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May 9, 2021

Byron marches against Monsanto

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Leaderless revolution… Saturday’s rally against agro-chemical giant Monsanto in Railway Park, Byron Bay. Photo Harsha Prabhu.

Dominic Feain

More than 300 people marched in Byron Bay on Saturday as part of a world-wide protest against biotechnology food giant, Monsanto.

Following a wet morning, the sun broke through just minutes before the scheduled midday start at Railway Park in the centre of town.

Young and old gathered to voice their concern over a host of issues including food safety, environmental damage, destruction of farmer livelihoods, crop contamination, political favouritism and the lack of adequate labelling on genetically modified foods.

Coinciding with an estimated 330 marches in 41 countries organised by the cyber-activist group, Anonymous, protestors cheered a series of speakers, including anti-coal seam gas campaigners John Wyborn and Mick Franklin, questioning the multinational corporation’s control and genetic manipulation of the world’s food supply.

Byron Bay activist Harsha Prabhu said speaker after speaker stood up to express their ‘outrage at Monsanto’s toxic environmental legacy’.

‘[It is] a legacy that stretches from the use of the deadly herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam, now known to cause a host of genetic deformities in humans, to the recent suicide of farmers in India due to the failure of Roundup-ready crops, and the control that such corporations have over public policy,’ he said.

He added that passions ran particularly high over the local use of herbicides containing glyphosates by Byron Shire Council, to which Byron Greens councillor Rose Wanchap responded, explaining Byron Shire’s investigation of sustainable weed-control practices and the need for biodiversity principles in policy development, notions that were further elaborated on by Byron Shire’s Landcare group.

‘Local chanteuse Ilona Harker entertained the punters but also declared the day was theirs to add their voice to what she described as a “revolution without leaders”,’ Mr Prabhu said.

‘Then the “leaderless revolution” decided en masse to march down the main street, keeping to the pavement, banners held high, to the Peace Pole at Main Beach.’

Organisers asked protesters to be respectful and stay on the correct side of the road as the rally didn’t have police permission or council approval.

The colourful procession did just that as it made its way up Jonson Street towards the beach, until the Lawson Street roundabout when some protesters decided to keep circling, much to the delight of tourists who stopped to take photos.

‘By the time three police cars arrived to check on the shenanigans it was over bar the rain, which pelted down, prompting one wag to remark “Monsanto must control the weather as well”,’ Mr Prabhu said.

‘Meanwhile, all that remained in the centre of town to mark the action was a sign that said, in true Byron fashion, “Spray with Love”.’

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