About 150 people took to the streets of Brisbane on May 24 to protest against biotechnology corporation Monsanto, one of the foremost proponents of genetically modified (GM) technologies.
The event was part of an international day of action that called for all products with genetically modified organisms to be labelled, Monsanto products to be banned in Australia, and a more transparent handling of GM products by the Australian government.
Speakers described the history of Monsanto and neoliberal laws and free trade agreements that help the corporation.
In Sydney, several hundred people rallied at Town Hall before marching to Hyde Park. Actions were also held in Melbourne, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide, Darwin and many regional towns.
Monsanto has reignited court cases around agriculture. A 2004 case in Canada found that a farmer violated Monsanto's patents by planting canola that he "knew or ought to have known" contained Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene.
The farmer said he didn't want the gene in his fields, and that it had become incorporated into his crop via wind-blown pollen. It didn’t make a difference, Monsanto won the case.
A similar court case just concluded in Australia. Organic farmer Steve Marsh tried to sue a neighbouring farmer for contaminating his organic-certified crops with genetically modified seeds.
Even though Marsh lost his organic certification, the court found no personal injury had occurred and ruled in favour of the farmer that used Monsanto's Roundup.
Monsanto has spread like a fungus on rotting wood and its unchecked power has had acute consequences for many communities. Monsanto has a strong foothold in rural regions of India, where debt and drought has driven thousands of farmers to suicide.
The overarching issue at play is the lack of governance of Monsanto and its products. In the United States, Monsanto has influenced the agenda of the Food and Drug Administration and several governmental bodies, the very bodies that were designed to protect citizens.
This ship is sailing ever closer to the Australian shores with the secret agenda around the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Science continues to push the frontier of what we know and what we can do with GM, but a truly progressive government would look at the long-term benefits and advantages of making strives into technology and science, not simply for our country, but all countries around the world.
Until a complete and transparent review is performed against all commercial GM corporations operating within Australia, halting commercial use of GM is the only solution. The March Against Monsanto rallies have called for food transparency, an end to corporate food corruption, and a transition to local, organic and sustainable agriculture.