Monday, December 16, 2013

A Campaign in Retrospect: Part 2

I'm mad.  I'm furious that Washington state residents stood up for the right to choose who you want to love and marry (

I'm enraged that Washington state residents felt we have the right to ingest the finest green whenever we wish (  

However, Washington state residents decided to give into the fear mongering that large corporations presented and chose to remain in the dark about what is in their food.  At this point I have to stop and scream - ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!  When you break it down logically, it does not make any sense. Why would people who believe everyone deserves the right to choose to marry whom they want and ingest pot turn and suddenly say, "No!  I don't want to know what you're putting in my food"?

It has taken me months to begin to move forward after the loss of Yes on 522.  I did not realize how angry I was until I began journaling about the loss; connecting with the friends I had made throughout the campaign and commiserating on what went wrong; and called out that I was angry about the loss.  At the election night party I attended, with numerous other grassroots and campaign volunteers, the talk focused around how much good we had done; how widespread the message had been; how our work would help other states move forward; and how this is not a sprint but rather a marathon.  With this being my first grassroots movement I thought there would be more of a debrief on what we could have done better and an acknowledgement of how messed up the final initiative decision was; but that never happened.  It was as though we have eleven months of our time, energy, and resources to suddenly have someone give you a pat on the head and a "job well done" handshake.  It felt like the loss happened and was buried; like the moment when someone dies and no one knows what to say to provide any type of comfort.  What can you say in that moment?

I will admit to feeling disillusioned about activism at this point.  I believe that a group of people can make a difference and impact change.  You can see this in the 64 other countries around the world who have banned or require all GMO's to be labeled.  You can see this in the recent victories of Hawaii and Mexico banning GMO's from the Big Island and GMO corn, respectively.  You can see this in how many other states in the United States are working on initiatives requiring all GMO foods to be labeled (  92% of people in the U.S. want to know what is in their food.  You can see this in businesses who are open about what is in the products they are selling and are working to fulfill the demands of their consumers wanting to know what is in their food (Chipotle, Whole Foods, PCC Natural Markets, Dr. Bronner's, and so many more).

In part one of this retrospective I ended by asking the question, "So what's next?"  That question is key because it signals to me how people are willing to stand back up, dust themselves off and keep fighting.  Yes, we lost, but we learned so much and can pass this wisdom on to other states fighting their battles.  Am I still angry?  Hell yes!  However, I have places I can channel this anger and use it to continue fueling the fire I have for food justice.  I believe labeling genetically engineered food, or banning it, is one of the largest food justice issues we are facing currently.  We cannot stop fighting, we cannot allow corporations to treat our food as a commodity and the people of this planet as a science experiment.

So here is where things are currently:

  • What didn't work or needs improving?
    • There were some major differences between the grassroots base and the official Yes on 522 campaign, especially in regards to the messaging. The official campaign wanted to stick to the “Right to Know” message and not discuss safety, health, or environmental issues. The grassroots focus was to expand that message and give people a reason why they had a right to know and why labeling is important.
    • The official campaign limited the demographics they focused on and treated 522 as a political issue rather than a people issue. They didn’t target seniors or conservatives, and focused on the liberal-base, which many felt, was a big mistake.
    • Most grassroots volunteers felt the campaign did not support the grassroots efforts enough. One example is the grassroots had to raise their own funds for yard signs, buttons and bumper stickers and was denied funding for these items when requested from the campaign. Other examples include not supporting grassroots organized educational events, movie showings, fundraisers, debates, actions, etc.
    • Though some thought enough education was done about GMOs, the majority of people felt more education was and is still needed. This is a deep and complicated issue and a 30-second commercial is not going to communicate why people should be concerned about GMOs and our current food system.
    • Campaign had many endorsements, including up to 500,000 labor votes, and didn’t use the labor force to help with the campaign. Many Democratic districts supported 522, but they weren’t organized either. There needs to be more connection to groups who support the cause.
    • The campaign was difficult to contact and didn’t respond to messages, emails, etc. It was also mentioned the campaign was constricted in their approach and didn’t organized volunteers as they came in, and in some cases alienated volunteers. They could have worked with the grassroots to funnel the volunteers to their region for a variety of campaigning duties, such as more door-to-door canvassing, community meetings, organizing events, etc. 
    • Many felt the campaign ran this like a “candidate” campaign, but this is not a political issue and needs to be handled differently.
    • Campaign felt the grassroots didn’t stay on message enough and primarily avoided working with grassroots volunteers for this reason. They may be looking at options on how to deal with the grassroots and keep volunteers more focused on the campaign message and strategy.
  • Other ideas for future campaigns & ongoing actions
    • We need to realize this is a broader issue in regards to corporate power versus human rights and need to appeal to people on a different level; one of compassion and love, to care about what’s going on in the world and how we can work together in a non-violent way to change the current system. It’s an affinity of the people.
    • Need to expose the biotech-funded science as junk/tobacco science. We need to demand independent testing and call out studies funded by industry.
    • More non-violent actions, flash mobs, organized earned media, etc.
    • R74 succeeded incrementally, step-by-step and worked with groups; maybe a similar strategy would work on this issue.
    • The volunteers & campaign people need to be up-to-date on latest info on GMOs and have access to information, the science, etc. to combat the “No” side’s lies, such as costs.
    • Draw attention to universities & call out the funding by industry supported studies & research.
    • Nurture natural/organic organizations & teach people to vote with their dollars. Encourage more people to grow their own food.
    • Focus needs to stay on the WA Attorney General’s against the GMA – What’s going to be the outcome? How does it affect the outcome of the election?
    • The grassroots could look at obtaining their own funding, i.e. set up a PAC, corporate or business backing, non-profit status, etc.
  • What’s Next & Possible Future Projects
    • Statewide GMO Education Campaign
      • Organize seminars, speaking tours, movie nights, etc.
      • Develop curriculum & handouts, flyers – include solutions and concrete ideas for what people can do
      • Need to connect with people on a more personal and human level with positive messaging and to encourage change.
      • Stress the quality of food as a primary issue, as well as access to food and affordability, which include health care and environmental costs.
      • Need to focus on ALL demographics, including
        • Seniors
        • College/young people
        • Conservatives
        • Faith based groups/churches, etc.
        • Mother, parents, grandparents, etc.
      • Enlist the support of local food businesses & co-ops to spread knowledge and encourage supporting transparency & sustainability in our food system.
      • Letters to Editor & pressure on press to cover the issue more accurately and completely
      • Continue social media push & create new blogs
      • Need to raise funds for materials, etc.
    • WAmend – Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution
      • Basically this initiative states Corporations are NOT People and Money is NOT Speech. This is an attempt to reign in control of corporate control of our government, get the money out of politics and restore a quality of democracy to the people. Working with groups like Move to Amend, etc., and will be pressuring Congress to amend the constitution.
      • This is a citizen initiative that will be on the ballot in November 2014. This will be a grassroots/volunteer/people powered campaign and no signature gatherers will be paid. Signatures will be gathered from January – June 2014 and 360,000 need to be collected. This will hopefully be on the ballot in November 2014.
      • WAmend is currently looking for a campaign manager and as many volunteers as possible to gather signatures starting in January. They will be hosting training sessions for those interested in helping.
    • Help Other States Pass Labeling
      • Oregon & Colorado will be working on labeling initiatives for November 2014
      • Helping other states with their labeling efforts.
    • TPP – Trans-Pacific Partnership
      • The TPP is a trade agreement being negotiated in secret and the president is trying to Fast Track it to bypass any real scrutiny. This agreement was written primarily to give corporations more control and to circumvent sovereign rights. Keep yourself informed on this important agreement that could strip away many of our rights and create unsafe products & food.
    • GMO Free Restaurant Project
      • Some people are interested in creating a GMO Free Restaurant Guide for Seattle and around the state.
    • Boycotts
      • Boycotts of specific brands, such as the companies represented by the GMA (Grocery Manufacturer’s Association), including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Nestle, etc. GMO Free USA & Food Revolution is organizing boycotts right now on these companies. People think they can trust brands, so these brands who are fighting labeling need to be called out.
      • KCTS PBS station airing Next Meal: Engineering Food several times right before the election, which is skewed in favor of the biotech companies and does not give a complete picture about GMOs.

Educate yourself!  As a wonderful friend of mine said, “We’re smart people and we have a brain in our head.  Let’s use our brains to discover information and educate ourselves and make informed choices”.
Here’s a list of resources you can check out to educate yourself and have been great resources for me:

  • Who is for labeling and who is against it?  Here’s a great list:
  • Movies (Many of these are available through Netflix or Youtube):
    • Vanishing of the Bees
    • Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
    • Vegucated
    • Fast Food Nation
    • Hungry for Change
    • Save the Farm
    • Forks over Knives
    • Our Daily Bread
    • Good Food
    • Food Beware
    • Dive!
    • Food Matters
    • Genetic Roulette
    • Food Fight
    • King Corn
    • The Garden
    • Farmageddon
    • Queen of the Sun
    • The End of the Line
    • Food, Inc.
    • The Future of Food
    • Fresh
    • Farming the Seas
  • Books:
    • Together at the Table
    • Foodopoly
    • Prodigal Summer
    • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
    • Cultivating Food Justice
    • White Bread
    • Food Rules
    • The American Way of Eating
    • Folks, this ain’t normal
    • The Omnivore’s Dilemma
    • Cooked
    • Weighing In
    • In Defense of Food
    • Forks Over Knives
    • Seeds of Death
    • SEED
    • Seeds of Freedom
  • Websites:

A simple Google search on food justice and labeling GMO/GE foods will yield massive amounts of results and you can read numerous articles, websites, and blogs talking about these issues and find ways on how you can become involved.  Whether corporations want it or not, the people demand to know what is in their food and labeling will happen!  As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

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