The platform for Belgium's international community

Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

When Brussels joined the global ‘March against Monsanto’

14:38 29/05/2013
Over 1,000 people from all walks of life participated in the Brussels’ ‘March against Monsanto’ on Saturday May 25. They joined an estimated two million people in 436 cities in 52 countries around the world to demonstrate their growing concern over the damaging practices of large multinational biotech companies – Monsanto first and foremost, but not only. A further 200 took to the streets in Antwerp but, not having obtained authorisation, several were arrested and fined.

The concerns of those demonstrating covered a range of issues, many of which involve not only Monsanto but also other powerful biotech companies such as Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and more. Several people were dressed as bees, recalling the ongoing campaign to ban the use of harmful pesticides blamed for dramatic declines in bee populations across the world. The EU’s recently adopted 2-year ban on the use of certain pesticides (neonicotinoids) has been seen as a temporary victory in this area.

The cultivation and consumption of genetically modified crops (GMOs) was, of course, a central issue. Despite strong consumer opposition from the beginning, a number of GMO crops are currently being cultivated in Europe with the risks that this implies for health and crossover with non-GM crops. These include maize produced by Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer as well as the Amflora potato, modified to contain more starch. Further crops are in the process of being approved. These crops are generally engineered to either contain substances killing certain pests, or to resist the powerful, highly toxic pesticides/herbicides they are treated with and which then kill everything else but the crop itself. Just common sense would seem to suggest that neither of these things could be very good for the health of those consuming them – whether human or animal. Evidence is now building that this is indeed the case.

Another major concern of demonstrators is Monsanto’s use of what is called terminator technology which programs seeds to become infertile after one season thereby obliging the farmer to go back and buy new seeds every year. Combined with a growing number of patents on seeds of all kinds, some fear that this could lead to the effective monopolisation of the food chain by powerful multinationals. Particularly in the global south and developing countries where activists claim that undue pressure is being put on farmers to comply with the system.

Perhaps that is why this event was able to garner so much support so quickly. More than a political demonstration, it was a worldwide mobilisation against corporate greed, the relentless chemical poisoning of our health and environment, the insidious infiltration of GMOs into our daily lives, and socially and environmentally destructive business practices.

Encouraged by the unprecedented success of this first ‘March against Monsanto’ – organised exclusively through social media – the organisers are planning another global demonstration for 12 October 2013, World Food Day. Time to decide whether the safety and security of our food supply for the coming century lies, as the multinationals would have us believe in the increased use of genetic manipulation and the relentless poisoning of our environment, or if perhaps it’s time to stop and take stock and consider just how far we can push mother nature before she pushes back. The warning signs are already there.

* This is an opinion piece submitted by the author and does in no way constitute a Bulletin leader. Views expressed are those of the author alone.

Written by Cathy Howie



As a former long-time journalist, a longtime subscriber of the Bulletin and a spokesman for Monsanto in Europe I am triply disturbed by the abysmal level of reporting that went into this piece. It regurgitates a number of long-since-disproven lies as fact and makes no attempt whatsoever to pretend to be objective journalism. No one called Monsanto for a comment for this story, and there is no evidence that this "reporter" called Syngenta or Bayer or any other company for comment.

The FACTS are that
1. There is not "a number" of GM crops growing in Europe. The potato experiment was cancelled and there is only one GM corn--in fact a Monsanto corn--grown in just a few countries and it accounts for less than 1% of the area of corn under cultivation in Europe. In all other countries Monsanto no longer even tries to market GM products, and has no intention of doing so until such time as farmers and the governing class want them and those countries have functioning, science-based regulatory systems in place.
2. Monsanto NEVER marketed the so-called terminator gene and did not even invent it. It belonged to a company that Monsanto acquired and the research was then promptly Terminated because of its controversial nature. Check out Monsanto's Web page under Issues and Answers for the TRUE story.
3. When referring to herbicides you are probably referring to the world's best selling weed killer, which has been reviewed and approved by the scientific establishments of dozens of countries and used for decades without incident?
3. Your "evidence is building" claim is flat-out wrong. To the contrary, there is an overwhelming body of evidence to the effect that GM crops are as healthy and nutritious as traditional crops, and the European Food Safety Authority has repeatedly determined them to be safe. It is Europe's politicians who have blocked their approvals, and not on scientific grounds.
4. Your paragraph beginning "Perhaps" is beneath all standards of good journalism and the Bulletin should be ashamed to have published it.

It is deplorable that nominally reputable news organizations continue to publish articles such as this one without even a minimum of journalistic principles such as checking your facts, attempting to present both or multiple sides of a story (there's never just one, as I was taught in the very first hour of journalism school), and striking a tone which allows an educated reader to arrive at their own conclusions on the basis of the evidence presented, rather than preaching. Shame!

Jun 1, 2013 18:20

I think this debate could run and run. Thank you for your honesty in openly admitting your vested interest in this debate. I will follow this up (though as a freelancer I don't have time tonight)

Jun 2, 2013 21:06

Am no fan of Monsanto, but totally agree with the first comment. Why is this opinion piece written as if it is factual news? Ending the story with an op-ed disclaimer doesn't change that. I stopped taking The Bulletin seriously years ago - thanks for reminding me why.

Jun 4, 2013 13:12

As 'Ripple' points out, this could - and, in my humble opinion, SHOULD, run and run.

I came across this and thought it made for fascinating reading:

Jun 4, 2013 13:54