Here, Non-GMO Project Executive Director Megan Westgate provides details about the upcoming Right 2 Know March and offers tips about how to get involved.
Q: Why do you feel now is the right time to hold the Right 2 Know March?
A: There is incredible momentum building in opposition to GMOs. More and more people are finding out what GMOs are, and how common they are in our food supply, and they want to take action. Americans are waking up, and starting to say “If Europeans don’t allow this experimental technology into the food they give their children, why should we?” Genetic engineering has failed to deliver on its promises, and besides the health risks, it’s starting to cause huge problems for farmers and the environment. With the public outrage over the USDA decisions on GMO alfalfa and sugar beets, and the growing concern about GMO salmon, now felt like the right time to give people a coordinated, empowering way to express their concerns and stand up for the right to know.
Q: How would you describe the purpose of the March? What do you hope it will achieve?
A: The primary purpose is to raise awareness. Although the GMO issue is starting to get some mainstream media coverage (just last week CNN Money ran a broadcast on the problems with Bt corn), a lot of Americans still don’t know what a GMO is. Over and over we see that as soon as people do learn about genetic engineering, they don’t like it. There’s zero benefit to the consumer, so why take the risk of eating something that hasn’t been thoroughly tested (especially when it causes all kinds of alarming symptoms in lab animals)? Biotech companies know that people have an intuitive distrust of GMOs, and that’s why they don’t want them to be labeled. Whether or not we can get mandatory labeling in place, the key thing is to get the public educated and demanding non-GMO. The marketplace will respond. This march is going to bring the GMO issue to lots of Americans who had no idea about this experiment going on in our food supply.
Q: The March is slated to take place between New York City and Washington. How did you decide to start and end the March in those locations?
A: We need D.C. to hear the people on this issue. If we want politicians to go out on a limb against the incredibly wealthy and influential biotech lobby, they need to be sure that they have the support of the masses. So finishing the march in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, was really important. New York seemed like an ideal place to start, since we want to launch with a bang. We have some great speakers lined up for New York—Michael Hansen, Anna Lappé, Sara Snow, Dr. Alan Greene, Ashley Koff and Frances Moore Lappé—it’s going to be a very informative and media worthy kick-off. Then in D.C. we have non-GMO luminaries like Vandana Shiva and Percy & Louise Schmeiser, plus music and a moms' breakfast and panel that Nature’s Path is organizing.
Q: How many people do you anticipate being involved in the March?
A: We expect thousands to participate along the way, with up to a couple hundred people marching most or all of the route.
Q: Will there be events taking place in addition to the March?
A: October is Non-GMO Month, so there will be stuff happening all over the country. People are organizing rallies in their local communities, and there are a number of conferences and panels scheduled throughout the month (and even leading up to Non-GMO Month—for example the Right to Know Ohio event in September). There’s a Non-GMO Month calendar at www.nongmomonth.org/events. The march itself is routed through many communities, stopping at natural food stores almost every day, so there will be lots of chances for people to connect even if they don’t actually do any walking.
Q: How can individuals and/or organizations get involved?
A: They can sign up on the Right2Know March website (www.right2knowmarch.com). Also, if they can’t attend the march but want to do something local, even something as simple as a film screening with 10 friends in their living room, they can list their event on our Non-GMO Month calendar on www.nongmomonth.org.
Q: What is the best way for people to stay up-to-date about issues related to the March?
A: The Right2Know March website (www.right2knowmarch.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/right2knowmarch) are great ways to get connected prior to and during the march, and www.nongmomonth.org is a fantastic place to connect during all of Non-GMO Month. Ongoing, the Non-GMO Project’s Facebook page is the best source on the web for regular updates about GMO news and opportunities for action (www.facebook.com/nongmoproject).
About Megan Westgate
Non-GMO Project Executive Director Megan Westgate is a strong advocate of informed consumer choice and healthy food. She helped start the Project after her work at Food Conspiracy Co-op in Tucson, AZ showed her firsthand how much trouble shoppers had figuring out how to avoid GMOs. The Non-GMO Project is the only 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated exclusively to the non-GMO mission, and is the founder of Non-GMO Month. Using practical tools such as North America's only third party standard for GMO avoidance, a Product Verification Program, a Non-GMO Project Verified seal, and a suite of outreach materials for retailers, the Project is successfully leveraging the marketplace to protect a non-GMO food supply and respect the consumer's right to know.