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March For Local Food Rights

On Saturday, Oct. 12, Eugeneans can take part in another international March Against Monsanto, a worldwide event to raise awareness of the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods and seeds. The event is particularly telling in light of the recent passing of Senate Bill 863 in Oregon during the recent special session of the Legislature. That law means the state rather than local governments regulate local agriculture.  

“We don’t really want to march against anyone; Monsanto isn’t the only biotech corporation. We’re not even calling it a march — we’re calling it the ‘March Above and Beyond Monsanto,’” says Sabrina Siegel, a main organizer of the event. “This issue is kept out of our media in the U.S. — so much so we have to march and create events to get the word out to the public.”

The march will begin at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza and end at the First Christian Church with an informational panel called “Tools and Tactics for Sustainable Food Systems.”

A variety of local activists will be on the panel, including Melissa Wischerath from the Center for Sustainability Law, Zach Baker from Support Local Food Rights, Stacey Be Black from Kid Food Matters, Doug Hornaday from Healthy Bees Healthy Gardens and Kristie Steele, along with Siegel, from GMO Free Oregon. The panel is moderated by EW’s Camilla Mortensen.

The event will also raise awareness about SB 863, which specifically says that, “exclusive regulatory power over agricultural seed, flower seed, nursery seed and vegetable seed and products of agricultural seed, flower seed, nursery seed and vegetable seed [will be reserved] to the state.”

“It’s sort of an affront to our democracy,” Siegel says. “Let’s get together as a community and protect our families.”

Kai Huschke of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which has been working with local groups on community rights, says SB 863 does not mean the end for petitioning efforts in Lane and other Oregon counties to place local bans on the production of genetically modified foods that would protect people such as organic farmers. 

He says the law comes into play after only people have voted on the measure. But Huschke says, “It is also here where corporate rights and the Constitution come into play in putting the big squash on local decision making power related to things like food production.” He says SB 863 calls attention to the need to change the structure, not just react to the Legislature. 

The march is not the only local food and ag event in the near future — Support Local Food Rights, which recently had its ballot initiative language approved by Lane County, is having an event Nov. 8 on local food rights, and Sprout will celebrate its first anniversary and “how food grows community” on Oct. 18. 

The “March Above and Beyond Monsanto” will start at 11 am and the “Tools and Tactics” panel will start at noon at the First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St. For more information on CELDF’s model for what that structural change could look like in Oregon go to http://wkly.ws/1kw.