Starting from humble beginnings as a Facebook page whose founder only expected about 3,000 people to turn out overall, the March Against Monsanto movement eventually became a worldwide phenomenon that drew over 2 million people in over 400 cities worldwide.
March Against Monsanto’s founder, Tami Monroe Canal, 31, managed to create the highly influential movement while working as a stay-at-home mom, with a little help from her friends, of course.
She recently joined AltHealthWORKS.com for an interview about how she was able to pull it off, the concept of a “Pro-Peace” vs. “Anti-War” movement, and what the next steps might be going forward.
AHW: So tell us about the March Against Monsanto page. Did you start it on your own? And how did it become such a massive movement?
TMC: I did create the page but I definitely had the support of a small group that was very instrumental in it being so successful, Emily, a freelance journalist from Seattle, and Nick of the Anti-Media page, they were very willing to jump in and help.
We also had the support of a rebel digital anarchy group based in Europe…A lot of people were turned off by us working with anarchists but that’s why we were so successful, we didn’t turn away anybody because food affects everyone regardless of your political or religious affiliations, etc. The group was called ‘A Revolt: Digital Anarchy’ and they’re actually an incredibly peaceful group, they’re not selling Molotov cocktails or anything like that.
AHW: And how much time do you spend on the March Against Monsanto Facebook page nowadays?
TMC: I’m still on there every day making a few posts, I’m kind of on patrol for the trolls, and leading up to the march I was on the computer for 8 to 10 hours a day, it was a full-time job but now I’ve taken a bit of a step back to enjoy my family and get a little down time.
We are actually helping with the Moms Across America March happening on July 4 (to Label GMOs).
AHW: March Against Monsanto is working with the Moms Across America campaign on their July 4 marches to spread more awareness about GMOs, and you’ve also announced October 12 as the date of the next March Against Monsanto event. But it seems as if things have been quieter leading up to these events. Is that part of the strategy?
TMC: I don’t know why they’re not getting as much fanfare. I think with the first march we just had great timing with the Monsanto Protection Act being passed right before then; that really fueled the fire.
AHW: And of course in relation to the Moms Across America March, we’ve seen that Monsanto is now putting together a social media campaign that is likely to be heavily funded and based on deception, and going after mothers who are also bloggers and trying to get them to put a different spin on things, has that factored in?
TMC: I had not heard that actually, that’s pretty wild. But the main organizer of the Moms Across America March, she’s based in California and I want to say she was planning even before the March Against Monsanto happened. That event has been in the works for a long time and we’re proud to support it and hope everyone else does as well.
AHW: Can you give us a little background information about yourself? You’re a full-time mom who started this movement from the grassroots up, right?
TMC: Well, I worked as a server/bartender for 10 years before I became a full-time stay-at-home mom, but I’ve always been very health conscious. Prop. 37 (to label GMOs in California, which failed due to a massive, deceptive marketing campaign funded by tens of millions of dollars from big food and chemical companies) really opened my eyes about GMOs and helped a lot, since then I’ve tried to inspire more awareness.
When that didn’t pass, I was just blown away! It’s the simplest thing of having the right to know what’s in your food and it was stripped away, and that really enraged me and got me going.
I moved to Utah right after that election and I didn’t act as quickly as I wanted to but I created the page and was able to funnel my anger, rather than to be pissed off about being stabbed in the back by politicians and lobbying groups, basically…
AHW: Speaking of anger and frustration it seems like a lot of people have felt that about Monsanto and other GMO companies for a long time now. The marches happened peacefully and drew huge crowds, of course. But how do you think the marchers did in terms of being constructive with their signs and chants and costumes and things like that vs. simply venting their frustrations in an emotional way?
TMC: I do think it accomplished a lot on the level of being constructive and pushing positive messages, a lot of people told me that they’re now first time organic gardeners, and there were lots of messages about becoming self-sustainable and planting your own food and knowing where your food is coming from; starting your own gardens, I think that’s wonderful. So yes we are encouraging people not only on the international level but also on smaller things people can do around their hometowns.
For example we recently helped promote the GMO-Free Movie Night, where Jeffrey M. Smith’s ‘Genetic Roulette’ was shown free for one day. The screenings reached quite a few people, there were over 7,000 independent viewings and if one person says to five people, “Hey, watch this movie, it’s really eye-opening,” that would have a pretty big impact.
AHW: So you started the Facebook page, how did you build the fanbase so fast?
TMC: Well we had some really good memes that got shared a lot and got people talking about it. We had some support from Emily who’s a journalist but also runs Facebook pages of her own. I had help with the admin. of the Anti-Media page as well, they shared a lot on there which has 100,000-plus followers. Occupy Monsanto and also Moms Across America and GMO Free USA helped a lot with their shares. I told them what I was doing and said, any publicity you can get would help; I’ll do a share for a share, and it just kind of took on a life of its own and it’s still growing.
AHW: Now that the March Against Monsanto movement and page have grown so much how have you handled that responsibility? And how did you react once you realized how big it was going to be and how much responsibility you’d be taking on for this important movement?
TMC: I do have a degree of responsibility but really this is a collective effort, everyone has a role in this. I think I hold my own responsibility, I don’t want to put any false info out there and I have a very high standard that I adhere to on the page. I had hoped it would go nationwide but y initial goal was 3,000, I never thought it would get this big. I thought if I could get 3,000 people to join me (on May 25) that would be a success. I marched in Utah and I said even if it would only be myself out there, I don’t care if I look like a psycho, I will be handing out fliers; it means that much to me that people know what’s really going on.
I’ll never forget the first message I got from someone in Australia who asked me, “When do we march?” I never considered other countries would be joining in, it’s crazy to think. I said, “Oh my gosh,” this is definitely a world issue.
AHW: The next March Against Monsanto is scheduled for October 12, are you keeping things a bit close to the vest right now while you organize?
TMC: Well October 16 is World Food Day and we want to do it on a Saturday so we can get more people as part of the global aspect; Saturday works out well for most people in most countries. October is also GMO Awareness Month so it’s very poetic.
Honestly we didn’t get much publicity for the May event either, then 2-3 weeks prior a lot of interviews and radio shows, et cetera started to happen; people weren’t giving us a lot of attention prior to that. But we want to get a turnout greater than we did in May. It took a lot out of a lot of people, it was so extensive in terms of planning. But to me if we can open one person’s eyes to what’s going on I consider that a success. The key is to raise as much awareness as possible so that one person views the supermarket differently and what they buy and feed their kids, that’s what really matters to me.
AHW: So is March Against Monsanto an official non-profit yet? It seemed like a lot of organizations were able to grow after the Prop 37 vote like GMO Free USA and others, are you accepting donations and hoping to take this movement to the next level?
TMC: We would like to accept donations but it’s been kind of tricky; I would love to see that happen but I want people to think that I’m trying to make money off of this personally.
As of right now we’re going to keep it really grassroots,that seems to be working. If someone is generous enough to donate the money for it to become a non-profit then I’ll certainly take that opportunity but for now the grassroots aspect seems to be moving along nicely.
AHW: Have you seen people coming in trying to co-opt the movement from the outside, to take away its message?
TMC: I haven’t seen anything like that happening yet but I’m sure someone’s planning it. It’s funny, you’ve seen all the marches that have sprung up like the March Against Drones, March Against Corporate America, there’s been quite a few. And everyone gave us so much crap about being against something as opposed to being for something.
AHW: We were going to ask you about that. There’s the old argument that it’s better to have a “Pro-Peace” march as opposed to an “Anti-War” march as Mother Teresa said. Can you talk about why you decided to pick “March Against Monsanto” and why did you decide to stick with it?
TMC: Well the March Against part has a nice ring to it, so that’s one thing. And I think with Monsanto, they set the tempo for this, they’re the ones who are against us, they’re the ones who are attacking our children’s healthy future, who are against a sustainable planet, so that’s what we have to do. I would love for it to be more pretty and flowery sounding and everything but at this point I think we have to be more aggressive if we want to make things work and make change.
AHW: Have you seen a change in media coverage and narratives since the march, and also what do you think about the coverage of the events, was it lacking?
TMC: A lot of people say we didn’t a lot of media attention which I actually disagree with. At the local level it was good although maybe not every city got coverage. There’s one group I can think of now, there were 12 people in the pouring rain and nobody wrote about it and I thought that was kind of a shame. People came out in all kinds of weather, heat, rain, you name it, the march happened.
I think it was disappoint on a bigger scale with outlets like Fox News and CNN, things like that but we actually organized through the March Against Monsanto page and hit their Twitter and Facebook pages hard demanding coverage. CNN did cave and did some stories; there was a 20 minute segment on the Jake Tapper Show that was great for the attention they gave to it. They did have a government control/media spin on it though, they had a doctor on there who said GMOs aren’t bad and all this crap but had no proof. But at least CNN noted that it happened, it should have been the story of the day, I mean it’s not every day that a global protest (of that magnitude) happens.
AHW: So what do you want to tell people leading up to the next two events (Moms Across America and the next March Against Monsanto), specifically the one on October 12?
TMC: People should let their friends and family know, and we need to boycott the companies (that use GMOs) to hit them where it hurts, and that’s their bottom line. As a collective society we’re going to say we’re not going to buy that crap and not going to support companies putting irresponsible stuff out there and poisoning our kids and our bodies; we have no choice but to boycott.
We can’t go to the March Against Monsanto and then turn around a buy a big bag of Doritos and a Coke, that’s counterproductive…We have to put our money where our mouth is, not support these companies and keep growing our gardens.
AHW: With Monsanto-free heirloom seeds of course.
TMC: Yes, definitely.
AHW: I have to admit there were some people at the marches who seemed to be supporting local restaurants but at the same time were likely eating food that contained GMOs, since they’re so ubiquitous in our food supply right now. Did you see that, and how did you react?
TMC: Well at our march in Salt Lake city didn’t see anybody eating any (GMO food), we saw lots of people drinking water, lots of apples, things like that. Hopefully those apples were organic. We also had a company passing out non-GMO heirloom tomato plants and they ran out, people were very excited about that; we also passed out seeds and people were very receptive.
You may have seen me there, I was holding the sign that said “Monsanto: Wanted for Crimes Against Humanity.”
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