I recently had the pleasure of spending the day with NationBuilder Pamm Larry, the voice and force behind the LabelGMOs campaign. About a year and a half ago, Pamm - who is a midwife, farmer, grandmother and mother of three - decided to quit her job to dedicate herself full time to educating people about the increasing pervasiveness of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food system and the potential risks. “I believed that we had a right to know what we’re buying and I got really angry that there was collusion going on between corporations and the government to keep consumers in the dark,” Pamm said. “I got involved because I don’t feel that this situation is just.”
According to the campaign website, 50 countries with over 40 percent of the world’s population are currently labelling genetically engineered foods. This includes the entire European Union and even China. In order to move California’s laws in the right direction, Pamm took it upon herself to navigate the complex process of putting a measure on the ballot so that the voters could decide whether foods containing GMOs should be labelled. “If we want to have choices in what foods we eat then we have to take a strong stand now. There are increasing numbers of genetically engineered foods out there. That could be ok with consumers but if it’s not then they have a right to know and a right to choose,” she said.
Pamm and her organizers at LabelGMOs used NationBuilder’s community organizing system to mobilize their volunteers and supporters in an effort to collect enough signatures to get the California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act on the November ballot. Along with coalition partners, Pamm and her volunteers collected almost a million signatures and in June qualified for the ballot.
How was the campaign able to achieve so much with modest resources? “Passion,” said Larry. “Because the people on the ground - the volunteers - care passionately about this. They’ve incurred great hardship, chaos, confusion and a lack of support but they have been successful because they are driven about this issue.”
Stacy Malkan, a spokeswoman for Yes on 37 told The Examiner, “No other election campaign we know of has mobilized so many voters so quickly with such a huge network of volunteers.”
As part of their efforts, organizers from LabelGMOs used NationBuilder to build a full website, connect with their supporters through social media, and organize events to collect signatures. Pamm said organizing around regional events was an important part of the process, and volunteers used the state map of opportunities in their regions to quickly identify allies and plug into the organization.
The California Secretary of State certified the measure as Prop. 37 on June 11, and now Californians will have the opportunity to weigh in on the issue of whether GMO foods sold in grocery stores should carry a label. Following the success of LabelGMO’s, the California Right to Know committee, official sponsors of Prop. 37, are also using NationBuilder for their website and organizing efforts.
Photo: Pamm Larry in action at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.