by: Pam Denholm of South Shore Organics
photos by Michael Hart of Hart Design
I was very excited when I heard the news: we are neighbors to the first state in the U.S. to pass a GMO labeling bill! We all thought it would be California for sure with Proposal 37, since often times it seems that they are so much more progressive than we are with their beautiful farmers markets and tons of organic food. But no. It was little Vermont tucked away in the New England Corner. You go Vermont!
And then, wouldn’t you know it? Within weeks, Connecticut followed suit! What can I say? New England rocks! Are you watching, California? Because we’re gonna show you how to get it done. Massachussets has five labeling bills coming up at public hearings in the next few weeks that touch on the GMO labeling issue and I have a feeling we will be joining Connecticut and Vermont soon.
Unfortunately, all this elation, all this hope, quickly turned to despair when I learned a few days ago that the Senate voted 71-27 against the Sanders amendment to the farm bill that would even allow states to require labeling of GMO’s in our food system. Apparently it was quite a discussion, but there were concerns that labeling would push the food prices up, and also, the Senate felt it needed to protect the states from potential lawsuits from Biotech companies (Monsanto’s name was dropped at that meeting).
Are you serious? Please explain further. The request is perfectly reasonable; we are not taxing GMO products, we are not asking for special handling, we are not asking to ban them. We merely ask that where GMO corn is used as in ingredient, the letters ‘GMO’ are inserted on the label. Why would these three little letters drastically increase food prices? Please don’t even get me started on the notion that Senate is ‘protecting’ us from ‘costly’ lawsuits. If the people of Massachusetts want to know what is in their food, Monsanto, a corporate entity profiting from the sale of goods, should oblige. End. Of. Story. You cannot withhold information to protect your market. That’s wrong. Or am I just being naive?
When I was a little girl, my dad flew from South Africa to the United States as Team Captain for a hobby sport team. He was gone for ages, or so it seemed. We missed him. He came back laden with gifts for us girls and stories about how BIG everything is, and what nice, generous people he met. One of the gifts he gave me was a belt buckle with the American flag enameled on the front with the words ‘these colors don’t run’. I asked my dad what that meant, and he said that it meant Americans stood up for what was right and just; it didn’t matter if ‘the other guy’ was bigger or scarier. They would not back down; they would be brave, and even if they were afraid, they would not run away.
I was so awestruck. I held that belt buckle with such reverence, I never even took it out of the box. Growing up in apartheid South Africa surrounded by injustices, the idea that there is a whole country where people are committed to doing the right thing, even if it is hard and the odds are not in their favor – well, that sounded to me like a pretty special place to me. Little did I know I would one day live here.
Labeling GMO’s so that we know what is going in our food, and what we are putting in our bodies and feeding our families I believe is our right. We have the right to know. To decide. To choose. It is a basic freedom. Corporates should not hide behind legislation to protect their markets – that’s not free. So could the Senate please get out of our way. We are not asking. We are telling you, this is what we want. And if Monsanto & Co wants to sue us – let them. The request is reasonable, it is fair, it is just. These colors don’t run. We won’t back down.
Pam Denholm is owner of South Shore Organics, a delivery service based out of Duxbury, MA, that works with local farmers and distributors to provide sustainable and/or organic produce to the South Shore.
Michael Hart is owner of Hart Design, a graphic design and photography company based out of Kingston, MA.