“I feel very strongly that if we don’t stop GMOs it will be the end of humanity,” says Lizzy Cwynar. She had never organized a protest before, but her concerns over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) led her to organize Eugene’s part of the worldwide March Against Monsanto. Eugene police estimate that about 2,500 people participated in the May 25 event. At least two million people are said to have participated in marches nationwide.
The Eugene march kicked off at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza with songs and performances by the Raging Grannies, Jasun Plaedo Wellman and others, all focusing on biotech giant Monsanto and concerns with GMO-altered foods as well as the pesticides, such as Monsanto’s Roundup, that often accompany them. Melissa Wischerath of Eugene’s Center for Sustainability Law spoke on “the unprecedented control by Big Gene and Monsanto of our seeds and food products” and the rise of alternatives to GMO domination such as farmers markets.
Cwynar, who was joined in her organizing by Sabrina Siegel of GMO Free Oregon, Michael Weed and Cicely Shave, used social media and help from the worldwide March Against Monsanto webpage to get the word out about the march. The anti-GMO march wound from downtown, over the Ferry Street Bridge and culminated at Skinner Butte Park with more performances and speakers, Cwynar says. Eugene’s protest was mentioned in USA Today and other national publications, but didn’t get local coverage in The Register-Guard.
Cwynar says GMO seeds and “the poison inside them” came to her attention when she was pregnant with her daughter. She wants people to know that “We do have the power locally to take action.” She says that now is the time to call legislators and voice opposition to Oregon Senate Bill 633, which opponents have called an Oregon “Monsanto Protection Act” because it would prevent local governments from banning GMO crops. SB 633 passed out of the Senate and moved to the House earlier this month. May 31 is the deadline for policy committees to move legislation that originated in the opposite chamber.
Cwynar is part of the group Food Democracy Lane County, which is working on local food initiatives. She says that Monsanto has infiltrated the federal government and courts, and it’s overwhelming for people, but, “We have power in our state and our county.”
To get involved email Cwynar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who missed the march, Occupy Eugene Media has produced a video: