Victoria residents fight genetically modified crops


May 28, 2013 at 12:28 a.m.
Updated May 29, 2013 at 12:29 a.m.

More than 1,000 people took to the Capitol in Austin to participate in the worldwide Monsanto protest.

More than 1,000 people took to the Capitol in Austin to participate in the worldwide Monsanto protest.

It was 5:30 a.m. Saturday - much too early for Jonathan Berry's taste - when he rose from bed for a cause.

The Victoria man gathered some friends, loaded up the car and left for the big city with a message summed up simply on his sign: "GMO? Gag me with a spoon."

The hair stylist was among a handful of Crossroads residents who made their way to Austin for Saturday's rain-soaked March Against Monsanto, a protest against the company's use of genetically modified foods.

More than 1,000 people took to the streets in the Austin march, said CC Liedecke, who co-organized the event with Monika Mota. Worldwide, more than 2 million protesters in more than 50 countries marched, according to March Against Monsanto's Facebook page.

While protestors cite health and environmental issues among their key concerns, Monsanto's website says genetically modified crops are as safe as conventional ones.

The Victoria crew left town about 6:30 a.m., Berry said, and met with endless rain from the moment they arrived. Still, the moisture didn't dampen people's spirits.

The two-and-a-half hour march led throngs of protesters shouting "Hell no, GMO" from Fifth Street on to the Texas Capitol, Berry said.

Victoria residents Melanie and Michael Gonzales brought one of Austin's smaller protesters to the scene - Melanie's 10-year-old daughter, Joslyn Trevino.

Genetically modified crops are a big issue for the Gonzaleses, who try to keep their entire household all natural. That includes everything from the food in the fridge to the soaps in the bathroom and everything in between.

The effort began in 2010, when Melanie Gonzales said she began researching how different foods would affect her 4-year-old son, who was diagnosed with autism. That led to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, she said, and eventually to a diet full of organic foods.

Both husband and wife said they hope to see labeling become mandatory for genetically modified items, so consumers can make educated decisions.

Regardless, they said, they plan to continue down their chosen path.

Since the switch to organic, the Gonzaleses said the food tastes better, and they feel better, both mentally and physically.

"You feel a little more satisfied," Michael Gonzales, a Jason's Deli employee, said of his food. "You feel full. It's amazing the difference."

For Victoria College student Heather Mascheck, whose colorful sign Saturday read "Monsanto: Sowing seed of corporate greed," organic foods are a way of life.

She became vegetarian at age 18, she said, after learning how animals were treated on factory farms. That research continued, she said, and she didn't like what she found.

"People wonder why disease and cancer are so prevalent in the U.S.," said Mascheck, who also works as a docent. "It's obviously because of what the government is feeding us. (Natural) food is definitely medicine."

Mascheck's boyfriend, John Schlembach, stood alongside her throughout the march, his sign emblazoned with the phrase "Monsanto: Planting the seeds of bad karma."

The University of Houston-Victoria worker said studies show genetically modified crops interact with the soil differently and are metabolized differently, too.

When Schlembach learned of the Saturday march, he said it seemed like a good way to get involved.

"If you're not concerned about what goes into your body, what else aren't you concerned with?" he asked.

The group's efforts didn't end with the weekend, however. Plans are already in the works to organize a Victoria march Oct. 12, the day the national group plans its next big event.

The date falls within Non-GMO Month and near the Oct. 16 World Food Day.

Mascheck said she looks forward to bringing the message to the Crossroads and believes others in the area are eager to learn more.

She set up a Facebook page Monday to alert area residents about the October event, she said. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 100 people had already liked the page.

Victoria might not be as big as Austin, she said, but small towns can still bring big change.

"It really doesn't matter exactly how many people you can get," she said. "The point is to get together and support what you believe in."



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