MCDOWELL COUNTY, N.C. - Local environmental activists Gwen Straub and Krystal Wohnus prefer their food natural and are letting Walmart know about it.
On Friday, the women delivered a petition, with more than 2,000 signatures to the superstore’s manager, Robbie Ryerse.
“I’ll be sure to pass this message along to corporate,” Ryerse told them.
The issue is Walmart’s plan to sell genetically engineered produce, more specifically, corn, this fall.
“This corn has been altered at the seed,” said Straub. “It’s Monsanto’s Seminis Performance Sweet Corn, and it contains built-in herbicides.”
They were not alone on their mission. The petition was part of a nationwide effort last weekend through Food and Water Watch Group, which fights to keepAmerica’s food and water supply safe, accessible and sustainable.
Monsanto is a leading agricultural biotechnology and genetically engineered seed corporation. It has an extensive rap sheet that includes dangerous environmental practices, strong-arming smaller commercial farms, monopolizing markets and exploiting migrant farmers, according to its detractors. Monsanto, which currently covers 90 percent of the agricultural market, has also remained a top 10 chemical company in theU.S.since the 1940s.
Stated on its website, Monsanto claims its new corn crop “is designed to provide farmers with more consistent, flexible weed control, especially control of tough-to-manage and glyphosate-resistant weeds to maximize crop yield potential.”
Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, which Monsanto also manufactures, was part of a recent study (June 2011), linking the toxin to birth defects in frog and chicken embryos at a much lower level than that used in crops and garden spraying.
Straub says the herbicide factor alone can lead to numerous human health and environmental problems. These include the overuse of new pesticides and herbicides once insects and weeds have acclimated to the corn, new waves of super bugs, and cross pollination with other crops.
“Once cross pollination happens, you can’t go back,” said Straub.
Along with Food and Watch Water Group, Straub and Wohnus lend their time and support to various organizations.
“It’s up to us to police ourselves in this area now,” said Straub. “Government and corporations have become so entwined and corrupt. We need to educate as many people as possible on what’s happening to what we eat.”
Wohnus, mother of two, says she wants to protect her children and future generations from these dangers.
“It’s very disturbing,” she said. “I don’t let my children eat these kinds of foods.”
They said the most disturbing about Walmart’s decision to sell Monsanto’s corn, along with numerous grocery and retail chains, is that this produce won’t be labeled. Not to mention, it hasn’t even been tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration. For that matter, the FDA tests no foods that have been genetically engineered.
“We’ll have no way of knowing. So now we can’t even choose what goes into our bodies,” Wohnus said.
Walmart, Straub said, sells $129 billion in food each year.
“As the country’s largest grocery retailer, they have power in shaping the food supply chain,” she said “ If they refuse this, others will likely follow.”
Straub and Wohnus are asking anyone who disagrees with Walmart’s decision, to phone or write letters expressing their concern.
The petition that circulated stated:
“As a consumer, I refuse to purchase Monsanto’s new genetically engineered sweet corn, and urge you to protect your customers by committing not to sell Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn by April 1, 2012. This petition, by Food and Water Watch of Washington, D.C., has been signed over 2,000 North Carolinians and 75,000 across the country. Close to a half-million people signed similar petitions from other food safety organizations.”