This December, members of the REAL Cooperative and Sustainable Living Roadshow, in partnership with Mintwood Media Collective, GMO Inside, Organic Consumers Association and Institute for Responsible Technology are embarking on a journey from California to Washington DC to promote education and to build awareness around genetically modified foods and the importance of mandatory GMO labeling and regulation in the United States.
And they’ll be traveling in ‘Fishycorn’ the giant cornfish car…
Supported by organic food and natural product companies; RW Garcia, Dr. Bronners, Nutiva, HimalaSalt and Organic Valley; members of Sustainable Living Roadshow and REAL Cooperative will accompany the fishy car to local food cooperatives, farms and public gathering spaces in every state along the route to host playful actions and “teach-ins” about GMOs.
The trip will be taking a southern route, leaving the Bay Area on Dec 8 and heading through Bakersfield CA, Flagstaff AZ, Albuquerque NM, Amarillo TX, Oklahoma City and Tulsa OK, Springfield and St. Louis MO, Evansville IN, Louisville KY, Columbus OH, State College PA and on to Washington DC. Fishycorn will make an appearance at the City Museum in St. Louis, home of the bio-industrial giant, Monsanto, finishing the 10 day journey in Washington DC on December 18.
So, what and where are Genetically Modified foods? Genetically engineered foods are plants or animals that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria. This type of genetic modification occurs in a laboratory and cannot be found in nature. A high percentage of corn, soy, cotton (cottonseed oil) and sugar beets used in processed foods sold in the U.S. are genetically engineered, but we don’t know exactly which foods contain these without labeling. It makes you wonder, are you eating Fishy Corn?
This trip is following on the heels of the recent battle for Prop 37, a ballot initiative that would have required labeling of GMOs in the state of California that was narrowly defeated despite nearly 6 million votes in favor of the prop.
GMO Inside will be using this cross-country tour as part of its launch of their National GMO Education Campaign; providing Americans with actions they can take in their homes, grocery stores, and communities to call attention to genetically engineered foods. GMO Inside will provide tools and resources for Americans to find the GMOs in a wide-range of products and brands on grocery shelves, and give people organic and non-GMO alternatives. It will also create communities of people who are concerned about GMOs and who will support each others’ efforts to label GMOs and avoid the products containing them.
The idea for the labeling of GMOs may be new in the United States, but it isn’t new for the rest of the world. Over 50 countries around the world already require mandatory GMO labeling including all of Europe, Japan, India and China. With an astoundingly few long-term health studies and little to no FDA regulation, it seems that labeling may be the least Americans, and the fishy corn car crew should be asking for.
Fishycorn Tour events will be fun and educational for participants across the nation. For those who want to follow along online, Fishycorn’s adventure will be documented via daily blogs at realcooperative.org and regular picture and video posts via facebook (facebook.com/ fishycorncarGMO) and twitter (@fishycorn). Interested onlookers are encouraged to participate in online contests including “where in the world is fishy corn car” and more, for fun prizes and surprising GMO facts!
I had an interesting talk with a fellow marcher the other night.
(Hello! From Delaware, the first of the original 13 colonies. We’re marching through Newark, then down to Darlington, Maryland, and onwards towards Baltimore. Our feet are tired and our muscles are sore, but we carry on, carry on, carry on.)
During our skillshare in Philadelphia, one of our crew led a general assembly, modeled after that held on wall street daily to discuss – as open ended as this is – change. A group of us gathered together and opened up about where we come from and why we are interested in changing this current system we’re living in. We talked about sustainability, dominant culture, and a wide range of other topics. I found the whole thing quite enlivening – and very inspiring. read more…
In the Northeast regions of North America, fall is beginning its yearly cascade of colors. Trees are slowly segueing from verdant opulence to their more bright and bold outfits, their outstretched limbs gaining hues of yellow, orange, ochre, sienna. Towns are beginning harvest time as they watch the days wane and the air turns crisper and chillier. And through it all, a small band of travelers march, resolutely, with banners high and spirits to match.
Zoom in – close up. At the front of the march, two individuals in bright green shirts (with an extra arm and the entirely-too-adorable slogan “GMO SHIRTS ARE EASY TO SPOT. GMO FOODS AREN’T”) hold a banner that introduces the crew: RIGHT2KNOW MARCH. They pass, and along come the rest – a group that waxes and wanes, with people hopping on and off at different point … but never stops.
The group represents a surprising number of countries. There are Americans, of course, but also a handful of Germans, an Italian woman, and a fellow from Palestine. This shows to us – to me, one of the marchers – the global importance of this issue, the entirely pressing problem that we are marching against.
Don’t you know? You know. We are marching, marching, to label GMOs.
Greetings from sunny Brooklyn!
I’m here in a quirky cafe near Park Slope, where we’re gearing up to begin a major leg of our journey: the Right2Know March.
This 313 mile, two-week promenade is modeled after a similar march in Germany that succeeded in enforcing labels on genetically modified foods. We – as well as the hundreds of marchers joining us, and the other companies and caravans partaking – are hoping this traipse goes in a similar direction and puts pressure on our politicians to finally label the foods that wind up on so many of our tables.
Genetic modification is a tricky, sticky topic. Yes, farmers and gardeners have been practicing various, less direct forms of genetic modification for centuries – cross breeding is, after all, a form of GM. But there are concerns about the form that recent “advances” in the field have taken. To quote the National Geographic website:
“…concerns exist over the potentially negative environmental impact of GMOs. Because they introduce genes not native to a particular species, the impact these genes will have if they enter wild plant populations is yet unknown. GMO crops are often engineered to produce pesticides or resist herbicides, so the potential for GMO crops to induce pesticide resistance in pest and weed populations could result in high pest populations that cause agricultural and environmental damage. The potential of these pesticides to harm nontarget organisms also raises concern.”
The second – and to many, the most pressing – issue that these crops raise is that of corporate control. When a new strain is introduced, companies have the ability to patent that specific seed – and then sue farmers if that seed is found in their fields. Often, the seed spreads without their consent or knowledge, and small farmers end up losing everything because of it. Many people know about the now famous Percy Shmeiser, who decided not to back down and stand up to Monsanto when they sued him over saving seed. Countless other farmers have not achieved the same fame as him, but have shared his fate.
And of course, it begs the question: can you place a patent on life?
Whatever your, or anyone’s, view on GMOs in general, it’s hard to deny that they should be labeled. I mean, if they’re as safe as the biotech companies claim, then there should be no issue with labeling them – that in itself is suspect. An MSNBC poll indicated that 96% of Americans support labeling GMOs, so what’s the holdup?
That’s exactly our question, and that’s exactly why we’re marching.
Tomorrow is the kickoff party in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, where we’ll be adding an element of whimsy to the marchers’ and attendees’ day. We’ve spent the past few days getting things in order for the march – making banners and signs, figuring out last-minute logistics, and generally doing all the various tiny things it takes to put together an activist event. Because, it turns out, it takes a lot.
Keep your ear tuned to our facebook and blog for updates, photos and videos from the march. I have no idea what this march is going to be like, but we’re being joined by a bevy of amazing speakers and awesome organizations (Dr. Bronner’s foam tub, anyone? I’m stoked), so it’s looking to be an amazing, enlivening, activating time.
Time for lunch! As always – see you on the road.
PS — Want to join in on any part of the march? It’s still not too late! Check out the Right2Know website for more details.
Here’s a blog I wrote for our friends over at 350.org’s Moving Planet. In case you don’t know, Moving Planet day was a global action that occurred this past Saturday. I had some reflections on how we took part – for more inspiring photos and stories, check out the Moving Planet website or their Facebook.
The full blog (and more photos!) after the jump. read more…
How Low CanYou Go? Part 1: On Letting Go
“The courtyard is well kept
but the fields are full of weeds,
and the granaries stand empty.
Still, there are those of us
who wear elegant clothes, carry sharp swords,
pamper ourselves with food and drink
and have more possessions than we can use.
These are the actions of robbers.
This is certainly far from the Tao.”
Derek again. I wanted to get the ball rolling on a topic that Nasi will run with in an upcoming installment:
How low can you go?
The “low” we’re referring to is your environmental impact upon the world. Almost everything we do takes up natural resources (especially in industrialized nations). Food, water, shelter, clothing, transportation, recreation. As hard as we try, it seems like the cards are always stacked against us as we’re part of a system that’s destructive to the very ecology that nourishes us. Even I am typing this for you on a laptop composed of petroleum-based plastic and precious metals mined from the earth. The electricity that’s charging my battery comes from a power plant fueled by blowing up mountains to extract the coal that’s burned to generate it. Ditto the broadband wifi that I’ve used to upload it to our blog. And don’t even get me started on the level of waste at the coffee shop that’s doubling as my office right now…
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easier to look out a window and find faults than it is to look in a mirror and do the same. However, nobody’s perfect, so no need to flog yourself in punishment for your transgressions against earth the next time you slip and do something unsustainable. You’ve been freed from The Matrix and your eyes are still adjusting to the light and your body is getting used to carrying its own weight. Maybe enlightenment isn’t a ladder, with some people higher and some people lower on the rungs. Maybe it’s a giant circle, and we’re all staring in at the same huge question mark?
I’ve always thought that sustainability is a lot like driving your car on the highway at night: you can never see to your final destination, but as long as you’re facing in the right direction all you have to do is keep moving forward. Being conscious of what you’re doing and being mindful of your impact on the world is (in my opinion) the first and most important step that all else flows from. I’ve noticed a tendency for people to think of sustainability as some kind of end goal to be reached, as if they could stop once they hit a certain level of recycling/composting/buying organically and locally/etc.
On the flip side, I think the secret of it all is actually this – sustainability is really a mindset, a way of life, a method of looking at and interacting with the world around us and all living things that cohabit it. It’s about constantly questioning if you can do a little more to help, if you can try a little harder and dig a little deeper in order for you to let go of the unnecessary in your life.
Too often I hear people say that they’ve GIVEN UP smoking cigarettes or buying individually-packaged products or supporting companies that pollute. I’d much rather hear their language reflect the truth – that they have actually LET GO of material goods/personal practices that were weighing them down all along and hurting the planet in the process. It’s much easier, from a psychological standpoint, to understand the value in LETTING GO of something you don’t need than it is to think/say that you are GIVING UP on something you have been dependent upon.
The words we use have power. They define our reality and dictate not just how we think, but IF we think. There’s a reason plantation owners wouldn’t let their slaves learn how to read. How can you question a system if you don’t even understand it? It’s all in the language, as George Orwell so eloquently expressed in the Appendix of his seminal masterpiece, “1984”. And I thoroughly believe we need to choose our words carefully if we really want to see a ripple effect of positive change spread across the globe.
We’re all on our own paths at different points along a much greater path to whatever our collective destiny as a planet will be. Asking questions about the issues raised above can be real mind benders and try the soul. And we may not be able to save the world…but don’t we at least want to be the kind of people who TRIED?
Knowing others is to be clever.
Knowing yourself is to be enlightened.
Overcoming others requires force.
Overcoming yourself requires strength.
Howdy, friends. How do you do today?
We’re parked up here at Seven Springs Resort in Western Pennsylvania for the Mother Earth News Fair. It’s a lovely spot – if not a bit rainy. We can’t seem to escape the rain, no matter where we go … Tom, a crewmember, half-jokingly called this the “bring the rain tour.” (Cue rimshot)
So – anyhoo – we had a long (soggy) talk this morning amongst ourselves about steps we can take to be more sustainable. We may be the Sustainable Living Roadshow, but we’re by no means perfect, and we struggle with pushing ourselves towards sustainable practices just like anyone else. The issue on the docket today was packaging.
It’s a silly little comic, but there’s a lot of truth in it. Surely you’ve noticed just how packaged our products are – from our food to our clothing to our medicine (and on, and on, and on). The EPA estimated in 2008 that 30% of the average American’s waste stream was made up of packaging – and almost half of that doesn’t get recycled. That, by the way, is about 71,000,000 tons of packaging — only packaging! Add to that the energy (and raw materials) needed to create packaging, then the extra fuel used for shipping it … and you’ve got quite a bundle of oil and waste on your hands.
Not to frighten you (or maybe to frighten you a little..?), but here are some more facts about landfills that might make you think twice before purchasing that product that comes cocooned in plastic:
(taken from cleanair.org)
I’m not trying to belittle you – you undoubtedly knew that landfills were not exactly the cat’s pajamas before I spouted any of those facts. Still, it can help to hear facts like that, if only to remind ourselves of just how much of an impact our personal decisions have.
Back on point, what of the eco-friendly, biodegradable, and compostable packaging that is becoming increasingly popular in stores – especially grocery stores? That’s not so bad, right? Hey, it doesn’t sit in a landfill for lawd-kn0ws-how-long – it breaks down!
Yes, true. And admittedly, that’s a better option than plastics and other non-biodegradable materials – but still not your best bet. Plant-based plastics and other such “eco” options don’t grow from the garden in their current state; they still take raw materials and energy to make, and use up space (thus more fuel) to transport. They’re a step in the right direction, but ultimately, these new materials only divert our attention from the real issue at hand.
– Which is to reduce. The biggest change we can make in our personal lives to be kinder to this lovely earth is to reduce our consumption. Though this applies across the board, a low-hanging fruit on the tree of sustainability (to borrow a metaphor from our dear crewmember Dan) is simply reducing your own waste stream by cutting out packaging.
What does this look like in practice? Well, it means:
We don’t live in a world that promotes non-packaged items, and it can sometimes be hard to either resist the temptation of a packaged good or, in some cases, find another option. But if there is an option, choose it – remember that if everyone just made that one small decision, companies would be forced to listen and reduce their packaging. We vote with our dollar every time we buy something, so vote for what you truly believe in!
What do you think? What steps have you taken in the realm of waste and packaging?