A little history on how we got here...
When GMO Free Lancaster County first came together, we were invested in the legislative process and felt that if we showed up to meet with our legislators, if we wore suits and smiled and said all of the right things and presented all of the right materials, that they would support our rights to safe food, air and water. Our hope was to cultivate cosponsors for the PA labeling bills, SB653 and HR1770, and get these bills up for vote and into law.
We eagerly set out to to do this by meeting with every single house representative, senator, and congressman in our county. We wore suits, we smiled, we practiced what we were going to say.
But at the end of the day, we were begging.
People say that meeting with your legislator is empowering, but we mostly found the opposite to be true. "Hire a lobbyist", one legislator said. "I'm a freshman member so I can't put my name on anything controversial", said another.
And we weren't even begging for our ideal vision of what our local food and farming economy should look like. We were begging to simply label poison as poison. We were begging for the mere opportunity to make an informed choice on the foods we eat and feed our families. Even in the best case scenario, our water would still be contaminated with glyphosate and other pesticides and herbicides, and our farmers would still be vulnerable to cross-contamination.
After a particularly disheartening meeting with a house representative, I was up late scouring the internet for alternatives. It can't be this hard to assert our rights as a community to protect our soil, our children, and future, I thought. We shouldn't have to hire a lobbyist or be understanding about.html a legislators' need to align cosponsorship with the majority. WE live here. WE should have a say in what happens here; in what happens to us. On a whim, I googled "community rights" and up popped the Pennsylvania Community Rights Network, and the contact information for the organizer, Chad Nicholson. I emailed him that night and didn't really expect to hear back. But I did hear back. The very next morning.
Chad opened our eyes to a whole new way of thinking. Instead of accepting that our community would be harmed by GMOs and their associated chemicals and being left to attempt to regulate or label that harm, we could (gasp!) refuse to be harmed all together.
Arguably the most corrupt part of our legal system right now is that corporations can use the law and the government to trump public health and environmental protections. Kai Hushke, CELDF organizer for the Northwest and Hawaii, gets to the heart of the issue in his piece, "Why the People of Hawaii Can't Say 'No' to GMOs":
Corporations trampling the rights of local communities is no surprise. But if there is a surprise, it’s that anti-GMO activists, their environmental attorneys and local elected officials are still unable to confront the uncomfortable truth — that the people of Hawaii do not have the power to self-govern, including the power to say “no” to GMOs. Our current structure of law ignores the right to local self-government — yet, time and time again, activists run to this structure in the hopes that it will eventually recognize that the rights of people and nature must be placed above corporate control.
The current structure of law actually prevents us from protecting ourselves and the environment and it must be challenged. It is not a tool we can use to protect our communities because it was never designed to protect us in the first place. Communities in Oregon, among 150 others in the nation, have begun to draft Community Bills of Rights laws at the county level. Hushke asserts, and I agree, that this "refocuses the struggle on what is truly at stake- the rights of the community majority to advance visions of sustainability over corporate control".
So instead of begging our legislators to label GMOs, we are now trying to challenge the very structure of the law and create our own Community Bill of Rights around our ideal local food economy. They say that in any negotiation, you should shoot high and be prepared to be shot down. If we don't attempt to enact our boldest, most beautiful vision, we will never see it actualized. We invite you to envision with us, to dream with us, and to work together to create a Community Bill of Rights ordinance to protect Lancaster County from GMOs and their chemical onslaught. This is OUR community, after all. If we don't fight for it, who will? ( hint: I'm not counting on the guy who told me he couldn't cosponsor anything controversial). I'm counting on YOU. We're counting on you.
Founder and Director
GMO Free Lancaster County
GMO Free Lancaster County continues to support and applaud the excellent work being done on the legislative front, however we have shifted our particular focus to that which we feel is most essential to our health, prosperity,and well-being: a community's right to local self-governance.