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NOFA/Mass hosts summit for GMO labeling activists

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2016 February Issue Newsletter

By Dan Bensonoff

Group gathered at 2016 Winter Conference

This year NOFA/Mass’s Winter Conference convened the first ever summit of grassroots activists and organizers to discuss Massachusetts’s pending GMO labeling bill (H3242). The gathering brought together a consortium of farmers, consumer advocates, and interested citizens who are concerned about the risks and lack of transparency associated with genetic engineering of our foods.

The meeting began with a circle of personal narratives relating to why those gathered have chosen to become GMO transparency advocates. Grant Ingle, of MA Right To Know GMO, shared his story of gastro-intestinal health challenges that, after two years of elimination diets, he linked to genetically modified foods and glyphosate (Roundup) residues. Two vegetable farmers who save seed on their farm shared their concerns about genetic contamination from all of the surrounding GM corn farms.  Some, like Rachel Medeiros, spoke of how this issue relates to corporate greed.

Gmo right to knowThe core of the summit included training in power structure analysis. Pat Fiero of Moveon.org began the discussion with a succinct definition of power: “Power is a relationship in which one person or group has more ability to make decisions… You have power over me if I need you more than you need me.” From this, we discussed how our job as activists and organizers is to create the conditions for a redistribution of power. In the case of the GMO labeling bill in Massachusetts, we recognized that much of the power now rests with a small handful of legislators that sit on the Energy, Natural Resources, and Agriculture committee.

So, here is the question that lingered: How do we shift the seesaw of power from this small minority of lawmakers back to the 75% of legislators and 93% of citizens who are in favor of this bill?

To help us answer this, Martin Dagoberto, an organizer with MA Right To Know GMO, illustrated what he called the “pyramid of impact.” He said that we can envision political activism as a pyramid: undemanding actions, such as form letters, form the base and highly impactful actions, such as personal visits from donors, form the apex of the pyramid. As one moves towards the apex, fewer individual actions are needed to create the same overall impact.

The summit concluded by brainstorming how we can all become local organizers in this fight. Some raised concerns over the challenge of getting more people to care and understand this issue. To this, Martin Dagoberto made a poignant comment that we do not necessarily need to convince everyone; in fact, sometimes it is prudent to preach to the choir if doing so will get the choir to sing even louder.

If you would like to join the choir to demand transparency here are three things you can do:

1)    Call your legislator today and tell them why it’s important to you. Don’t know who your legislators are? Find out here.You can also write them a quick email from this page.

2)    Talk to other people in your community about this issue. Enable them to find their power!

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