In 2012, the Non-GMO Project experienced exponential growth. We reached over $2.4 billion in annual sales of verified products and the number of requests from companies seeking Non-GMO Project Verification hit record numbers. With consumer demand for non-GMO choices off the charts, in December it was time for the Non-GMO Project team to grow as well. We are so pleased to welcome Isabel VanDerslice as the sixth member of our staff, in the position of Outreach Coordinator and Office Manager.
Here’s a little info to help you get to know Isabel better…
Isabel was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and spent several years in El Paso, Texas before her family settled in much greener Olympia, Washington. She spent her senior year of high school living with a family just outside of Barcelona, Spain, and fell in love with Catalan and Spanish language, culture, and especially, cooking.
She graduated from Western Washington University with her BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology, and particularly enjoyed studying genetics and immunology. One of her favorite professors is a plant geneticist who became interested in the subject through a community college class he took to learn how to grow the right shaped gourds for banjo-making. Needless to say, she too developed a keen interest in plants, but less so in banjos. Throughout college and for two years after, Isabel managed political campaigns. The Non-GMO project offers an opportunity to put these organizational skills and passion to make a difference to good use outside electoral politics.
Now, Isabel is learning the non-GMO trade and is able to more fully dedicate herself to gardening, inventing recipes, planning exotic travel abroad, and protecting our food supply and environment. She is also chair of the Whatcom Conservation Voters, and a volunteer with Whatcom County’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services.
Questions and Answers
What interests you about working with the Non-GMO Project — what about this opportunity caught your attention?
A friend forwarded me this job description while I was in the process of moving back to Bellingham after being away for nearly a year. My family is full of foodies, so from a young age cooking good meals together was important to me, and this has only grown over time. Through studying molecular biology I began to better understand the mechanisms of life, and how intricate, complicated and interconnected our world is, from a cellularlevel to an entire ecosystem. Integrating into the community of Bellingham throughout college served to impress upon me the importance of living more locally and sustainably. I began to garden organically, shop at our Co-op and focus on the important economic, social justice and environmental issues at play in food systems. The prevalence of GMOs in food is a huge concern to me; offering a verification process and a label to give consumers a choice is a powerful market force for change. To begin working on this with a small, passionate team is very exciting for me.
How do you think your prior experience will help you in working with the Non-GMO Project?
I spent the last five years working in electoral politics, three of those as a campaign manager. Much of my job was communicating with the public about a huge number of complicated issues all in many different ways in a very short space of time. It was a lot of fun to share ideas with people from various backgrounds on whatever issue they had questions or ideas about, and I found that the opportunity for dialogue and learning was an excellent way to improve our work. To build a movement, we also had to do a great deal of outreach and grassroots organizing. It was so rewarding to see a community come together to make a change for good. The Non-GMO project offers an opportunity to put these organizing, outreach and communications skills to good use for a great cause.
What is important to you about the work you will be doing with the Project?
After studying biology and working in politics, I see a major challenge of our modern world is bridging the gap between science and people’s lives — making scientific findings accessible to everyone. There often seems to be an enormous disconnect between research findings and media sources. The Non-GMO Project has done a fantastic job of communicating complex issues in a clear, compelling and accurate manner, and I look forward to applying my skills to opening more dialogues about GMOs with producers, farmers, retailers, consumers and community leaders around the nation. With all the momentum this movement has gained in just a few short years, it’s exciting to be a part of the conversation.