When Hardy Eville was told he couldn’t sign a petition to label genetically modified products, he took to the streets. Well, to the classrooms and school hallways at least.
At 9 years old, Hardy wasn’t old enough to add his name to the list of current voters. Instead, Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard set him up with a banner to collect signatures of future voters.
“I was like, what the heck, that’s unfair,” Hardy said. “And then I made a kid petition and brought it to school and a bunch of people signed it.”
Hardy collected upwards of 100 signatures to add to the 3,350 that will head to Boston on Tuesday in an effort to require labels for food and seeds that use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). At a celebration of the petitions at Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven on Monday afternoon, Rep. Tim Madden commended Slow Food for their outreach.
“This is no small number of signatures,” Mr. Madden said. “It’s pretty incredible.”
There are currently five pieces of legislation related to labeling of GMO products. The bills are now under review by two committees. Mr. Madden is a co-sponsor of one of the bills.
Mr. Madden said it was a “natural fit” for him to support the legislation.
“It’s all about letting us know,” Mr. Madden said. “We’re not telling you that you can’t do it. Some of these genetically modified products are there for a reason. We have places that have droughts that need to have some science behind it so we can feed the world. But the more we know, the more we can make sure we’re feeding them with something they want to put inside their bodies.”
GMO labeling bills have been filed before but never made it out of committee hearings for a full legislative vote. This time, Mr. Madden was “cautiously optimistic.”
“A lot of my interest in this came from the Vineyard,” he said. “I’ve seen the interest of local farmers here not only with the seeds but also with food.”
Petition drives are “extremely effective” in persuading the legislature, Mr. Madden said.
“The important thing to remember is local advocacy makes all the difference,” he said. “We need to reach out to other parts of the commonwealth so they agree to support the bill as well.”
The petition drive was led by Slow Food’s subcommittee, GMO Free. Mr. Madden thanked committee member Nan Doty for leading the charge. Slow Food leader Jan Buhrman said the GMO Free mission was a “good place for Slow Food.”
“We stand behind our mission that food is good, clean and fair, and we really believe all people across the world are entitled to having food that is labeled and knowing what is in their food,” she said. “The first step is labeling.”
After presenting the binders of signatures, Hardy unfurled his banner that read “Label GMOs in Our Food, We Have a Right to Know.” The signatures varied in size and color.
“That’s impressive, young man,” Mr. Madden said to Hardy.
As the small crowd turned to refreshments, Hardy tugged at his mother’s side.
“Can we go back to school now?” he said. There was a very cool movie screening in science class he needed to get back to.