Some of the world’s leading non-GMO activists will be speaking—Vandana
Shiva and Percy and Louise Schmeiser (the farmers featured in Food, Inc.) as
well as non-GMO champions from the natural and organic industry, like Organic Valley’s Theresa Marquez and UNFI’s Michael Funk. There will be reggae
music by The Archives and circus arts. We want to make it fun and festive, so
that people can engage in a positive, upbeat way. It’s a serious topic, but it
doesn’t have to be depressing.
OP: What are some ways that people and companies are getting involved?
Westgate: Well, some like Nature’s Path are going all out. They will be flying out
employees to cover the whole 16-day march and post social media updates.
They’re also providing samples at all the retailers along the route and sponsor-
Shelf tags are a big
part of Non-GMO
Month. Some stores
like Whole Foods
have gone all out
with major Non-
in the heartland. There are also events
like a GMO T-shirt contest put on by
the Institute for Responsible Technology, and Allergy Kids will also be posting content for families. The
Right2Know March will obviously be
featured heavily. Non-GMO Month
gives some additional structure to the
movement. People may not be able to
go all out on this issue 365 days a year,
but they can certainly put a strong
focus on it for one month, and that’s
all it takes to educate tons more
ing a breakfast and speaking engagements. We understand that many cannot
take two weeks off of work to do the whole march, though—thus our focus is
on getting as many people as possible to the two rallies in New York and D.C.
These events will get the most media attention, so if a lot of people can make it
to at least one of these, then we will create a lot of awareness.
Also, Eric Nies of MTVs The Real World and The Grind has offered his access to
the entertainment industry to help with the march. He is planning on working
with a PR firm in New York to produce videos to raise awareness about the
march. Video and social media are going to be an important part of this event.
Many people who are passionate about this issue will not be able to physically be
at the march, so this gives them a way to be involved. People as well as companies can help spread the word by reposting these videos on Facebook and Twitter. And, of course, if you cannot be there, it’s never too late to donate funding
or products, or even host a local event!
OP: How has Non-GMO Month evolved?
Westgate: We conceived of Non-GMO Month last year, and at first we really just
focused on engaging retailers. We had nearly 600 stores participate last October
by hanging shelf talkers by Non-GMO Project Verified products, providing samples, handing out our shopping guides, showing films and bringing in speakers.
That’s still an important focus, but we also saw how quickly the idea of Non-GMO Month caught on, so this year we launched www.nongmomonth.org,
where individuals, NGOs and businesses can create and list their own events.
For example, Berlin Natural Bakery posted their Right to Know Ohio event
( www.righttoknowohio.com), which focuses on educating farming communities
OP: What are some of the other efforts
going on and how are these organizations
Westgate: I really feel like everyone is
starting to realize that we absolutely
must work together. There was a very
inspiring meeting in Boulder in June,
with about 60 representatives from the
organic community—farmers, NGOs,
businesses—all spending two days talking about GMOs. Coming out of that
meeting, we created a working group
for a Communications Toolkit, which I
am chairing, and also groups to focus
on farmer liability, labeling and seed
issues. The working group chairs are
going to be presenting at The Organic
Summit in September, and hosting
open meetings at All Things Organic
and Expo East that same week. It’s
going to be a great chance to build
One of the ideas for the Communications Toolkit that came out of the
Boulder meeting was to find agreed
upon ways to talk about the “tricky topics.” So with stuff that we probably
won’t ever all agree on—testing,
thresholds, things like that—we can be
honest about our positions without undermining what someone else is
doing. We simply can’t afford to
squander our energy being adversarial
with each other, and I think everyone
is really starting to get that and come