Wave of GMO Labeling Victories Emboldens Movement to Take Back Food Democracy
The East Coast has been getting most of the attention lately on the state by state effort to label genetically-engineered food. Vermont recently passed a bill and New York State’s bill is now moving. But let’s not forget about the western states, which are also critical to this fight. Right to know advocates in Oregon and Colorado are currently gathering signatures to place measures on the November ballot. Both of these states have a good shot at convincing voters to pass GMO labeling.
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Keep in mind that a lawsuit by industry challenging the Vermont law is imminent, and lobbyists are continuing their efforts to undercut states’ rights in Washington D.C. The best way to head off a watered down federal “solution” is to show the strength of the movement at the state level. As we learned in California and Washington (states that narrowly lost GMO labeling initiatives despite being massively outspent) every debate draws more attention to the issue and weakens Big Biotech’s undue influence over our food supply.
Keep the Momentum Going
Just last month, voters in Jackson County, OR, approved a ballot measure (resoundingly, 66 to 34 percent) to not allow the planting of GMO crops. That, combined with three east coast states that have thus far passed GMO labeling bills—Connecticut, Maine and Vermont—is creating a huge headache for the biotech and junk food industries.
But it’s still not enough. Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now!, and co-chair of California’s Prop 37, says he’s always believed in, and fought for, a 50 state strategy.“With three eastern states passing GMO labeling bills in the past year, every state we win matters more than ever. It’s now the West Coast’s turn to lock down mandatory GMO labeling for Americans. When Oregon and Colorado pass this fall, the FDA and politicians in Washington D.C. won’t be able to ignore the issue any longer.”
Marion Nestle agrees that the states are vital to this fight. She told me:
With a federal government completely dug in on resisting GMO labeling—something the public has demanded for more than 20 years—campaigns at the state level are more important than ever. If enough states pass GMO labeling bills, the industry will beg the government to step in and pass some kind of uniform labeling law. Then the trick will be to make it a law that respects the public’s concerns.
Watch out for Colorado
Living in the San Francisco area it’s easy to think you’re in the center of the good food universe. But on a recent visit to Boulder, CO, I discovered a thriving network of companies, media outlets and professionals dedicated to promoting organic and natural products.
I was also happy to learn about a passionate effort to label GMO foods in the Rocky Mountain state. Given that Boulder is the home of several enormously successful organic and natural food companies such as The Hain Celestial Group, White Wave and Aurora Organic Dairy, just to name a few, the ballot measure is a great opportunity for these industry leaders stepping up to the plate. (See this list of sponsors of the Naturally Boulder networking group.)
A few local companies are on board, including Boulder Brands and retailers Natural Grocers and Alfalfa’s. (I visited Alfalfa’s and was impressed with the store’s GMO labels on shelves, but was told they would rather see mandatory GMO labeling.) Also, just last week, Whole Foods Market approved allowing the campaign to collect signatures at the retailer’s Colorado stores, which should boost the effort.
According to the campaign, “A voter win in Colorado—a renowned center of eco-awareness and healthy lifestyles —will be another critical milestone in GMO labeling.” I couldn’t agree more. The effort continues to gather steam, with 40,000 signatures so far, but an additional 100,000 are needed by the end of July to qualify for the November ballot. Larry Cooper, a leading proponent of Right to Know Colorado thinks his state has a great shot at winning this November. “Coloradans are an active group that stay healthy and care about what we eat; a high percentage of Coloradans eat natural and organic foods,” he told me.
Alan Lewis is director of special projects for Natural Grocers, a strong supporter of GMO labeling. I ask him why, as a retailer, this issue is so important. He told me that his store’s “customers want to know what is in their food because they understand how this can affect their health directly and through environmental impacts. They also want to return to a democratic food system, for which they are willing to pay a reasonable premium to support producers who share their values.” He also thinks Colorado can be a model for the nation because “Colorado regulates industry with a very light hand.” He added: “The GMO labeling initiative here takes a practical approach that does not threaten businesses. It merely allows consumers to be able to choose what they eat. When it passes, it will become the model for federal regulation because every government official will be able to support it.”
While California and Washington both suffered narrow defeats at the ballot box, their momentum and energy has spread to other states. And combined with the recent victories on the East Coast, wins in Oregon and Colorado would spell doom for Monsanto and Big Food’s efforts to undermine transparency in our food supply.
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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