OCA Cancels Boulder’s Peaceful Picket

June 10, 2011 | Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director

Organic Consumers Association


Earlier this year, OCA put out a call to retailers within the "natural" products industry, and "natural" products companies that have not taken steps to go non-GMO, to voluntarily label products that contain ingredients that may come from genetic engineering.

When we were invited to participate in a Non-GMO Summit in Boulder, we noted that many of the targets of our campaign would be in attendance including:

* "Natural" products retailers that sell unlabeled GMO foods (the National Cooperative Grocers Association and Whole Foods Market).

* A "natural" products supplier that distributes unlabeled GMO foods to these retailers (United Natural Foods, Inc.).

* A "natural" brand that sells unlabeled GMO foods (Kashi).

* A trade association that represents large multinational companies who sell "natural" and conventional products made with GMO ingredients (the Organic Trade Association).

We are happy to go to a meeting with these companies and trade groups. It is a wonderful opportunity to lobby them to do the right thing. We are very grateful for this chance for a face-to-face meeting with the companies we hope to influence.

But, given that, to date, even though these companies have received tens of thousands of letters from Millions Against Monsanto activists, they continue to ignore our demands, we thought that our presence inside the meeting would be stronger if we created a presence outside the meeting. We began organizing a picket line of consumer activists with signs and leaflets to gather outside the hotel where the meeting is being held.

Unfortunately, our plans for this peaceful expression of free speech has been met with hysterical misinterpretations.

We have been accused of targeting fellow pro-organic/anti-GMO NGOs, organic farmers, and 100% organic businesses and forcing our allies to dramatically "cross a picket-line" to attend the meeting.

That anyone would misconstrue our activism, which everyone knows has always been peaceful in word and deed, as somehow contributing to such things as death threats or violence is beyond belief.  However, we were disturbed to receive a letter from one of the organizers of the meeting pleading:

OTA has been receiving death threats at their office, people calling and telling them "defeat Monsanto or die" type stuff. They are humans, with families, and they are afraid. 

Many people are afraid to be present in Boulder, which may have become a target for violence which will not solve anything, but only prove tragic. 

Can you put out a call for safety, a call for peace? Can you ask that people remain safe? It may not work, because once the antagonism has been done, those with a different compass will do what they are compelled to do.

For the record, the Organic Consumers Association abhors threats and violence, and sees such things as obstacles to our stated goals of "Peace, Justice, Democracy, Health & Sustainability."

Nevertheless, we fear that if we continue with our plans for a peaceful picket, this malevolent misinterpretation will provide an excuse to organizations like the Organic Trade Association to skip this important meeting.

We don't want to miss the opportunity to directly engage the targets of our campaign to get the natural products industry to implement voluntary GMO labeling requirements and thereby kick Monsanto out of its stores, products and distribution networks.

Because we truly want the opportunity to engage in dialogue with those in the organic and "natural" products industry who knowingly produce, distribute or sell unlabeled genetically modified foods, we are calling off the picket.

Ronnie Cummins will attend the meeting, as he always planned to, and he will deliver a full report to anti-GMO activists as soon as possible after the meeting has concluded.