GMO-Labeling Failed in Washington, So Now What? Here’s What MUST Be Done

Written by Max Goldberg on November 20, 2013. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

conf-table

As you may very well be aware of right now, the organic food movement recently lost I-522, the GMO-labeling initiative in Washington State, 51% to 49%.

Our opponents outspent us by approximately $22M to $8M, and from what I hear, the negative and relentless ads were absolutely pounding the airwaves, similar to what happened in last year’s California vote with Proposition 37.

I am greatly appreciative of the effort that the campaign leaders put forth and the tremendous generosity that every donor exhibited, most notably David Bronner from Dr. Bronner’s. Despite the fact that we lost, more Americans than ever know about GMOs and the importance of GMO-labeling. This fact cannot be underestimated.

Yet, the majority of politicians in Washington D.C. still do not support a federal GMO-labeling law, and the only two states that have passed GMO-labeling bills, Connecticut and Maine, have serious requirements that must be met in order for the laws to kick in. The truth is that we are nowhere close to where we need to be.

So, I think it is time that we look in the mirror and acknowledge that what we are doing is just not working. It is by no means from a lack of effort. The amount of blood, sweat, and tears that organic activists expend on both state and national GMO-labeling initiatives cannot be questioned. It is amazing.

But if we want a different outcome, we need to alter our approach. And given that we don’t have unlimited funds to spend our way out of this, a serious course correction is needed. Quickly.

Mike Adams of Natural News has called for very aggressive steps to be taken and “the kid gloves need to be thrown off.” I don’t specifically know what he has in mind, but in theory, I am not in disagreement at all.

In the meantime, a simple strategic decision can be made by the leaders of organic food companies and organic non-profits that would tip the scales in our favor. What it would require is a reallocation of existing and future resources and a willingness to do things differently.

The major problem I see is that young people are not being sufficiently engaged in the GMO-labeling movement.

When you go to organic food trade shows and attend panels on GMO-labeling, it is primarily filled with people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. I am 44 years old, and this movement is not going to be won with people my age.

The audience must be filled with people in their teens, 20s, and 30s. And even better, they need to be on stage telling us the most effective ways to get their peers involved in this cause and how we can best support them.

Right now, I don’t see this age group as active in the GMO-labeling movement as they ought to be, but it isn’t because they don’t care. I believe they care very much and have little interest in eating pesticide-laden, genetically-modified, nutritionally-devoid, inhumanely-raised, environmentally-toxic garbage, marketed to our society as “food”. This generation understands the importance of healthy food and has already demonstrated its willingness to take action.

One perfect example is the Real Food Challenge. According to its website,

The Real Food Challenge leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system.

Our primary campaign is to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources—what we call “real food”—by 2020.

The Real Food Challenge also maintains a national network of student food activists—providing opportunities for networking, learning, and leadership development for thousands of emerging leaders.

What has this group accomplished so far?

Since 2008, students in the Real Food Challenge network have worked with their dining directors and other campus stakeholders to secure over $50 million worth of pledges to purchase more local, fair, sustainable, and humane food.

And my guess is that they have accomplished all of this with a very, very limited budget.

Imagine if the leading organic food companies and non-profits partnered with an organization such as Real Food Challenge and said to them:

“Let us tell you what is really going on with GMO-labeling in this country and why young people MUST be an important part of this process. We don’t know how to effectively reach your demographic and we don’t understand social media like you do, but we do have financial resources that you don’t have. We are going to give you some of our money, so that you can help our country have a future of food that looks promising. After all, you have the most at stake here since you are the future. Tell us what we should be doing and please lead the way.”

If we want GMO-labeling to happen in the U.S., young people must be engaged AND empowered.

All they need now is for our industry to offer them a seat at the table.

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7 Comments

  1. Thank you, Max. An excellent article about incredibly important information. I know that in Los Angeles, far too many people have never heard of or are clueless about GMOs, but I wasn’t aware of the fact that it’s mostly the younger population that needs to be educated. Hmmm…

    Written by EdiblyOrg. on November 20, 2013 @ 8:43 pm
  2. Great article Max. Being from Washington State and overwhelmingly disappointed in the outcome of Initiative 522, I believe the fix is going to be multifaceted.
    Yes, engaging the younger generations is very important. I feel the youth here in Washington are already pretty astute in their knowledge of organics and GMO’s. The issue comes down to getting them to the voting booths (or in the case in Washington, filing out and mailing their ballots). I have talked to many “passionate against GMO’s” individuals who didn’t participate in the election. They just don’t trust the process, believe their vote will make a difference, or just allowed apathy to get in the way. So, their future was decided by the older crowd who were influence by the fearful messages and lies the opposition was instilling.
    Another facet to gaining control is to encourage more food companies to self label. I for one will always pick up the non-gmo label if in doubt. Third party verification is key. And, GMO education can be listed somewhere on the product package. By changing the way non-gmo products market and label, they can position themselves to take a big bite out of the profits of those food companies that spend millions to keep their consumers in the dark.

    Written by Lori on November 21, 2013 @ 12:20 am
  3. Hi, Max!! My son resides in Seattle; did he vote despite numerous ems and conversations with me no he didn’t he’s really busy working, girlfriend typical self absorbed educated 26 year old he has a great life staying on point, he reads labels if it’s not marked organic or gmo free done voluntarily by the mfr he avoids it yet he eats out quite frequently go figure? Is he the typical 26 year old male in America with respect to food preferences? demographics and economics play a large part in this and just simply caring about your health When you’re in your 20s and 30s,do you think you’re immortal? Do you really care about what “doesn’t affect” you at the moment anyhow…?? PS Thank you so much for the case of Suja; awesomeness!! All the best and happy holidays, Donna Curcio

    Written by donna curcio on November 21, 2013 @ 8:27 am
  4. I’m in my 20′s! I very much believe in the necessity to pass food labeling laws. But to be honest, besides the organizations that ask me for money and to sign petitions…I wouldn’t really know what to do. I’m not in college anymore, so that’s out. I live in Pennsylvania…if there was a movement starting in my state for GMO labeling, I would definitely want to be a part of it. I don’t know when those panels on GMO labeling happen, but I would love to go to one. So maybe one of the big problems is that people my age don’t know how to be involved. Besides giving money of course, and most of us don’t have much. :)

    P.S. If you want to understand social media, read and watch everything Gary Vaynerchuk has written or done. He really understands what’s going on right now and how to use it best.

    Written by Charity on November 21, 2013 @ 10:11 am
  5. I think many of you guys are missing the smack in the face truth. That is, we live in a country controlled by corporate money. How to get labeling laws? Get the big guys making boatloads off of GMOs, pesticides, poison, etc. OUT of government, research institutions (that seem to provide all the research about safety now), etc. That is the only way, because even if mass efforts begin and the “gloves come off”, Monsanto, Dow, etc. are ready to reverse anything that happens. They were already preparing for a possible defeat in WA state (my home), and they are preparing to kill for good upcoming and any future labeling requirements.
    We don’t live in a democracy. The sad truth is our only course of action is to not eat garbage, and hope like crazy we’ll continue to have a choice (TPP anybody?)

    Written by Who on November 21, 2013 @ 6:38 pm
  6. And sadly, many people in the US do not care (they wouldn’t eat junk and fast food if they did) about GMOs, organic, etc. The big farmers get paid huge subsidies to grow the stuff, and our junk food remains cheap. That’s what many people care about. Even Michelle Obama gets criticized for “telling people what to eat”.
    Take out the subsidies, even the playing field, or pay farmers to grow real and healthy food, and maybe things will change. Certainly health care expense would go down. It’s all about the money, and there are several industries on the chain of big money because of the “food” we eat.

    Written by Who on November 21, 2013 @ 6:41 pm
  7. Companies are already deciding they might just voluntarily label, because it came so close to passing, it’s what consumers want.

    Written by Angel on November 25, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

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