December 5, 2014 by Pat Thomas
When we were setting up Beyond GM we spoke to friendly MPs – those who understood the madness of taking the UK down the GM route – who told us one reason GM was not on the political agenda was because nobody ever wrote to their MP about it.
They also told us that pro forma petitions, the ones that encourage thousands of people to send the same letter to their MPs, have become a self-defeating exercise since, in political and policy circles, 1000 letters saying the same thing is counted as a single letter from one person.
As such, even though it feels good at the time to press a button and ‘campaign’ for something, the power of push-button activism to persuade the powers that be is greatly diminished.
All of these things were in our minds when we began to devise our campaigns and set up our websites. We knew we were asking our supporters to do a little bit more, whether it be taking a photo of themselves holding up the GM Free Me card or writing a personal email to MPs when sending them a copy of the Letter from America. It may take a minute rather than 30 seconds. But those 30 seconds’ extra effort can make all the difference.
We are not a political campaign in the sense that we are not lobbyists, but we do believe in the political process and in the importance of dialogue between voters and those who have set themselves the task of overseeing national policy.
GM is a particularly interesting democratic issue because in the UK, as in most countries, the majority view of the public is that we don’t want GMOs on our farms or in our foods. But the actions of our elected representatives are directly in conflict with this public mandate and in many countries are pushing ahead with the GMO agenda which, studies show, is causing damage to our ecosystem, our farmland, and our bodies.
As our activities roll out you will see that all of our websites include a facility for writing to your MP to express your own concerns about GMOs.
The Letter from America, in particular, has generated a large number of letters to MPs, probably more than our MPs have seen in many years. And we have been lucky enough to see some of the MPs’ replies (see examples right).
Or rather THE reply since what we have seen so far, have ironically, been pro forma letters spouting the party line. It is ironic that whilst our MPs ignore these types of communications from voters – they feel quite comfortable sending pro forma replies to citizens that have expressed genuine concern.
How much weight should we as citizens give to an MP’s view, and how well do we think they are doing their jobs, when they send such communications out?
And how does one go about keeping the conversation going when one receives such a letter, which is designed, after all, to shut discussion down.
Our websites provide a lot of user-friendly information to help you do this. If you don’t know where to start, check out Beyond GM’s Frequently Asked Questions which tackle succinctly the many myths around GMOs.
The Beyond GM project’s Letter from America is a fully referenced document detailing the problems that Americans have had during the last two decades of planting and eating GMOs. It gives a sobering view of what we can expect very soon.
We can also help you understand what kind of farming and food system might exist beyond the narrow vision of GMOs.
If you want to ensure your MP gets the message that you are a real person with real concerns, use the facility on our GM Free Me site to send him or her a link to your personal page which holds your photo and your comments on GMOs.
If you are a mum why not join Mums Say no to GMOs and organise groups and activities in your local area.
GMOs are an issue of grave concern to many, many people. The conclusion of EU Member State negotiations on opt outs has been a gift to the pro-GM UK government. It has given a green light to those Member States that wish to grow GMOs, while giving a small amount of wiggle room to those that wish to opt out of growing them (provided that biotech companies agree to their request to do so!).
When the opt out measure is adopted in January 2015, the UK will proceed with its pro-GM agenda. We will be growing and eating GMOs in this country very soon. You can read more about this here.
Now is the time to really make your opinions heard. We encourage every one of you to speak out – and to use the tools on our various campaign sites to do so.
Your views count and when you have taken the time to express them to your elected representative, you deserve so much more than a greenwashing, misleading pro forma reply.
It is an insult to everyone that is taking the time to write to MP to receive such a letter.