Saturday, July 5, 2014

Want to Know If Your Food Is Genetically Modified? - The Atlantic

Want to Know If Your Food Is Genetically Modified? - The Atlantic:

“Me. It was me,” Pamm Larry, a grandmother and former midwife and herb farmer from Chico, tells me with a laugh. “I started it.” She’s not exaggerating: The idea for a ballot initiative came to her in a dream one night in 2011—January 21, 2011, to be exact. “It hit me that it was time for the people of California to vote,” she says.
Many national anti-GMO activists opposed her gambit. They didn’t think the time was ripe; they worried a defeat would be a setback from which the movement couldn’t recover. Larry, who cheerfully admits her lack of political expertise, was not deterred. She recruited like-minded activists on Facebook and at organic stores and farmers markets, crisscrossing the state in her 1998 Toyota Camry with “GMO OMG” license plates. The volunteers began circulating a petition in February 2012, and in 10 weeks, they had nearly a million signatures.

Paige Richardson, the campaign director for Oregon Right to Know GMO, says she’s confident it will qualify and fare better at the ballot box than its predecessor 12 years ago. Oregon campaigners have learned from previous mistakes, she says, and from observing labeling opponents’ tactics. While there’s no way the campaigners will be able to compete financially with the resources of Monsanto and the food industry, they hope to run a savvier and better-funded campaign. “This issue has caught everybody by surprise,” Richardson told me. “It’s hitting a threshold.”

Strong national backing for the Oregon campaign has left activists in other states grousing that they’re not getting similar support. In Colorado, the state supreme court has approved a labeling initiative, and a signature-gathering effort, which has until August 4, is being run by volunteers operating out of Vitamin Cottage stores and farmers markets. Rick Ridder, a political consultant advising the effort, says it’s rare for referenda to qualify for the Colorado ballot without paid staff—meaning labeling will need a true grassroots groundswell.

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