by Katherine Paul
Diana Reeves was furious when her state legislators caved into threats by Monsanto to sue the state of Connecticut if it passed a GMO labeling law. Lawmakers effectively told Connecticut’s voters, who had clearly expressed overwhelming support for GMO labeling, “oh well.”
Unlike her gutless state legislators who rolled over, Reeves is determined to keep the fight for transparency in GMO ingredients alive — and she’s taking her fight national. She’s started a group called GMO Free USA which plans to pressure food manufacturers into revealing which of their products contain GMOs. The ultimate goal is to organize national boycotts of those companies that refuse to switch to non-GMO ingredients.
GMO Free USA is Reeves’ first foray into activism. The mother of three was on the fast track at a major accounting firm when her son was diagnosed with cancer. She walked away from her job to take care of him. “I never looked back,” she said. Her son died before he turned five.
“This is one of those things that act as a catalyst, that bring people together,” Reeves said. “You learn to live with it, to try to make some good come of it, to find better ways to channel the grief.”
Having lost one child to disease, and with two daughters who were also suffering from health problems, Reeves became increasingly interested in the relationship between food and health, About 4 or 5 years ago, she began reading about the potential hazards of GMO. “I started sending emails to my friends, telling them to ‘say no to GMOs,” she said. “I was probably driving them all crazy.”
Then a few months ago, a friend introduced her to NonGMO Hartford, which eventually led to her involvement with the Connecticut Right to Know group which was pushing for a state labeling law. She began distributing information, and campaigning for HB 5117, which included a provision for mandatory GMO labeling.
With overwhelming public support for the Connecticut GMO labeling law, Reeves and others were sure it would pass. But at the last minute, under threat of a lawsuit by Monsanto, the bill was eviscerated behind closed doors, and the labeling provision removed before it was voted on by the House.
“I was so angry that our legislators didn’t do their job, that they didn’t stand up to the corporations – especially because the majority of voters wanted this law,” Reeves said. Just as she had channeled her grief, Reeves now channeled her anger. She decided that if the government wasn’t going to do its job, she would go directly after the food manufacturers.
She started GMO Free USA. The group’s first task is to attract a significant number of like-minded members (5,000+). Once they reach that critical mass, they’ll identify one company per week, and members will bombard that company with emails. The emailers will express concern about the health risks of GMOs, ask the company if they are sourcing GMO ingredients, and express their intent to boycott their products unless the GMOs are removed.
“We’re going to hit them from every angle,” Reeves said. “It’s going to be thousands of people speaking directly to food manufacturers.” In order to make their voices heard by companies with very high sales volume, Reeves said they will need to mobilize thousands of people to act independently.
So they’re trying to find a minimum of 5000 people who will commit to the campaign, before they begin emailing food manufacturers. “The more people who join this consumer email initiative, the more powerful the campaign will be,” she said.