Non-GMO Activism Heating Up This Spring

by Melissa Diane Smith

The USDA recently approved genetically modified (GM), Roundup-Ready alfalfa without any conditions and did an end-run around the courts to keep GM sugar beets growing. Both decisions were upsetting news for all of us wanting safe, uncontaminated food. But the two decisions came with a positive consequence.

“The prolonged alfalfa and sugar beet fights actually elevated GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on our personal and national radar screens,” says leading non-GMO advocate Jeffrey M. Smith. “Now with millions of us grasping the significance and devastating loss of yet another crop, we have the pieces in place for a national revolution. We have the knowledge, the emotion, the network, and the profound injustice.” All we need now is focused action. And focused action is exactly what is happening.

A coalition of farmers and environmental groups, which included the National Family Farm Coalition and the Center for Food Safety, joined together and filed a lawsuit against the USDA on March 18 challenging the agency’s decision to approve the planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa this spring.  So far the courts have been the most successful in slowing the USDA’s rush to even more widespread genetically modified agriculture. But we the people have plenty of power, too, and grassroots activism has been heating up this spring.

On March 26, members of the True Food Network, the grassroots action network of the Center for Food Safety (CFS), had a Virtual Rally for the Right to Know which foods are genetically modified, and more than 75,000 letters from around the country were sent to Congress. On that same day, Millions Against Monsanto, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) activist group, held “Right to Know” rallies and demonstrations in more than 20 major U.S. cities. On March 27, I participated in a petition drive at a Tucson event to help get GM foods labeled. I was thrilled with the amount of people, especially young people, who are now informed about this issue, are outraged, and eagerly signed the petition to get GM foods labeled. This weekend’s “Right to Know” events were in preparation for a much bigger day of non-GMO activism on October 16th, 2011. (To sign the “Right to Know” petition electronically right now, click here.)

As the CFS’s True Food Network and OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto have been gearing up to get people more mobilized this spring, the Non-GMO Tipping Point Network, organized by the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) led by Jeffrey Smith, has been, also. The Non-GMO Tipping Point Network consists of local and national Non-GMO Action Groups that get support from non-GMO experts and IRT staff, and use tools such as conference calls, webinars, ListServs, and forums to communicate and organize. To join the Non-GMO Tipping Point Network, go to ResponsibleTechnology.org. You can be as involved as you want. Even if you make a pledge to be a non-GMO shopper and that’s all, that’s a very valuable contribution! As I have written on this blog before, experts believe that if just 5 percent of the population strictly avoids GM foods when shopping, that will be enough consumer rejection to have food manufacturers realize GM foods are a liability in their products and manufacturers will start pulling GM ingredients from their products.

The numbers are on our side. According to a 2001 ABC news poll, 93 percent of those surveyed want GM foods labeled and most say they would use those labels to avoid the foods. A 2011 MSNBC poll found that 96 percent want labeling. Unfortunately, many Americans simply don’t know that GM foods are in the ingredients of foods they’re eating every day because of the lack of labeling.

What you may not know is that legislation that would more strictly regulate GM (also called genetically engineered or GE) foods also is on the table. In the past three sessions of Congress, three different bills – the GE Food Right to Know Act (that would require mandatory labeling of GE foods), the GE Safety Act (that would require that GE foods go through a safety review process), and the GE Technology Farmer Protection Act (that would place liability from the impacts of GE foods on the companies that created them) – have been introduced by Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Rep. Kucinich intends to reintroduce these bills again in this Congress but he needs additional support from other representatives, which is where all of us come in. We need to talk with our representatives and tell them how strongly we feel about these bills, especially the GE Food Right to Know Act, which would make labeling required, as it is in virtually every other country.

If there was ever a time to network with like-minded people and act, now is the time. Recent research indicates that the Roundup herbicide (that is used on most GM crops) or the GM Roundup-Ready crops themselves may be causing infertility and miscarriages in farm animals, which of course raises significant concerns about their effects on human health.

So, don’t allow the USDA to make you an unwitting guinea pig anymore in their biotech-industry-driven takeover of the foods we eat. To join the growing number of people who are taking action on a grassroots level and using their power to avoid GMOs and then spread the word to others, sign up for any or all of these groups:

Non-GMO Tipping Point Network by the Institute for Responsible Technology

Millions Against Monsanto by the Organic Consumers Association

The True Food Network, by the Center for Food Safety

Be part of the transformation in this country and on this planet and use our collective power to definitively say no to GMOs.

Copyright © 2011 Melissa Diane Smith

Selected References:

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “Researcher: Roundup or Roundup-Ready Crops May be Causing Animal Miscarriages and Infertility.” See report.

Langer, Gary. “Behind the Label: Many Skeptical of Bio-Engineered Food.” ABC News, June 19, 2001. See story.

Lawasky, Tom. “Your Government Insists the Food Revolution Will Be Genetically Modified.” Common Ground, March 2011, pp. 54-56.

Ludwig, Mike. “Farmers Sue USDA Over Monsanto Alfalfa – Again.” Truthout, March 25, 2011.

MSNBC Health. “Do You Believe Genetically Modified Foods Should be Labeled?” See poll.

Smith, Jeffrey M. “Alfalfa: Plan B – Rise Up and Say ‘No.’ ” Common Ground, March 2011, pp. 57-58.

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