While many countries around the world have serious bans or restrictions on genetically modified foods, the U.S. has none, but not if Pamm Larry has anything to say about it. She is the force behind the LabelGMOs campaign aiming to give Californians the right to have foods containing GMOs labeled.
Genetically modified organisms are saturating our nation's food supply. Without transparency or labeling requirements, Americans are left in the dark about what they're feeding their families and the risks involved in consuming GMOs. Some have called it the greatest human experiment in history that could lead to devastating effects on our health and the environment. OrganicAuthority caught up with Pamm Larry about her mission to give Californian's the right to vote on whether or not GMOs should be labeled and why it's so important we understand what we're eating.
[This interview is edited and condensed for length and clarity.]
OrganicAuthority: How did you become activated on the GMO issue?
Pamm Larry: I've been studying about them for about 7-8 years and getting increasingly alarmed as the number of varieties of crops has increased with no end in sight. Given the lack of no long studies on the potential health effects for humans, and given the state of our health in the U.S., I was outraged that we were not being given a way to know which foods were made using genetically-engineered processing and not.
Over the years, I got increasingly upset about the situation and lack of protection and oversight on the part of our government. It felt like one of those nightmare situations of government/corporate collusion at the expense of the people. I was outraged that
1) we were being secretly forced to subsidize these products through our taxes when we didn't want them
2) we were being fed foods saturated with herbicides or that had pesticides in every cell and not told about it
3) we were eating foods that had not been proven safe enough to me to want in my body
4) there was nothing we could do about it
5) our state and national governments were doing nothing to protect us and it appeared it was only going to get worse
6) we were powerless, alone and only had our anger and signing online petitions to vent that anger
OA: What is the goal of the Label GMOs campaign?
PL: The goal is to get all foods processed using genetic engineering identified so that mothers know what they are feeding their children. We believe this is an issue of consumers' rights to an informed choice superseding corporate rights to a nontransparent profit. We believe we have a right to know what's in our foods so we can choose what to put in our mouths and what systems of corporate farming we want to support with our dollars.
OA: What is the timeline for the campaign?
PL: We will be gathering signatures from February 18th-ish until April 22. After that, we'll be getting out into our communities until every Californian has heard about us, and about their right to know what they are eating.
OA: How can people get involved?
PL: Right now we need signature gatherers... we cannot get enough of them because every volunteer signature saves us money for the media campaign we will need to counter the opposition's Very Loud Voice when we get closer to voting. But that's not the end of it... after signature gathering we will need folks committed to helping us get the word out! We need speakers and folks who will go to festivals and sit at farmers markets, show films, reach out to parent, faith based, professional and other kinds of groups. Go to labelgmos.org, the original grassroots site and visit the new coalition site at carighttoknow.org.
OA: What about people outside of California? How will this affect them?
PL: We believe that this campaign will bring the issue to the table in ways it has never been before. We anticipate that folks all over the country will start to wake up and ask questions, look more and decide to get active where they live. We recommend everyone who cares about this issue to join the Tipping Point Network at The Institute For Responsible Technology. Everyone everywhere can be doing the same kinds of things our leaders are: educating their community. GMOs will be labeled everywhere when folks vote with their dollars and DEMAND labeling.
OA: What happens if the initiative doesn't make it on the ballot?
PL: It will. And if it doesn't, then we regroup and get ready for 2014. In the meantime, I'll be out there educating folks and supporting the leaders as they continue to educate folks so we are primed for that election. I might also consider doing more work on legislative efforts around labeling.
OA: What's the best way for consumers to avoid GMOs?
PL: Buy USDA certified organic, nonGMO Project Verified products ONLY. That's the safest way to eat. I would add: buy only whole foods, no boxed or pre-made food. If a product contains canola, soy, corn, cottonseed, non-cane sugar, zucchini, crook neck squash, or now frozen or canned sweet corn, unless it's got the two certifications above do not buy them... and be sure to write the manufacturers of your favorite foods that don't make the cut to tell them you won't buy them again until they use nonGMO sources and can prove it.
Visit LabelGMOs.org for more information.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger