MORE than 1600 people attended an anti-GM protest march in Perth last Saturday.
The protest was aimed at agri-chemical giant Monsanto, the presence of GM crops in Australia and the need to change to food labelling laws in WA.
As part of a global movement, which involved 400 cities throughout 60 countries, the March Against Monsanto protest, saw an additional 300 people participate in Albany.
Event organiser and Food Watch representative, Janet Grogan, Karrinyup, said Monsanto was in control of much of the world's food supply.
"It owns 90 per cent of all genetically modified seeds and about 27pc of commercial seeds," Ms Grogan said.
"It is now attempting to expand patent rights over foods that it has not yet engineered."
Ms Grogan cited concerns that GM could not be controlled and said contamination was inevitable.
She also said the health implications of GM were not yet known.
The event saw protesters march from Parliament House, through Perth CBD, to finish at a rally in Russell Square, where representatives of the Labor Party and The Greens, as well as chefs and representatives of the Network of Concerned Farmers, spoke.
More than 800 attendees signed a petition which called for changes and increased transparency in food labelling laws.
Ms Grogan said that changes to labelling would provide consumers with a choice, which she believed Monsanto had taken away.
"Labelling laws in Australia are ridiculous," she said. "We don't label anything, everything flies under the radar.
"We want proper laws that are meaningful."
Ms Grogan said participants had travelled from the South West and from as far as the Eastern Wheatbelt to attend the event.
"It pulls people together, not just city people but rural people as well," she said.
As part of the anti-GM protest, Ms Gorgan estimated that 8pc of canola grown in WA was GM.
"So we are looking at 92pc of canola growers who are not growing GM. So it is a tiny minority that really seem to be dictating the way things are running," she said.
"They are the ones who are threatening the farmers who want to grow non-GM because they are calling for it."
Ms Grogan said the group wanted animal feed, products from GM fed animals and everyday products labelled.
"We also want a shake-up of our regulatory body, because it is the mouthpiece for Monsanto," she said.
Morawa farmer and GM advocate Bill Crabtree said GM crops provided WA growers with choice.
"We are competing on an international market and our competitors overseas have the choice of GM and have had it for 16 years," Mr Crabtree said.
"Since they have had it that long the adoption rates have risen to 90pc plus in all crops."
Mr Crabtree cited Canada as an example where the inital uptake of GM technology was slow, but had experienced growth with 96pc of canola now GM.
He said one of the key reasons growers were reluctant to embrace the technology was because they felt intimidated.
"They feel threatened by these sorts of protest meetings and feel that maybe they shouldn't be using it because there is something wrong with it," he said.
"But of course there is nothing wrong with the technology, it is safe.
"It is just modifying genes which normal plant breeding does anyway.
"So from a scientific point of view the technology is very safe."
He said it was sad that people in the city who knew little about agriculture often listened to the protest messages.
He was frustrated because such protests were emotional, anti-science and were causing damage to the industry.
Mr Crabtree said herbicide resistence was a growing problem world-wide, particularly in the US and Europe.
For him the correct strategy was to take Canada's approach by employing GM crops and soil residual herbicides in the farming system.
"What we need is many different forms of GM crops to manage resistant weeds," he said.