While many farmers were busy seeding on May 21st, thousands of people around the world spent the day rallying against genetic engineering and other innovations in crop science, at what is known as “March Against Monsanto” (MAM).
Most of the people at the rallies proclaim that genetic modification, herbicides and other technologies used to produce food are, to put it in more moderate terms, hurting human health. They carried signs saying “Monsanto Stands for Mass Murder” and “GMOs are Killing Us.”
So the guy wearing the bright green “I heart GMOs” shirt across the street from the MAM rally in Kelowna certainly stood out.
“I really was there to do two or three things. Number one was try to engage some people in intelligent conversation. Number two was to counter some of the points and distortions and outright falsehoods that are being propagated, and number three, to gauge the emotional temperature of the group at the rally,” explains Rob Saik, professional agrologist from Red Deer, founder of Agri-Trend and author of “The Agriculture Manifesto.” He’s also the host of Saik’s Agri-Treks here on RealAg.
Since launching the “Know GMO” film project in 2014, Saik has traveled the world, highlighting the benefits and potential of genetic engineering. He’s become widely known in the ag community for his pro-GMO advocacy.
As he explains in the conversation below, he was in Kelowna to visit family, so he decided to bring some posters along and set them up near the local MAM rally. Videos posted on his Facebook page (and embedded below) show some of the encounters he had with people holding opposing views.
The protestor who knocked down Saik’s signs likely wasn’t going to experience any sudden epiphany after hearing this guy in the green shirt, but Saik says it was the interaction with people on the sidelines that made it worthwhile, including a reporter from a local newspaper who shared Saik’s perspective in her story (read it here).
“I believe there is a wide swath of the population that is waiting to hear the other side of the story, other than this radical noise or static they’re hearing that the consumption of GMOs is going to sterilize the planet,” he says.
Whether at the MAM event, or on social media, it’s difficult to sway polarized opinions, but there are usually other people watching, notes Saik.
“The reality is that’s not who we’re trying to change the minds of. Who we’re trying to change the minds of is those people who were around the event, who were watching it and came over after to have an intelligent conversation,” he says. “The target market is the people who are on the sidelines on Twitter watching a farmer engage with someone who is spewing a falsehood…there are a lot of people on the sidelines watching it, just as there were people surrounding this rally on Saturday watching.”
Watch some of Saik’s interactions with people at the Kelowna March Against Monsanto. Feel free to share your opinions in the comment section below.