbicide is one product that has faced controversy. The main ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, which has been identified as possible carcinogen, according to a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Guest speaker Keith Lehmann discussed the controversial issue of Monsanto's products' impact on the bee population and said that the poisonous chemicals produced by Monsanto are killing bees.

"About one-third of all the food that you eat is pollinated by bees," he said. "If there are no bees, the food growth will decline."

To address this issue, Monsanto teamed up with members of the beekeeping industry to form the Honey Bee Advisory Council in 2013, where it pledged to support the well-being of the honeybee population and develop practices that benefit the health of honeybees, according to a press release.

"The 22,000 people of Monsanto are committed to having an open dialogue about food and agriculture – we're proud of the work we do, and we're eager for people to know more about us," Monsanto said in a statement in response to the protests. "We're also proud of our collaboration with farmers and partnering organizations that help make a more balanced meal accessible for everyone. Our goal is to help farmers do this in a more sustainable way using fewer resources and having a smaller impact on the environment. We know people have different points of view on these topics, and it's important that they're able to express and share them."

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