Hundreds of people gathered in Balboa Park on Saturday (May 21) to participate in San Diego's March Against Monsanto, an annual event targeting genetically modified food in general and specifically the Monsanto Company, a leader in bioengineering: the corporation designs seeds that are resistant to pesticides and herbicides it also produces.
The local event, one of nearly 200 planned across the United States and more than 350 worldwide, drew about 250 participants, well short of crowds numbering a thousand or more in previous years. Organizers chalked up poor attendance to last-minute appearances scheduled by both Bernie Sanders and Bill Clinton, who is campaigning on behalf of wife Hillary. Those who did attend were vocal in both their opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and commitment to advancing liberal politics.
The event was emceed by José Caballero, who is mounting a challenge against city councilmember Scott Sherman; District 7 covers a swath of city along the Interstate 8 corridor and along the city's eastern limits.
"We need to fight for access to organic markets everywhere," Caballero told the crowd. "There are too many 'food deserts' here within the county, and we need to vote with our pocketbooks to show that we favor organics, that we support farmers' markets."
Local attorney Bryan Pease, known for his defense of the La Jolla Children's Pool seals and currently a candidate for city attorney, said his campaign offered "a choice between a corporate Democrat or a progressive, activist Democrat" in the race to succeed the termed-out Jan Goldsmith.
"As city attorney, I'll sue Monsanto for unfair business practices and negative environmental impacts happening right here in the City of San Diego," Pease promised the cheering crowd.
After a round of speeches, the group — led by a group of drummers sporting yellow outfits and bees’ wings to raise awareness of declining bee populations — marched through the park to the general bemusement of other park visitors, many offering cheers of support or stopping to photograph themselves standing alongside demonstrators.
The group ended their march at the WorldBeat Center, where further speeches and group workshops on sustainable gardening practices and organic farming were planned.