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Decrying genetically altered foods

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday as part of a global series of marches against seed giant Monsanto Co. and genetically modified foods.

Organizers said the March Against Monsanto demonstrations were being held in some 300 cities in more than 44 countries this weekend. The event -- a social media-generated call to action against genetically modified foods and the multinational corporations that produce them -- marked the first such global, unified protest for this cause, organizers said.

Starting in downtown’s Pershing Square, a colorful crowd marched toward City Hall, where they rallied for most of the afternoon. Many carried large posters with messages such as “Label GMOs, it’s our right to know” and “Don’t let corporate greed dictate your health.” One adult protester arrived in a cow-print onesie and a sign that said, “Happy cows do not eat GMOs.”

“We’re marching to raise awareness,” said Dorothy Muehlmann, 30, of Corona, who organized the L.A. march with help from groups such as Occupy L.A. and Anonymous. “This is not just a ‘boo Monsanto’ protest. We want more people to know so they can make their own decisions.”

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Monsanto, a multinational firm based in St. Louis, told the Associated Press that it respects people’s rights to express their opinions on the topic, but that it stands by the seeds it sells. The seeds help farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources such as water and energy, Monsanto said.

Muehlmann said the issue has gained momentum after the defeat of Proposition 37, a ballot measure last November that would have made California the first state in the nation to require labels on some fresh produce and processed foods, such as corn, soybeans and beet sugar, whose DNA has been altered by scientists.

Opponents of the proposition argued that it was expensive, bureaucratic and full of illogical loopholes for certain foods, such as meat, dairy products, eggs and alcoholic beverages.

The measure was defeated with 53% of voters casting ballots against it. Still, supporters said the concerns of the more than 4 million who voted for it remained valid.

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The debate over genetically engineered food has been going on since the crops became widespread in the mid-1990s. In 1992, the FDA concluded that there was no difference between genetically engineered and non-engineered plants.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate rejected 71 to 27 an amendment to the 2013 farm bill that would let states require labels on food or beverages made with genetically modified ingredients. Many at Saturday’s rally in L.A. said the Senate’s action added political urgency to their cause.

Protesters rallied Saturday across Southern California, including in Venice, Long Beach and San Diego, organizers said.

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rosanna.xia@latimes.com


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