Today, in light of the GMO labeling ballot initiatives that took place across the U.S., we reflect on the overall growth of an incredible people-driven, knowledge-building movement.
If you had spoken to typical grocery shoppers in 2010, it is unlikely many of them would have heard of the term GMO (genetically modified organism). Fast forward four short years. There are now mandatory GMO labeling initiatives in more than half the states across the U.S.—all driven by citizen awareness, action and demand for answers.
It is no mistake this groundswell movement is called the Right to Know. It’s a movement based on knowledge—the lack of knowledge about what is in the food we feed our families, the desire for knowledge on every product we buy, and the demand for this knowledge to be shared collectively across the country. And today, we continue to witness that knowledge spreading from state to state.
In 2012, California ‘s Prop 37 became the first ballot initiative to bring this important debate to a citizen vote. Then, in 2013, Connecticut (with Maine following suit in 2014) passed a contingency law preparing to put mandatory labeling into action once surrounding states pass similar laws. Also in 2013, Washington’s I-522 offered voters another opportunity to pass mandatory labeling at the state level.
While the two state ballot measures (CA and WA) were narrowly defeated (2.8% and 2.18% respectively) and the state-initiated laws faced legal loopholes, the spotlight was placed on our right to know more about GMOs in our food–providing a taste that quickly turned into a hunger for knowledge.
In 2014, Vermont passed the first no-contingency mandatory labeling law in the U.S. Building on that momentum in 2014, Colorado and Oregon became the next two champion states to take on the Goliath biotech industry. On the beautiful island of Maui, where the year-round growing season make it attractive to biotech development, residents have become increasingly concerned about the health and environmental impacts of GMO farming. Late election night, Hawaiian citizens celebrated a stunning turnaround victory for banning GMO production in Maui. After being behind most of the day, the Maui County ballot initiative passed by more than 1,000 votes.
Meanwhile in Colorado, biotech opponents of Prop 105 poured $12 million into the state, outspending the Yes side 20 to 1. While the defeat is disappointing, we must remember the battle always results in awareness. With each measure, more and more citizens become engaged in rallying for our Right to Know.
Oregon’s Measure 92 is still too close to call two days post election. Ballots remain to be counted, and the margin is barely at 1% for the opposing side. As consistent with all GMO labeling efforts, opposition spending in Oregon was led by biotech companies. In fact, the $20 million total contributed to the No side broke Oregon State record for the most spend on one side of an issue. A margin so slim when the financial infusion is so high makes a powerful statement: Citizens want to know.
”At the end of the day, this is a social movement,” said George Kimbrell, chief author of Measure 92 and a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “It’s about peoples’ right to know, and we know we’re going to eventually prevail, regardless of the outcome in Oregon.”
The incredibly slim losses on state ballot initiatives can feel disappointing, but the battle is far from over. And the win is in the details. The Right to Know movement and the advancement in GMO awareness are stronger than ever, despite being outspent by giant biotech corporations. In survey after survey, more than 90 percent of U.S. citizens say they want GMO labeling (Consumer Reports 2014, New York Times 2013, MSNBC 2011, Reuters and Washington Post 2010).
In the face of lacking mandatory labeling requirements, North American brands are listening to their customers and seeking voluntary labeling options, such as Non-GMO Project Verification, at an exceeding rate. Currently, there are more than 22,000 Non-GMO Project Verified products!
Our annual Non-GMO Month in October had more than 2,000 registered retailers educating their teams and having meaningful conversations with their customers about GMOs.
And every single one of us votes each day with our wallet and our heart by choosing a non-GMO lifestyle.
Here are four important things we can do every day to help protect non-GMO choices and the future of our food:
From all of us at the Non-GMO Project, we truly thank you for your passionate commitment to the movement. Don’t give up the fight — knowledge IS power!