Saturday, May 5, 2012

DOWN FOR THE COUNT


SNAP, CRACKLE, AND MUSH
Temecula, CA – Welcome back for Part II of my Two and a Half Cats story POV of the Occupy May 1st (#M1GS) event. For me Occupy is one big top that holds all the acts of the economic mural ‘the box’ in OLA showed. Once again two separate events happened back to back in the push-back revolution against ‘the System.’

On May 2nd a crowd of 300 people with just two police officers and half the TV coverage in attendance, witnessed 232,409 names, LA’s portion of the 971,126 collected names to place a grassroots anti-GMO inspired initiative on the November ballot, get turned in. On June 20th, the tally results are expected and the initiative number will get issued in July. The following report gives an embedded ‘gonzo’ POV of the event which was orchestrated with the precision of a Swiss railway conductor. In the terms of organization, the anti-GMO crowd represent the Yippie wing [minus the violence] of the Occupy Movement, though at present the two groups haven’t been formally introduced. The idea to ‘occupy’ your existence in the face of federal intrusion is a war being fought on many fronts. We are all-one, or none.

Although the evil of GMOs was known to all the OLA campers that I talked to in various degrees, area leader John Diaz, was the only official representation of the organization pushing for a ballot initiative to require labeling of GMOs on all products sold in California. Though there were many political causes and groups, the GMO cause is the most noteworthy because much of the evil agenda is already in place here, Canada, and in Africa. Both China and Russia label GMOs, and we don’t, thanks to the federal government. Due to the out-of-the-box political thinking of John, his cause and Occupy crossed paths. This was my first peek inside the political wing of people who play a good game of tennis and read.

‘Today in the United States, by the simple act of feeding ourselves, we unwittingly participate in the largest experiment ever conducted on human beings. Massive agro-chemical companies like Monsanto (Agent Orange) and Dow (Napalm) are feeding us genetically-modified food, GMOs, that have never been fully tested and aren't labeled. This small handful of corporations is tightening their grip on the world's food supply—buying, modifying, and patenting seeds to ensure total control over everything we eat. We still have time to heal the planet, feed the world, and live sustainably. But we have to start now!’ - THE GMO FILM PROJECT

Having caught up with John on the run in the real OC before nightfall on the 1st, I awoke with the second cat of this story. Chelsea is 16 but as agile as a cat twelve and fairly private, so the sight and heft of her on me in the morning was a surprise. Two hours later the cat had the house all to herself as Suzanne left for work, and John drove to pick up the third member of our troupe, a gentile little gray-haired woman very spry and sharp of wit named Louise, in her 80s. Her husband is a retired Indian doctor in his nineties. Louise is also recently married (2005). Today however, she is very angry at her husband for not telling her that he knew about GMO self-replicating crops and how they ruined much of India’s agriculture. Hubby said that he was done being an activist, to which Louise replied, “Well, I’m just getting started.” And off she went to jump in the truck between two guys, one a total stranger.

We arrived at Volunteer [an aptly named thoroughfare, I paused], and found the correct parking lot under again overcast but not threatening skies. This front of the revolution is the ‘uptown’ section. The nature of the involved here is more refined and professional. Whereas Occupy LA had a dusty gypsy girl always dancing with a hoop, this cleaner and slightly more able-bodied crowd that grew to around 300 had an artist named Kerne Erickson who wove through the loose multitude on a unicycle with a helium balloon attached to his gray ponytail. Having both hands free, Kerne carried a sign stating a valid point against GMOs, see recent stories for links or Google. More than just a smooth talker who almost had me convinced into trying a unicycle ride, Kerne is the editor-in-chief of the LabelGMOs Orange County Newsletter.

On the ride down John had filled Louise and me in on the latest development in this evil field of study. In an effort to produce a more palatable product for the ethanol market, Monsanto has developed a corn seed that doesn’t need FDA approval since it is not meant for the food market. This new seed produces corn that self-digests itself so that processing the corn for ethanol is faster, cheaper. The problem here is that this seed is also self-replicating, meaning that any spill-over pollen will contaminate neighboring fields [also a very successful legal way to sue small farmers for their land]. WOTS is that the cereal makers are up in arms over the possibility of consumers buying a box of snap, crackle, and mush, as that is what corn from self-digesting would become. So the anti-GMO camp picks up a powerful market ally.

The LA Registrar Recorder/County Clerk county seat located just south of downtown in Norwalk is a Mecca of commerce. Busier than a Chicago bus station on Friday afternoon, with people loudly hawking to service you in obtaining your fictitious business license, this place is the busiest event location I’ve ever been to. Through the steady flow of cars and trucks bringing people to and fro to register names and titles slowly driving through the parking lot lanes looking for a open stall, we found our first group contact being early, a signature of John’s professionalism. The small group of 10 or so soon grew into 30 or more as helium balloons were blown up for those in attendance. 

Then we were requested to move our group from in front of the main entrance over to the right [and windy] side of the massive government structure. This city building is not a skyscraper but is impressive in its own right. There were no helicopters overhead this time, a noted change from twenty-four hours before. Another change was in the perception of the group’s organization. Instead of a battalion of police officers and a company of squad cars, only a lone uniform and a white shirt officially observed our gathering despite the cameras and crews and balloons.

After gathering at ten in the morning, milling around in small groups visiting or picking up ‘freebies’ like buttons, bumper stickers, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic 18-in-1 hemp Peppermint Pure Castile Soap from tables set up, many indie filmmakers and press interviewed the contingent. As if part of my karma, so to speak, I got to pass out free livid lime-green ‘no-GMO’ 3-sleeved t-shirts to volunteers who hadn’t received one in the past. A score again made possible by ‘quick on his feet’ John. Louise roamed the crowd collecting signatures for the GMO-OMG.com film crew release form. The opening remarks started promptly at eleven am with a genuine ‘thank you’ to the volunteers over the paid name takers they once employed. 

After an unprecedented 1.1 million comments were delivered to FDA, the official response was: “…We have not been able to reach a decision on your petition….We hope to be able to complete the review of your petition and respond to your request in the near future.”

That explanation wasn’t good enough for the nutritionally minded women, vegans, foodies, older people, artists, food activists/authors like Marilyn Peterson [Vegan – Bite-by-Bite], and moms who make up this revolution demographic. On May 2nd at county seats all over California petition names were being turned in by volunteers and their area leaders to be tallied by June 20 for issuance of a ballot initiative number sometime in July, completing stage two. Then comes the stage three, an education of the TV watching general voting public.

‘California is poised to be the first state with mandatory GMO labeling laws through the 2012 California Ballot Initiative process. Polls show support to get this initiative on the ballot & voted in. Over 80% of those polled supported mandatory labeling. A win for the California Initiative would be a huge blow to biotech and a huge victory for food activists. Monsanto and their minions have billions invested in GMOs and they are willing to spend millions to defeat this initiative. California is the 8th largest economy in the world. Labeling laws in CA will affect packaging and ingredient decisions nation-wide. The bill has been carefully written to ensure that it will not increase costs to consumers or producers.’ – Millions Against Monsanto
 
After the opening remarks by Zuri Allen, Sasha Earnhardt Gold delivered a poignant common sense speech that was unpretentious as it was compassionate. She smiled when I told her it ‘was a mom speech’. Dixie Hall gave a history of her involvement in the right to know/GMO fight which began fourteen years ago. Dixie traced the financial links and tie-ins. Go here to read them for yourself or refer to past stories as most have appeared here also in reports.
  
From the nutritional side to the money grubbing through yearly patent fees, herbicide sales, and government subsidies to the history of the fight to label GMOs to the scariness of genetic manipulation of the food supply, the GMO villainy was laid bare. Channels 7, 4, 5, and 34 Telemundo covered the event which concluded with the official accepting of the cart containing the (24) 37lbs boxes after the photo op of John on his bike with attached cart and Kerne with unicycle as the cart bookends.

Epilogue

Though I wasn’t certain of the details, I was convinced that I could bounce from event to event and still dip back home. Leaving ‘down for the count’ after the name turn-in, I caught a ride back to Hollywood or Hollyweird, as some like to call it, with Cheri and Teri (no kin to Sherri and Terri of The Simpsons) and saw the ‘half’ cat in the shadows that night. Only five or six months old and ‘rescued’ with a face shaped like a Manx, she falls on the ‘save something for the sequel, Rocky’ category. BTW, May 14-20 is GMO Awareness Week.
(All emphasis – Ed)

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