Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The History Of The GMO Awareness Group (GAG) of the North Olympic Peninsula

Photo Credit: Diane Urbani de laPaz, Peninsula Daily News
The GMO Awareness Group (GAG) of the North Olympic Peninsula was started in the spring of 2011 by Kia Armstrong (Photo) from Nash's Organic Produce (Video). She had organized several rallies previously, protesting GMOs and Monsanto. 

She made up small flyers and placed them in various businesses as well as sending invitations through email for the first meeting. I volunteered to be the facilitator of the group at that first meeting and another person offered to keep meeting notes.

We met at a regularly scheduled time every month, had an agenda (sent out ahead of each meeting) and stuck to a time frame. This is important to keep people engaged. We shared information and began to develop educational materials.

Our first event was the Lavender Farm Fair. By then we had created a tri-fold poster of information about GMOs, had printed educational materials, and gave away GMO shopping guides. We also held a bake sale to raise funds to pay for the materials we were giving away. We continued these efforts through Farm Day October 2013, sponsoring a booth at community events and outreach. We also participated in Millions Against Monsanto rallies twice a year. When the initiative was filed, we helped gather signatures. Efforts in 2013 continued to include education about GMOs as well as information about I-522.

A van load of folks went to Olympia for hearings of House and Senate bills.

We collected email addresses at events and used a listserv to keep the list private. We only shared information about GMOs and avoided requests for other subjects.

GAG also developed a mission statement. This helped to keep the group focused.Through a facilitated process, we identified our priorities which resulted in the formation of three sub-committees. 

They were a committee that collected and created educational materials, another that collected scientific research (peer reviewed and edited) and a legislative/legal committee. 

These functioned successfully for awhile and provided reports to the group. However, for various reasons people left, others joined and the groups gradually stopped meeting. We also had people available to speak to groups and wrote articles for newsletters of local natural foods markets.

NOTE: GAG is based in Clallam County that has a strong Republican lean and a large senior population. According to "Yes On 522" campaign exit polls, these two groups voted against I-522 in the 2013 election. Three Olympic Peninsula counties, Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap, voted Yes On 522

What works:
1. EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION! People on the peninsula didn't know anything about GMOs or had mis-information about them. Develop and distribute eye-catching, informative brochures and pamphlets. Here's what we used from (with permission from Nature's Path Organics). Let people know where to go if they want to learn more. Talk to them in person. Create interesting tri-fold posters. Then get out into the community to share the information. Hosting a booth at large events works well. We also created a food game, using packaged foods. People were asked to guess if the food contained GMOs or not. A "yes" or "no" sticker was on the bottom. Great learning tool!
2. Regular meetings, agendas and sticking to time limits.
3. Write articles for newsletters, letters to the editor and other media. 
4. Setting up a Facebook page. A website would be good too, but costs money. Other social media tools. 
5. The film series in Port Townsend was an excellent way to generate interest. People then could get involved. This was a highly successful tactic. 

What didn't work:
I think overall in the state, we had the cart before the horse. We had an initiative asking people to label something they knew nothing about, which neatly paved the way for a fear and intimidation strategy by the No campaign. People need information. The YES campaign didn't address any reason why we should know what is in our food.

Dr. Beverly Goldie
GMO Awareness Group, North Olympic Peninsula
Sequim, WA

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant work. Congratulations on giving us a road map for future success.