Less than an hour ago, I got word that AB 88, a California Bill that would require labeling of genetically engineered fish, got voted down in the Assembly Appropriations Committee ... again. California has tried to get GE foods labeling regulations a number of times before this. The last time was in 2010 when the California State Grange "shopped" a version and no legislator would touch it.
Because our elected officials will not enact laws to give us the right to know what's in our foods, a year ago this month, I, a grandmother with no managerial campaign experience, decided that it was my job to get this issue on the ballot so the people of the State of California could vote on it. I started out with no knowledge of the logistics of this process. I had no funding, no support from the leading GMO organizations (aside from the Organic Consumers Association) and no support from the organic industry. The only people who lit up were the people I started to share my crazy idea with. They all KNEW that this was the game changer that would get us the labeling that 80+% of the population repeatedly say they want in poll after poll.
I am happy to say that through our tenacity and commitment, we have grown from one person to over 115 leaders throughout the state, all committed to organizing and educating their communities.
Although we started as a grassroots movement and continue to have that as a crucial arm of our campaign, we realize that for us to win, we need everyone onboard, large and small, in order to win this. We have been joined by major organizations, health groups, environmental groups, farmers, activist organic companies, parent groups and faith based groups to create a solid, broad base coalition that continues to grow exponentially. We now have a professional campaign manager and are gearing up to gather 850,000 signatures mid-February to Earth Day in April. We are confident we will get this on the ballot, then win in November.
We have other bright spots on the GE labeling front. In November 2011, a court ruled that GE canola could not be labeled "natural" without the possibility of the company being sued. Within the last few months, Connecticut and Washington have newly introduced labeling legislation. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), re-introduced three GE bills: H.R. 6636, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, H.R. 6635, the Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act and H.R. 6637, the Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act.
Things look promising, but in order for anything to be enacted, we need all hands on deck. One easy yet powerful thing to do is to leave a comment for the national formal petition to the FDA written by the Center for Food Safety, at www.justlabelit.org. It's clear that in order for us to get labeling, voting with our dollars, although vital, is not enough. There are increasing numbers of GE foods up for deregulation. The time for labeling is now. Please join us!
Pamm Larry is founder of LabelGMOs.org.