Major rallies against Monsanto planned this Saturday in Tampa and St. Petersburg

Anti-Monsanto activists have been directing their energies toward the "farmer assurance provision" that was inserted into federal legislation in March, and which limits the ability of judges to stop Monsanto — or the farmers it sells genetically modified seeds to — from growing or harvesting those crops even if courts find evidence of potential health risks

This prompted U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to introduce an amendment that would overturn those protections.

"The Monsanto Protection Act is an outrageous example of a special interest loophole," said Merkley in a press release. "This provision nullifies the actions of a court that is enforcing the law to protect farmers, the environment and public health. That is unacceptable."

According to a report issued by Food & Water Watch, U.S. taxpayers are paying for overseas lobbying that promotes biotech crops developed by Monsanto and other seed makers.

The report looked at more than 900 State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 and according to Food & Water Watch, "details how the U.S. State Department lobbies foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws, operates a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology and challenges commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules — including opposing genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws."

In St. Petersburg, the March Against Monsanto starts at 2 p.m. at City Hall and features various speakers TBA.

In Tampa, the event begins at 1 p.m. at Hyde Park Playground (2050 W. Swann Ave.) and ends at Curtis Hixon Park.

At 2 p.m. EST on Saturday, major rallies are planned in more than 400 cities around the world, with people protesting biotechnology giant Monsanto — one of the least popular major corporations around the world.

One of the main goals of March Against Monsanto is to raise awareness about genetically modified foods, which critics say can lead to the development of cancer tumors, infertility, and birth defects — all issues the corporation vehemently denies.

Concerns about genetically modified foods have caused more than 30 states to consider labeling laws, although a highly publicized campaign in California that would have required the corporation to start labeling went down to defeat last November, after Monsanto and other food companies spent more than $45 million to persuade Golden State voters to do so.

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