Why I March Against the March Against Monsanto
This Saturday, for the second year in a row, I’ll be joining a small group of science advocates in Lafayette Square to counter-protest DC’s local March Against Monsanto event.
Our DC group is part of a larger movement — the March Against Myths — but just to be clear, MAMyths isn’t here to defend Monsanto. MAMyths was formed to stand for science and speak out against the pseudoscience and false information propagated by the March Against Monsanto.
Last year, we listened as protesters took the mic to rail against the evils of GMOs, glyphosate and “Big Ag.” Listening to the speakers that day, you might believe that GMOs are responsible for all sorts of conditions — food allergies, ADHD, autism and obesity. But it’s not true — GMOs aren’t causing any of these conditions. In fact, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine just released a report concluding genetically engineered crops are safe.
Thanks to groups like the March Against Monsanto, Americans remain fearful of GMOs. In response, some food companies are labeling genetically modified ingredients or removing them altogether. But do labels or the removal of genetically modified ingredients actually improve the quality of our food or our larger food system? Of course not. And that’s always been at the heart of this movement for me. I just want to know the truth.
Like many other anti-GMO advocates, DC March Against Monsanto activists have a lot to say about glyphosate, the primary ingredient in the pesticide Roundup. They cite the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s classification of glyphosate as probably carcinogenic as evidence that GMOs are dangerous. But what are the facts?
First of all, glyphosate is an ingredient used in pesticides, not a genetically modified crop in and of itself. Glyphosate is actually less toxic than caffeine and was developed to replace more toxic pesticides in agricultural applications. Yes, the IARC classifies glyphosate as probably carcinogenic. Know what else is classified as a known carcinogen? Smoked meats. Booze. Yet no one in DC is marching against bacon or beer. And, by the way, last week the World Health Organization called glyphosate unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk.
The March Against Monsanto promotes organic food as a chemical-free alternative to GMOs but organic doesn’t mean pesticide-free. It’s just food grown primarily, but not necessarily entirely, with pesticides of natural rather than synthetic origin. Organic food isn’t safer for you or more nutritious.
I eat a wide variety of food — conventional, organic, genetically modified and locally grown — and I invite others to ditch the fear over your food and do the same. If you’d like to join the conversation, join us this Saturday at Lafayette Square. We’ll be wearing our I ❤ GMO shirts.