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Local protesters rally against Monsanto

About 30 protesters gathered in downtown Bemidji Saturday to protest the agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto. Demonstrators congregated on both sides of the street at the intersection of 3rd Street and Bemidji Avenue North. Trent Opstedahl | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Local protesters rallied Saturday afternoon at the intersection of 3rd Street and Bemidji Avenue North against the agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto. Nearly 30 area community members with messages on cardboard and picket signs gathered at 1 p.m. as part of the multinational "March Against Monsanto" event to protest the company that has been accused of creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with potential harmful or deadly side effects. Protest organizer Sunny Savage said Monsanto’s actions need to be addressed and accused them of "poisoning the earth." Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically engineered seed, herbicides and pesticides that many food growers worldwide utilize, which has many of the protesters concerned about the quality of food being produced. Activists in more than 250 cities were expected to participate in the affair, according to a "March Against Monsanto" press release. Sisters Dawn Cedarbloom and Brenda Mason, who manage an 80-acre farm just outside of Bemidji, were among the demonstrators gathered. According to the two sisters, organically grown produce is a top priority on their farm, a practice that is put in jeopardy with so many other farms using Monsanto products. "We’re farming very close to another farm that uses a lot of those (Monsanto) products," said Cedarbloom, adding she has become more involved in raising awareness about Monsanto for over a year. "They do things with their crops without informing the public." For similar reasons, Jeff Erickson attended the event to aid in spreading awareness on food labeling. "I’m here because it’s a subject that is deep and complicated and people need to know about it," Erickson said. "It’s a major red flag to me that they (Monsanto) keep certain things from being labeled (on food products)." First-time protester Rita Kannon and her daughter Isabell were among other Bemidji families present at the demonstration who were concerned about the health effects GMOs can potentially pose to humans and the environment. "It’s just common sense to me (to eat organic foods)," said Kannon. "People should really do their own research on the foods they purchase." 12-year-old Isabell said if the issue is important to her mother, it is important to her. "I just like to support my mom," she said. Kannon said their main reason for choosing to protest Monsanto was to bring about awareness in the Bemidji area. Article by Trent Opstedahl, reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer.