GMO labeling in Connecticut a reality

The past six months have been a whirlwind.  My family, my friends, my job, my volunteer commitments and my blog all took a back seat to the work I was doing with GMO Free CT to advocate for GMO labeling in our state.

On June 25, 2013 (also my wedding anniversary), Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law the GMO labeling bill HB 6527, now known as Public Act 13-183.  It is an amazing feeling to know that I was a part of this historical moment.  The Governor has promised a public signing and I hope I will be able to attend.  We were the first state to pass a labeling bill.  Sixty-two other countries already have one.

This process opened my eyes to our legislative process in ways I can not even describe.  Mostly, it proved to me that Moms, Dad, Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents with a passion can use their voices.  Sometimes we need to get loud, but when we do, they are heard.

Is this bill perfect? No.  Is it better than the one they tried to pass? Absolutely.  My role with GMO Free CT was as the social media director.  We created a firestorm of phone calls and emails to the state capitol.  Over 40,000 phone calls were received by the Governor and the Speaker of the House.  And even though we had to work so hard to get them to hear us, in the end they all said we did our jobs.

It is damn hard work.  Not for the faint of heart.  It hardened me in ways.

I spoke to a friend, a former legislator, yesterday.  He congratulated me on the win.  He was glowing with pride that someone from our town had been a part of this win and also a bill he had been supportive of when he worked at the Capitol.  I told him how so many were urging us to support the “bad bill” as we referred to it.  The bill that would exempt farmers making less than $2.5 million dollars which would make the bill ineffective.  He said he would have urged me to take it too.  That when you get something, anything, often people will just take it and run.  He was amazed we said no, and that we actually got something we could work with, with only nine days left in the session.

I am still in awe.  My family was featured in our local newspaper.  My fifteen minutes are almost up, but it has been weird the attention we have received.  Hugs and thank yous whenever we bump into people.  My youngest said, “Why does everyone keep saying I saw you in da paper?”  Followed with a big sigh.  She is quite over the attention.

Summer has arrived.  I’m ready to focus on farmer’s markets, and new summer recipes and my garden again.  To get back on the Organic Trail with a new vigor supported by the amazing people I met during this fight.  Those who have long been on the Organic Trail and invited me to be a part of this amazing process.

Our fight isn’t over.  It really has just begun. I’ve signed up for the long haul.  I want to see this happen in the entire North East and then on to the rest of the nation.  And I will do all I can to support that.

Thanks to all of you who supported our efforts.  Those who made calls, sent emails or just kept supporting me through it.  It was so appreciated and won’t be forgotten.

Check out http://www.righttoknow-gmo.org to find a local chapter working for GMO Labeling in your neighborhood.

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How does your garden grow?

Spring has sprung.  I have thirty yellow pear tomato seedlings growing nicely.  Not to mention equal amounts of black cherry tomatoes, red grape tomatoes and yellow grape tomatoes.  Kale is ready to be direct sowed and transplanted…trying it both ways this year.  As is the red leaf lettuce.  I never have luck with red peppers, so I started them from seeds.  Hoping if I control the whole process I may have better luck.

This is the first year I have ever started from seeds. I have become a seed addict.  A friend once referred to the Baker Creek Seed Catalog as “seed porn.”  Apparently, I like seed porn.  I have quite a few more packets to get started out in my garden.

Growing our food this year feels different.  Before I grew a garden because we could.  We had a small 4 x 8 bed…populated with tomatoes and zucchini.  Occasionally an eggplant or cucumber.  We grew to two 4 x 8 beds.  The cucumber was able to stay and more tomatoes were added.  We now have four 4 x 8 beds and four 4 x 4 beds.  I’m planting lots of heirloom veggies and we are discussing how to start adding some fruits into our landscape too.

This year I’m growing food to feed my family.  I want to can and preserve and freeze so we can eat out of our garden for as much of the year as possible.  I plan to track it (I’ve planned this in the past so we will see how that goes) and hope to be able to better plant in the future.  I’m also using containers to grow more that I can’t fit in our bed.  One of my parents’ neighbors have beautiful tomato plants every year.  They surround their back patio in gorgeous pots.  My girls pick and eat them right off the plants while we visit.  I’d like to do something similar here.  Tomatoes can take up a lot of room in a garden…especially if you plant 12 – 16 plants a year.

I’ve already been visiting the local farm and grabbing bags of fresh-picked arugula and spring mix greens.  So yummy.

How does your garden grow?

 

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Did it make a difference?

I spent the entire day, and night, at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT to be part of the public hearing on Genetically Engineered foods.  The organization I belong to @GMOFreeCT was out in full force.

Not only was most of our leadership council there, but we had the amazing privilege of having Dave Murphy and Lisa Stokke from Food Democracy Now! with us.  We had Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, with us.  We had Michael Hansen of Consumer Union and John Fagan of GMO Myths & Truths.  We had Sierra Club CT, we had Food & Water Watch, we had countless Connecticut citizens with us.  It was truly an inspirational moment.

Our bill was number ten on the committee list.  There were 45 people signed up to testify.  I decided last minute not to testify and just submitted written testimony.  I was able to meet with my local legislators.  One who is one of our biggest supporters.  One who will be.

I talked to other legislators, moms, dad, grandparents.  I spoke with amazing people all working hard towards this one goal of labeling.

At 5pm we still had not been called in.  At 6, no.  Finally at 7pm it was our turn.

During one of the many down times I had noticed a family sitting in the room designated for us to wait in.  It was Mom, Dad, a little girl and a baby.  I learned that the daughter was 3 and the son 3 months old.   They were not here “with” our group, and we didn’t even know if they were here for our bill until they walked in the committee meeting. They waited from 8:30am until 9:00pm WITH their two children.

After two hours of testimony the Chairwoman announced that as a parent and grandparent she was going to allow them to testify out of order (they didn’t request it) so they could get their little ones to bed. The father walked up holding his daughter, who was falling asleep on his shoulder. His wife was holding their baby. He introduced himself. He started to break down a bit and said, “I just want my right to know what I am feeding my family. I just would like to know if it has GMOs so I can decide what to feed them.”

That was it. The committee asked if he had anything else to say and he spoke a little about how there is organic foods and they try to buy it, but if there were foods that were non-gmo and not organic he would really like to know about those too.

Over 12 hours of waiting to say those simple words. They waited all day because it meant that much to them. I absolutely lost it.  I don’t mean little tears, I mean I was bawling and trying to keep it under control.
He had his moment.  He spoke up for his beautiful.My friend who had been taking photos for us all night and I followed them out the door when they were done and asked if we could take their picture and use it on Facebook.I thanked him and told him it meant so much to me that he testified and that he had done that with his family.  He got choked up again and said, “Did it make a difference?”Yes. Yes, it did.

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Does Whole Foods REALLY support our Right to Know?

You could hear the cheer across America through Facebook and Twitter when Whole Foods announced on Friday that they would require the labeling of all GMOs in products they sold in their stores by the year 2018.

“We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. “The prevalence of GMOs in the U.S. paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for retailers to source non-GMO options and for consumers to choose non-GMO products. Accordingly, we are stepping up our support of certified organic agriculture, where GMOs are not allowed, and we are working together with our supplier partners to grow our non-GMO supply chain to ensure we can continue to provide these choices in the future.”

For those of us passionate about labeling here in the US, the news was exciting to say the least.  And while we were celebrating this victory and passing on the news, many said, “Five years?  Why will it take that long?”  The group I belong to came to the defense of Whole Foods, explaining they have thousands upon thousands of products.  Five years gives those companies a chance to either agree to the labeling or to modify their products and use the formulations they use overseas where GMOs are labeled.  This in our eyes was a huge win.

But…

Always that darn,”but”.  Whole Foods in Connecticut is a member of the Connecticut Food Association.  This association lobbies on behalf of grocery stores and supermarkets.  They vehemently oppose the labeling bills before two committees here in Connecticut.

How will Whole Foods handle this?  A local news station did a story on it last night.

http://bit.ly/ZsS32M

I even asked Whole Foods about this through twitter today, but no response.

As Food Democracy Now reported on their blog (http://bit.ly/13S6jcA):

Kate Lowery, spokesperson for Whole Foods, tells TakePart they established a five-year deadline to give suppliers time to source ingredients or change formulations, if necessary, but expect many to comply earlier.

But later Lowery says:

“If they’re already labeling for Whole Foods, it will probably appear in other stores because those companies aren’t just supplying product for us,” she says. “That, paired with the state labeling initiatives currently happening? I think it’s going to have a big effect. Suppliers are going to start asking those deeper questions because the consumer is demanding it, and you give the consumer what they want.”

Paired with state labeling seems to suggest that Whole Foods is for state labeling initiatives.

So which is it?  Are they part of the Grocery Manufacturer state associations that oppose labeling?  Or are they working in concert with states to mandate GMO labeling?

I know I would like to hear an answer.

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Breaking news! @WholeFoods to label #GMOs by 2018 #GMOFreeCT

@GMOFreeCT got word today that Whole Foods has committed to having all GMO foods sold in their US and Canada stores labeled by 2018.

This is a real win for the labeling movement.  So proud to be a part of it.  Who’s next?

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#Sugar Addiction

Addiction

1: the quality or state of being addicted <addiction to reading>
2: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Two months ago when I did my first juice cleanse I realized that I was addicted to sugar.  I’ve been struggling with this addiction now for two months.  For me it is a slippery slope.  Any added sugar (above natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables) makes me crave more sugar. I have become so aware of this addiction, that if I have something with sugar in it and then eat something later that doesn’t have added sugar the craving for the sugar is there…right on my tongue, waiting for that sweet taste to fire off those taste buds.  It is unsettling.  But often that one taste of sugar sets me up for the rest of the day.

I gave up coffee because the only way I like to drink coffee is with cream and sugar.  Occasionally on the weekend I will have a decaf with a non-dairy milk.  And I’ve been putting 1 teaspoon of sugar in my coffee.  That one teaspoon sets me up to crave, want, desire and seek out sugar the rest of the day.  One teaspoon.  I won’t even tell you how many I used to put in my coffee.

I thought I was crazy.  How could I possibly be so addicted to something that is such a natural part, and to some degree a necessary part, of our diet.

Today I stumbled upon this video done by CBS 60 minutes and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  Is Sugar Toxic? (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403942n)

This video is 14 minutes long.  But I honestly believe it is 14 minutes well spent.  This piece was done over a year ago and I am just seeing it now.  Not sure how I missed it.  But I am so glad I found it.

I believe in this science and what these scientists are saying.  If I had watched it two months ago I’m not sure I would have felt the same way, but because I have experienced this I truly believe that I am a sugar addict.  I know that the more I eat it, the more I want it and also the less sweet it tastes to me.  I’ve been to parties where people will put down a cake and say, “Wow…that is just too sweet for me to eat, ” and I would think to myself, “huh.  It doesn’t seem that sweet at all.”

Dr. Robert Lustig is featured in this piece by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  In the piece it mentions a you tube video of Dr. Lustig called Sugar: The bitter truth (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM)  I have not watched this, but I plan to.

And while I am able to recognize this in myself and I more concerned about how this is affecting my kids.  I don’t pour sugar on things for them, and even though we are health conscience about our foods I have never thought about limiting their sugar…certainly not because it was so toxic to their bodies.

To me there are two most disturbing parts of the video.  The discussion of the creation of small dense LDL, a type of cholesterol that Dr. Lustig says many mainstream doctors are unaware of.  The second discussion about the relationship between sugar and cancer by Lewis Cantley, PhD and the how sugar can actually feed cancer tumors.

If you drink soda, add sugar to your coffee, if you enjoy sweets and can’t seem to get enough of them, please spend the 14 minutes to watch this video.  I believe it will be an eye opening experience for you.

 

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Now is the time to act #GMOFreeCT

The transition of my family from processed foods to real foods began almost two years ago.  The journey has been incredible.  And it is not over.  We did not go cold turkey.  We’ve been transitioning slowly, allowing our young children to help in the process.

When I watched Robyn O’Brien’s TedX talk two years ago, I never dreamed I would be tweeting with her about the GMO labeling movement in Connecticut.  But here I am.  I was honored to have been asked to be on the Leadership Council of GMO Free CT this winter.  This is an amazing group of every day Connecticut citizens, fighting for our rights as consumers to know what is in our food.

All we are asking for is a label.  A label that tells us whether the ingredients we are eating are from genetically engineered seeds.  We’ve received a rap of being anti-science.  I always laugh when I hear that because we have Registered Dieticians, Chemists, Engineers and Farmers on our council.  We have people who used to work in the Pharmaceutical industry.  We have Lawyers and Ministers.  We have Techies.  We have Holitistic Coaches and Restauranteurs.  We are people.  We are not anti-science.  We are anti-bad science.  And that is what we believe has happened with genetically engineered foods.

Connecticut now joins with a coalition of 37 states who want to give consumers the right to know what is in their food. A right afforded to 62+ countries in the world.  Representative Phil Miller will sponsor a bill this legislative session.  If you are in Connecticut, please call your state legislator and senator and let them know you want GMOs labeled.

If you haven’t been involved in the political world, calling or writing your legislator can be intimidating.  Many people don’t because they are afraid of having to defend their belief.  But the legislators are paid to listen to YOU!  It is their job to represent you and your rights.  Now is the time to “stand in your power!”  Make a difference.

GMO Free CT gives great guidelines on how to do this:

 Please write and call both your senator and representative.  Your letters do not need to be long.  Simply provide them with the following information:

(1) I live in XXX town and am your constituent.

(2) I am writing because I want you to support the GMO labeling bill.

(3) I care about GMO labeling because . . . (i.e. I want the right to know what is in my food so I can make my own choices about what to feed my family, I want the right to know because I don’t want to support agriculture that is dependent on chemicals, I want the right to know because GMOs have never been proven safe by our government and there are numerous studies that link GMOs with infertility, gastrointestinal disease, and cancer)

(4) Urge your legislator to contact the leadership in their caucus and tell them to support GMO labeling.

If you are not sure who your Representative or Senator is, please use this great tool through the CGA.  You can also call their office by using these numbers:

House Democrats: 800-842-8267
House Republicans: 800-842-1423

Senate Democrats: 800-842-1420
Senate Republicans: 800-842-1421

If you are a reader outside of Connecticut, but have friends and family living in the state, please begin a dialogue with them.  Encourage them to learn more about GMOs.  Educational events are offered throughout the state and more events are being added daily.

This group works tirelessly for your right to know. If you want to help, call and/or write.  Is the biggest help you could give us.

 

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