I had the opportunity to interview Pamm Larry at the recent Justice Begins with Seeds Conference in San Francisco. This grandmother has become the ‘original instigator of the genetically engineered labeling act in California,’ and is touring the state in her quest for consumer choice. Listen to the complete interview below. For a list of Larry’s upcoming events, and more information about her campaign, visit the Label GMOs website.
Listen to the Pamm Larry Interview and read the transcript.
For more information about the conference see San Francisco Justice Conference Plants A Seed.
Hi, my name’s Pamm Larry and I call myself the initial instigator of the genetically engineered labeling act in California, and I live in Chico California.
What made me decide to get involved with it was that I had been studying about studying about genetically engineered stuff for quite a few years, 6, 7, 8 years, and I was getting kind of depressed about the situation, almost catatonic, nervous and crying – I’m a grandma and a mom and wondering what kind of a world we’re leaving our children.
And concerned about the things we don’t know about genetically engineered foods and potential health risks. Which, we’ve been told they don’t exist and blah blah blah but I’ve been involved in alternative healing for a long time, and I don’t necessarily just go along with what science says because as my biology teacher told me a scientific fact is one that lasts longer than three years.
So my thing is that science is really important but we don’t know everything and it’s always evolving. So I was getting really catatonic and joined a consumers’ association to their truth in labeling campaign but it was taking them a long time to get it together, and…
1:10 I literally was in a hotel room here in San Francisco one morning at 7 o’clock January 20th, 7 o’clock in the morning in kind of that hover state, and that GMO thing came into the brain and then it was like boom – do an initiative. There wasn’t a voice, but it was just this knowing that this is what I wanted to do. And it was about getting the foods labeled but also about us remembering our power and how powerful we are and how in control of our food we actually are when we decide to take steps.
1:45 Some of them don’t have to do necessarily with the initiative and its goals. But one of the things that was kind of disconcerting to me was the lack of independent research. On the effects on the environment – which doesn’t have anything to do with the initiative – but the effects on our potential health risks. Just the incomplete independently run science. There’s a plethora of industry-run science. But again when someone has a fiscal incentive for a certain outcome I don’t tend to trust the information as much as I do – particularly when I discovered one of the main companies had lied in court and deterred our veterans from getting benefits from agent orange toxicity, soâ€¦ there’s a little bit of distrust going on there. And then reading about certain things with other countries and their lack of integrity around business practices leads me to believe that possibly they might not be reporting everything they need to be reporting or slanting the data or whatever. Just my thing.
2:50 I had my epiphany on January 20th, I took about 6 weeks to learn everything I needed to learn, develop a strategy and a website, I came out on march 10th, started one person on March 10th, then turned my eyes to Southern California because it has the largest population base – about 22 percent – so I went down there and started having meetings, and word grew and grew, and now I have another leader in southern California, we now have 65 leaders from foothills, modesto, Fresno, angel’s camp. I’ve been traveling all over the place, and
3:50 It’s been phenomenal just seeing the response of people who are ready to jump on this issue, who are out tabling/educating, standing there with a table of information and a banner, handing out non-GMO shopping guides, educating people about non-GMO foods, teaching them how to read labels, suggesting they watch some films, to educate themselves more, and then if they feel so moved to join the movement. Because we believe we have a right to know.
4:24 it’s kinda funny cause I’ve flown by the seat of my pants and gone with my intuition with a lot of it, then different kind of data has been backing it up – that that’s the best most correct message, but I think it’s probably the best and correct message and the one that I thought of because it’s the most basic one, and the one that’s true. We have a right to know. I was just at an heirloom seed conference and someone said - farmer’s right to grow, our right to know - so that’s kinda where we’re at right now. And I’m just really excited – I think one of the things that will be really interesting when this initiative is voted in – is that then we’ll be able to track. Because we don’t have a way to track health risks. So my concerns will be answered more. And it’s not that we think there might not be some kind of benefits somewhere some how but we just don’t have any indication when we look at the true hard facts.
5:20 I’m very optimistic, it’s just amazing when we’re out there tabling at different places the number of people who are disappointed they can’t sign the petition yet, who are like oh god you’re kidding me? They’re ready to roll. I don’t think we’re going to have a problem getting it on the ballot at all. I think once we get it on the ballot do we’re going to have a challenge, because we’re going to have a very loud bullhorn on the other end. They don’t want us to label and track the stuff because they’d be liable.
5:57 there’s a saying by one of the people who worked for one of the companies that if you put a label on a genetically modified food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it. So they’re frightened, they’re frightened. And if you go on Monsanto is one of the main companies that does this and they’re not the only and I’m certainly not trying to badmouth any one company but if you go on their website their policy about labeling is that we don’t really need labeling. Because we already have organic certification, we already have a voluntary certification program which is the non-GMO project, so we don’t really need labeling. So my thing is if they’re so accepting of that but they’re really not wanting this, why would that be? Is that because they see that this will work and this will really change stuff, whereas the other two might not really change stuff? I don’t know the answer to that question.
6:40 What do you say to people who say it’s economically unfeasible expensive, GMO is too endemic in our food system?
7:00 it’s not endemic in our food system. There are only 4 – actually five crops that it’s endemic with. And that’s the corn canola cotton soy and sugar beets. Those are mostly the processed foods – the majority of our foods are not genetically engineered at this point in time. There are a few others in our system in small amounts but the majority of our foods are not genetically engineered so we need to do this now so we’re not in 10 years talking about 20 other foods that are endemic and we can’t control.
7:30 The cost factor – the truth is that’s a really tricky subject. There are a few studies that indicate the costs won’t go up hardly at all, there’s one out of Oregon that we’re looking at that we’re going to ask them to elaborate on it – it was basically $10 more per person per year, possibly. The other thing we don’t think about – those 5 foods are commodities, we pay for them through our taxes. They’re subsidized heavily – not just here but abroad. So people might want to think about where there tax dollars are going, and the hidden costs.
8:15 What do you tell someone who comes to your table and doesn’t really think that they care or that this affects them personally?
We encourage them to keep an open mind. We don’t try to convince anybody because it isn’t any of our business what they want to do. This initiative is about choice – it’s about informed consumer choice, so if they want to eat genetically engineered food they’re more than entitled to. We do not. And we want to know which foods are and which aren’t.
So the initiative will be handed in next week, and today is the 16th of September, and os it will be handed in next week,a dn the state has it for 30-60 days, then we get it back – mid October early November I don’t know. We don’t have that control, the state has that control. We have 150 days officially to get…
9:08 504,760. We have to get more because 75% is a good qualifying rate but I’d like to shoot for a million signatures, because I think it would be great PR.