Chanting “We will stop Monsanto!,” about 100 people marched through downtown Napa on Saturday to protest the agribusiness giant and engineered foods.
The marchers, including parents pushing their toddlers in strollers, crossed the First Street Bridge and headed toward the Farmers Market outside the Oxbow Public Market before returning to downtown for a group photo in front of City Hall.
Napa’s “March Against Monsanto” took place in conjunction with hundreds of similar events nationwide and in more than 50 countries. The St. Louis-based company, organizers said, owns the patents of more than 85 percent of genetically engineered seeds sold in the U.S.
“Monsanto has a long history of putting out dangerous products that have been harmful to people’s health and to the environment,” said Erica Amy Martenson, coordinator for Label GMOs — Napa County, who was one of the speakers at Dwight Murray Plaza off First Street.
The speakers urged the public to eat organic agricultural products and avoid consuming genetically engineered foods — also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Speaking in support of the march were Hector Olvera of Latinos Unidos del Valle de Napa; Napa County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht; Vietnam veteran Steven Grant Stratford, a member of the Green Party of Napa County from American Canyon; and Carol Nagle of Napa, another member of Label GMOs — Napa County.
Nagle urged those gathered to boycott foods that are genetically engineered. Genetically engineered foods are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, an active ingredient of Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup, she explained. Farmers can spray the crops without killing them. Another trait of GMO plants is their resistance to insects, Nagle said. A consequence has been the development of “super weeds” and “super bugs.”
Organizers also invited the participants to sign a petition to urge the Napa County Board of Supervisors and the Napa City Council to approve a resolution in support of labeling genetically engineered foods. The resolutions have not come forward, although Wagenknecht expressed support for labeling GMO foods.
Among the participants Saturday was Julia Adkins of Napa. “The whole thing with Monsanto — they’re killing our food supply,” said Adkins, 63, a massage therapist.
Jennifer Silagy of American Canyon came with her two daughters, Erin, 11, and Lindsey, 17. They support labeling GMO foods.
“I think it’s wrong that we don’t know what we’re eating,” said Lindsey, a student at American Canyon High School.
Art teacher David Garden Jr. of St. Helena came to the march carrying a plastic skeleton decorated with signs that read “Corn-fed” and “Dia de los Monsantos,” a reference to the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday to remember family and friends who had died.
“This is a very important topic. It needs as much exposure as possible because a lot of people don’t know even who Monsanto is or Dow or any of those people. So they don’t know what they’re eating,” said Garden, 54. “I think (food) labeling is one step.”
Karly Pecorella of San Diego attended with her husband, Jaime, and their two children, Eva, 4, and Giovanni, 6. The family came to the march while visiting Jaime’s parents in Napa.
“It’s important to have foods to be labeled to make educated consumer choices,” said Karly Pecorella, 37, as she carried Eva on her back during the march.
“We’d love to see GMOs banned, but we’ll start with at least getting them labeled,” she said. “It’s a start.”