Activists gather signatures, pass out brochures at events across U.S.
By STEVE BROWN
Food activists in Washington state added their voice to a chorus of others across the country March 26 to support requiring labels on genetically modified foods.
The Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit organization based in Minnesota, coordinated dozens of the rallies.
Michaele Blakely, an organic crop and livestock farmer near Carnation, Wash., helped organize the rally near Seattle's Pike Place Market.
"It wasn't as big as I expected, probably because of the short notice," she said. "There were about 100 to 150 people there."
The event was primarily to pass along information and gather signatures on petitions. The activists want the USDA to set require labels on products that have GMO ingredients.
"The people who feel GMOs aren't a good thing are pretty passionate," Blakely said. "There was a lot of positive response. There were some signs, and people were passing out brochures."
Kia Armstrong, manager of Nash's Organic Produce in Sequim, said more than a hundred people gathered at the downtown rally in her town.
"What the rally showed me is we really need to step up community education," she said. "A lot of people just had no clue, and they were thanking us for being there."
Blakely said GMO labeling is the law in Europe. "We're not looking to ban GMOs but to allow American people to know what they're eating."
According to the national organization, the goal is to collect 1 million signatures -- at least 2,300 from each congressional district -- for its Millions Against Monsanto Campaign on World Food Day, Oct. 16.
Also planned are a grassroots effort to get grocery stores to label foods with GMO ingredients and a larger effort seeking local, state and federal laws to make such labels mandatory.
The Organic Consumers Association also demands independent, transparent, long-term studies on the safety of GMOs for animals, plants and humans.
Tilth Producers of Washington, an advocacy group for the state's organic farmers, helped organize the rallies.