See you at Expo West—Take Pictures and Call Your Senators

ew16-logo-lgWho needs to travel the world to eat, learn and network when you can go to Expo West in balmy Anaheim? If you’re attending Natural Products Expo West like me, it’s exciting to see all the new products and learn more about the issues and opportunities facing our industry. While we network in sunny Southern California, there is much important activity going in Washington DC, and we must remain diligent in our engagement. I give you a call to action, even while you’re traipsing and sampling your way through the show.

Let’s protect our right to know this week while we celebrate the growth of organic all while attending the Natural Products Expo West!

To the latter point, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is hosting a social media campaign encouraging attendees and exhibitors to #FindOrganic. Don’t forget to include #ExpoWest and post your delicious photos of organic food, products and businesses on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re an OTA member, you can earn extra points by participating. For each photo shared, participants are entered to win an ultimate organic prize pack full of organic goodies donated by participating OTA members. This #FindOrganic campaign will increase visibility for organic on the show floor, and help us create opportunities for connecting with organic trade, media and consumer audiences. You can start by downloading the communications kit.

Don’t get too carried away with your photos because you also need to call your senators!

Here is where things stand. Earlier last week, it appeared that Kansas Senator Pat Roberts had at least 50 Capitol Hillvotes in favor of the DARK Act, so it’s time to focus on preventing 10 Democrats (and a few Republicans) from backing it. We also have the potential to convince a few of those senators to reconsider their support before the likely floor vote in April.

As of last Friday, it appeared that Senator Roberts now does not have the 60 votes necessary to end debate and pass his bill, as is.  This is of course very good news. However, because a number of the farm state Democrats are under huge pressure from mainstream Ag and Food interests in their states to support some kind of effort that delays or blocks the VT law (VT 120) from taking effect on July 1st, Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly has put forward an alternative to Roberts’ bill that might enable enough Dems to join the bill to get it passed. Senator Donnelly’s proposal would require companies to put a QR code on their packages if voluntary measures fail to work for consumers.

I personally remain adamantly opposed to the substitution of a QR code because I feel that it is still an attempt by big food companies to keep consumers in the dark, and so it is critical that we all communicate to tell senators that Donnelly’s proposal fails to give consumers what we want.

Also of note, Senator Merkley has introduced a separate bill that would, in fact, seek to replace VT 120 with a stronger mandatory national labeling bill!  While our first priority remains to stop the Roberts bill and allow VT 120 to take effect, Senator Merkley’s bill would require labeling on more foods than VT 120 and would apply to all foods, not just foods sold in Vermont. So while we all should try to stop the Roberts bill, we must also support the Merkley bill as it would get us mandatory nationwide labeling.

It is essential that our senators hear from folks like you that we are opposed to the Roberts Bill, even with the Donnelly amendment, and that we support Merkley’s bill.

The moment for all of us to communicate to our senators about our strong opposition to the Roberts Bill, to Donnelly’s QR code labeling “alternative,” and our support for Senator Merkley’s mandatory labeling bill have now arrived. If you can possibly set aside an hour this week to call your senators, it could make a huge difference in the outcome of this fight.

So it all comes down to this. Years of our work to promote GMO transparency will either succeed or fail in the next month. Your calls now could make a big difference.
Call your senators now via the main switchboard 202 224 3121.

If you don’t know who your senators are, visit https://www.opencongress.org/people/zipcodelookup on the web.

Then keep on snapping pictures!

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