Genetics Out of Our Tomatoes 

Protesting Against Genetically Tampered Produce

STANDING OUTSIDE Hawthorne Boulevard's Fred Meyer, about twenty-five protestors carried signs that read "Hey WaitThere's Fish DNA In My Tomatoes!" Part of a fledging group called NW Resistance Against Genetic Engineering (NW RAGE), the activists had gathered on a sunny, crisp morning in mid-November to protest the sale of genetically engineered foods.

"We demand the right for people to know what's in their food," said Mark Des Marets, the founder of NW RAGE. "We demand the right to have a choice to buy something that you would consider to be safe."

Since being founded a year ago, NW RAGE has staged intermittent theatrical protests at local groceries. Part of a growing national backlash against new forms of food production, the protestors are concerned that genetically altered food will create new toxins and may trigger unanticipated allergic reactions in consumers.

Although the Food and Drug Administration has murmured about labeling genetically altered food as such, members of RAGE don't believe those labels go far enough.

"We label our alcohol, we label our cigarettes," said Des Marets. "Yet people are still smoking and still drunk driving."

Although groceries around town have been the targets for protests, spokespersons for the stores claim they are caught in the middle, ultimately with responsibility resting on regulatory agencies. "As a retailer, Safeway is not qualified or entitled to establish the food safety regulations and labeling," explained Bridget Flannagan, Public Affairs Director for Safeway in Oregon. "That responsibility lies with the governmental agencies that are established for those purposes."

Yet on this particular morning, the protestors attempted to gain an upper hand in their battle by shaking consumer confidence. Late in the morning, Tre Arrow, who gained notoriety this summer for an eleven-day vigil on a ledge in front of the U.S. Forest Service, stripped naked. He then wrapped himself in yellow police tape and strolled into the store, where he began loading a cart with tomatoes and other vegetables. Shoppers stared in confusion. It wasn't long before two beefy security guards escorted the protestor back outside.

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