The superfood company Nutiva hosted a screening of the documentary Seeds of Freedom at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday that brought together a small crowd of food justice activists and community members from across the Bay Area. The goal: to discuss the impact of genetically modified organisms on health and agricultural systems—and to support California’s Proposition 37. The controversial initiative on the November 6 ballot would require manufacturers to label all packaged foods containing GMO ingredients.
In this room, however, there was no contest.
“[The opposition to Prop 37] is spending a million dollars a day in complete lies,” said Nutiva founder John Roulac, wearing a bright blue “Yes on Prop 37” button pinned to a coffee-colored shirt made of hemp. Nutiva has donated $50,000 to the Proposition 37 campaign, he said, as part of the fight against “industrial goop disguised as food.”
Seeds of Freedom, a 30-minute film that addresses the impact that industrial agriculture and seed patents have had on traditional food systems around the world, was produced by the Gaia Foundation and the African Biodiversity Network and is free to view online. “So, you didn’t have to come out tonight,” the screening’s facilitator, Brad Nye, told the audience with a grin, “but thank you.”
This was the second of four Seeds of Freedom screenings with panel discussions in the Bay Area. Nutiva plans to continue the trend with an ongoing film series in 2013.
Panelists on Wednesday included Claire Hope Cummings, an environmental lawyer and author of Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds, and Pamm Larry, one of the grassroots initiators of Proposition 37.
Regardless of the election’s outcome, Larry said, “We’ve already won because we’ve changed the conversation across the country.” California would be the first state with this labeling requirement and supporters in 29 states have begun similar campaigns, she said.
TV ads supporting Prop 37 begin airing in the Bay Area on Friday, but Larry urged members of the audience to do their own campaigning. “When we connect with people and look in each other’s eyes, that is a far more powerful commercial than anything that comes out of a glowing box,” she said.
“I used to be a molecular biologist,” said audience member and Richmond resident Linda Kiehnau. “I understand these things very well. There’s no way to predict what’s going to happen” when it comes to genetic modification, she said. “Prop 37 is just a simple right to know. It’s appalling that it takes so much effort to get this kind of thing done.”