By: Camille Phillips

Missouri Botanical Garden visitors were greeted by flashes of color even before they saw Chinese lantern displays Saturday morning. About 70 anti-Monsanto protesters lined the sidewalks outside the garden, some carrying 3-D monarch butterfly props. One protester brought along a dog in a bee costume.

“We find it really hypocritical that a garden, which is by the way a beautiful garden, and that has in its mission to promote sustainability, is receiving large amounts of funds from an herbicide producer,” protest organizer Aubrey Yarbrough explained. Yarbrough is an organic farmer with GMO Free Midwest.

Monsanto has given the Missouri Botanical Garden money for scientific research in the past, and the garden’s research facility is named the Monsanto Center.

As one of the world’s leading herbicide producers, the protesters blame Monsanto for the declining population of bees and the Monarch butterfly. They believe widespread use of herbicides has reduced the availability of food sources for the insects.

For protester Bob Pashos, however, the issue is broader in scope. A member of Climate Reality, Pashos is against Monsanto because he thinks the company contributes to global warming.

“Monsanto is very much pushing what is considered big agriculture, a type of farming that is very destructive of the environment, especially with regard to climate change issues,” Pashos said.

After protesting in front of the botanical garden, the group planned to march to Tower Grove Park to hear speakers talk about Monarch butterflies, sustainable farming, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Susie Chasnoff described the Trans-Pacific-Partnership as a “corporate power grab” written in part by Monsanto. She’s against the trade agreement because she believes it will give companies like Monsanto the right to sue countries who enact laws that may limit their profits, such as countries that ban genetically modified food (GMOs) or require that foods with GMOs be labeled. One of Monsanto’s key product lines is seeds genetically modified to resist pesticides.

Saturday’s protest was part of an annual “March Against Monsanto” held across the globe.

St. Louis Public Radio reached out to Monsanto for comment on Saturday's protest. The company issued this response:

“The 22,000 people of Monsanto are committed to having an open dialogue about food and agriculture – we’re proud of the work we do, and we’re eager for people to know more about us.  We’re also proud of our collaboration with farmers and partnering organizations that help make a more balanced meal accessible for everyone.  Our goal is to help farmers do this in a more sustainable way using fewer resources and having a smaller impact on the environment.  We know people have different points of view on these topics, and it’s important that they’re able to express and share them. To learn more about Monsanto’s collaborations, partnerships and work, please visit”      

Last year Monsanto began trying to reach out to consumers more  through a friendly advertising campaign, encouraging people to ask questions about their products. According to the company's website, Monsanto has donated money to research ways to preserve the Monarch butterfly habitat. And the company says agriculture needs technological improvements in order to feed the world's growing population.

Originally Published: STL Public Radio