As demand for non-GMO choices continues a rapid growth curve, so does demand for the non-profit services of the Non-GMO Project. To support the Project’s Product Verification Program, Supporting Retailer Program, and broad outreach and education efforts, the Project recently brought on two new Program Assistants. Working from the Bellingham, WA office, Christopher Keefe and Dedrian Clark were selected from a pool of nearly 80 qualified applicants. They both stood out for their commitment to safe, healthy food and their passion for putting their many skills and talents toward making a positive difference for the common good. Following is a little Q&A with Chris and Dede to help you get to know them…
What interests you about working with the Non-GMO Project? What about the opportunity caught your attention?
(DEDE) I have been interested in living an environmentally sustainable and health conscious lifestyle for most of my adult life. My interests include organic gardening, growing culinary and medicinal herbs, natural healing methods and in general, maintaining a close connection to nature. Because of those interests, I have long been aware of the potential health risks related to genetically modified foods and have always tried to maintain an organic diet. Like many others, I have felt the frustration of not being provided the option of choosing foods known to be non-GMO. Until I saw the ad for this position, I had not been aware of the amazing work being done by the Non-GMO Project. I was quite excited to find out more and am certainly enthused about becoming a part of the team!
Career wise, my intention has been to find work that closely reflects my lifestyle and interests. More often than not, my positions in the past have reflected my abilities rather than my interests. When I saw the opening with the Non-GMO Project, I saw it as a great opportunity to contribute to a cause that I firmly believe in. I felt the position was exactly what I had been looking for! My few weeks working for the “Project” have convinced me I was right!
(CHRIS) Food, food, food… Its quality, its safety, and its future availability all hang on decisions we make now about what to grow, how to grow it, and how to eat it. The threat of GMO contamination of our food system is a very real one at this time, and the Non-GMO Project addresses that threat in what I feel to be a very effective way. I am a great believer in the power of education to effect change in consumer decision-making, and by extension, in society. This organization is doing a great service by bringing accurate, accessible information into the grocery store, where shoppers can then choose to support changes in the way our culture makes food. I feel honored to be in a position here where my work does some good for our food system, our farmers and producers, and the health of future generations.
How do you feel your prior experience will help you in working with the Non-GMO Project?
(DEDE) My career has involved thirty plus years in responsible administrative positions. Each position has prepared me for the next. I bring a diverse range of skills to my new job. I feel I have been preparing for this opportunity throughout my career.
In addition, because of my lifestyle experience and longtime interest in organic foods and the issues that surround this industry, I bring a dedication and enthusiasm to my job that I feel will benefit all I do.
(CHRIS) I have involved myself in food politics, production, and distribution for nearly six years now. My understanding of the structure of the food industry, gained through both work experience and personal research, has made it much easier for me to begin my work with the organization. Five years of volunteer and paid work with cooperate grocers have allowed me to hone my speaking skills, and have given me a grasp on how shoppers approach food purchases. Supervisory roles I’ve taken on over the years have shown me a thing or two about multitasking, and organization, and the small not-for-profit I co-founded in Boston, MA taught me this: with a good idea and a vast reservoir of determination, it is possible to bring great good into people’s lives. At twenty-six, and quite new to the work I’ll be doing here, I have a great deal to learn. It is tremendously exciting to be working towards goals so vital to human well-being, though, and even more exciting to be doing so alongside the many dedicated and capable people already involved.
What is important to you about the work you will be doing with the project?
(DEDE) It is very important to me that consumers are given the option to choose foods that are healthy and risk free! I feel honored to be working with the many dedicated people who have helped the Non-GMO Project achieve the progress it has and look forward to doing whatever I can to assist them as they continue their efforts moving forward.
(CHRIS) It is important to me to bring an open, big-picture outlook into my work; to attempt to keep in mind the needs of both large and small producers; and to do my best to help make transitioning away from GMO foods a positive, empowering process for those who choose to do so.
It is important to me that I take pride and pleasure in my work; that I can bring my best, and my most creative self to the table, and that the work that I do helps to create a better living for both humans and the ecosystems that sustain us.
It is important to me that the work I do will help people to better understand where their food comes from, and how it is produced. Awareness and understanding are paramount. With all of the above practices in mind, I feel that educating and empowering the public is the most important facet of the work in front of me.