You've heard it before: the idea that in today's world, the only way to make a difference is to "vote with your dollar." The theory says that if we all choose products that support our values, like buying organic foods and avoiding GMOs, then supposedly, the market will shift to match those values, and the problems that concern us will fix themselves.
But this approach leads us down a treacherous path: because if dollars equal votes, we will never be able to “out-vote” large corporations with our daily spending. In reality, corporate influence dictates our choices in the marketplace, leaving individual people with little power.
Voting with Your Dollar Isn’t Enough
In the food industry, a handful of powerful companies control most of our food supply, creating an illusion of choice in the grocery store. Even many natural or organic brands are owned by larger food companies, restricting our options in ways that are hard to see. The only way to create meaningful systemic change is to organize and pressure our elected officials to create laws to enforce the changes we need.
The “Denying Americans the Right to Know” (DARK) Act is an urgent example of why we need to organize for political solutions. If passed, this bill will make state GMO labeling laws, like the one about to go into effect in Vermont, illegal. This further disproves the myth that we can create change with our consumption habits: even if the majority of Americans that want GMO labeling wanted to only purchase foods without (or with) GMOs, how do we know which is which?
According to the New York Times, over 90% of Americans want GMO labeling. However, The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, and other Big Food companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying for the DARK Act, which would block labeling efforts. Millions of Americans have shown that they want more, not less, information when deciding what to feed themselves and their families, but without holding our elected officials accountable to their constituents they may just side with the big corporations.
Organizing for Change
But these companies are making decisions based solely on what’s best for their profits—with no regard for consumers’ wishes. Consumers can’t possibly outspend these companies by “voting with their dollars.” If we stand together, we can win the fight.
We must build people power to demand the change we wish to see. When we turn out in large numbers to hold our elected officials accountable, they have to take notice. Building pressure can be as simple as writing an email or making a phone call.
This is why we need to urge our senators to reject the DARK Act and any compromise that results in anything less than mandatory on-package GMO labeling. Last month, the Senate blocked the first attempt to pass the DARK Act—a huge win for people who care about their food—but the fight is far from over.
Opponents of GMO labeling will surely try to introduce new measures to push this bill through. These could look like QR codes on packages that you have to scan with a smartphone (which most people can’t or don’t know how to do), or voluntary labeling (which is what we already have, and companies don’t label).
We need to hold our senators accountable and urge them to reject the DARK Act. Only with continued pressure can we beat corporate interests and achieve victory. There are fewer than 70 days until the Vermont law requiring GMO labels goes into effect, which means companies are in a panic to pass the DARK Act.
It’s critical that your Senators hear from you today: Tell your senators to stand up for GMO labeling today.