LIHUE – Around 80 people rallied near the Lihue Airport on Saturday against agriculture company Monsanto.
Kapaa resident Geoff Morris said dozens of countries and over 400 cities participated in the third annual “March Against Monsanto.”
“Their presence is duly noted – having Dow, Pioneer, Syngenta all in the same basket,” he said. “If what you’re spraying by my kids, by hospitals is safe, let’s test and find out. That’s the main thing.”
Kauai protesters carried signs, wore facemasks and waved to passersby during the two-hour rally. They said Monsanto and other companies like it are affecting the health of people when they use pesticides. They also said they oppose genetically modified foods.
There were also protests on Maui and Oahu.
Morris – also known for wearing a Grim Reaper costume at anti-GMO rallies and calling himself “The GMO Reaper” – said he wears the costume for the children and the aina. However, he said some people think the costume is a detriment to the anti-GMO movement.
“I stand on the side of the road and sweat in that costume for you, for your children, for the aina,” he said. “A lot of people think it might be a detriment to the movement, but what I think what it is, it’s keeping the flame lit. I’ve chosen to take on that form and that type of protesting, and I want the people on the Westside to know that I’m fighting for their children.”
Morris said the idea for the costume came to him in an epiphany.
“Corn, Syngenta, Monsanto, the grim reaper harvesting the corn — it was natural thing for me,” he said. “I put the skeleton skull mask on first for at the Mana March, and (then) let’s take it all the way.”
Kapaa resident Joanna Wheeler said she doesn’t want to see Monsanto “infiltrate” Kauai, as similar corporations attempted to gain access to crops in her native home of Peru.
“I’m originally from Peru and there are these companies that try to infiltrate the Peruvian corn that’s been in Peru for thousands of years,” she said. “I’ve been so blessed to be (on Kauai) for 15 years. When I learned what was happening three years ago with these experiments, I was infuriated.”
Gary Hooser, councilman for Kauai County, said the march shows the people’s commitment to the movement. He said Saturday’s rally isn’t about being for or against GMO, but about the impact the GMO industry has on the community.
“It’s not about science; It’s about the impacts,” Hooser said. “Tons of pesticides are used. It’s about the ownership of genes. I for one, I eat GMO products everyday. They’re in our food system, but I don’t appreciate the industry’s impacts on our community and the fact that they’re not willing to follow our laws and sue us.”
Robert Zelkovsky — media and membership coordinator for Surfrider Foundation, Kauai Chapter — said the foundation isn’t endorsing the march, however, is behind it.
“We realize there’s such a proliferation of pesticides and herbicides,” he said. “We’re seeing it in the recent testing that we’ve done, and we would like to see the planet be chemical-free.”
Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically-engineered seeds and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the herbicide brand, Roundup, which is used to control a variety of weeds.
Monsanto, which doesn’t have any operations on Kauai, couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday.