Environmental activists took to the streets of downtown Mount Pleasant on Saturday as part of a worldwide protest against controversial biotechnology company Monsanto.
People of all ages crammed onto the corner of Broadway and Main streets for the “March Against Monsanto.” Some came from as far away as Alpena to make the walkthrough downtown, beating drums, chanting and waving signs like “Monsatan terrorizing small farmers all over the world” and “Old Monsanto had a farm GM-GMO”.
Monsanto has come under fire from some activists for genetically altering seeds and other materials used to make food without proper labeling.
Mount Pleasant resident Abby Baker was active in the march’s preparation and said the purpose of the protest was to raise awareness and to get people more involved in their food.
“Just banding together and standing by our local farmers, standing by organic things,” Baker said.
Many protesters were also there to criticize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with regulating and overseeing American food production. Protesters said the FDA does not properly regulate Monsanto and other food giants because many of the regulators are former employees of those companies.
The crowd earned appreciative honks and shouts of support from drivers passing by on the march from Island Park, 331 N. Main St., through downtown and then back to the town’s center.
Mount Pleasant’s protest was one of hundreds across the United States and over 40 other countries, including 12 protests in Michigan.
Protesters were also playing music, helping children plant non-GMO seeds in organic soil and sharing tips on how to avoid brand names that refuse to label.
While Monsanto did not respond to request for comment, their website does give a response to some of the questions protesters raised at the M.A.M. Event.
“Many labeled certified organic or non-(genetically modified) products are available for consumers who prefer to consume them, consistent with their personal preferences,” reads Monsanto’s section on labeling. “These varied offerings provide additional choices for all consumers and avoid the potential of misleading the public with mandated labeling that raises concerns about the quality, safety or healthfulness of the products they have come to know and trust.”
Monsanto has two locations in Michigan, one in Constantine and another in Mason.
Maria Colberg of Mount Pleasant came early to the march to photograph the event and assist others. Colberg learned about the march through a friend.
Colberg said part of what drew her in was the passion of others, and that maybe the reason cities like Midland didn’t have a march could be because they didn’t have a passionate leader bringing everyone together.
“It just took one person to be that passionate here, you know, maybe that person just didn’t live in that area,” Colberg said.