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Joining the Ownerships of other Co-ops across the nation, Willy Street Co-op is now financially supporting the Women in the Senate campaign: a strategy developed by the Truth in Labeling Coalition to draw bipartisan attention to the need to know how the food you put on your family’s table is produced. We are urging the 20 women serving in the Senate, who make up the largest number of women in the Senate in US history, to ask President Barack Obama to use his executive privilege to mandate that the FDA close the genetically engineered (GE) foods labeling loophole.

Labeling requirements can be enforced by either Congress or the Executive Branch, and although there are members of both Congressional chambers on both sides of the aisle who support labeling GE foods, there is a stronger case to ask that the President enforce the existing FDA rules as part of his 2007 campaign promise. Also, according to former Representative Jim Bates (CA), who is working with the Truth in Labeling Coalition to lead the Women in the Senate Campaign, “the 1964 Truth in Labeling Act said ‘label everything,’ and GE food should never have been exempted.” It is not necessary to pass new labeling laws, the law just needs to be enforced.

Signs clearly show support for deregulated labeling is wavering. This past March, Congress passed the Famer Assurance Provision (Section 735) as part of a continuing funding resolution, which allowed farmers to continue growing GMO crops even if a court blocked their use. Major grower groups and producers supported the provision as a means to protect farmers, but consumer groups have balked at this notion, seeing it as a deal for corporate interests and means to skirt court review. The provision was set up to expire at the end of the Federal fiscal year (September 30) and the continuing resolution that passed this October did not include the controversial crops provision.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has a mixed record pertaining to GMO and GE transparency. While she supported Amendment #1080 to the 2013 Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (SB 954) to ensure farmers would have access to seeds that can thrive while utilizing traditional or organic farming methods, and has also aided and co-sponsored efforts to repeal the Farmer Assurance Provision; she voted against Amendment #965 to SB 954, which would have supported the existing right of states to enact their own laws requiring the labeling of GE foods. As a Co-op Owner herself, we are hoping Senator Baldwin will join her fellow female Senators in supporting this cause.

If labeling GE foods is important to you, seize this opportunity as a group of Owners to get involved. Postcards pre-addressed to Senator Baldwin will soon be available at Willy East and Willy West. Please pick one up the next time you shop and use it to urge her to support the Women in the Senate Campaign and ask President Obama to use his executive powers to make the FDA to enforce the 1964 Truth in Labeling Act. We encourage you also to call Senator Baldwin to garner support for this effort at 202-224-5653.

Join Co-op Owners across the country to support the effort to bring awareness to the consumer about GMOs in our food. You have the right to know; it’s time to hold lawmakers accountable.

Occasionally, Willy Street Co-op Owners ask us why local and organic food is so expensive. It’s a fair question. The expectation is that if organic and local food became more mainstream, prices would drop as demand increases. Clearly this is not the case. So what really is going on?

It all comes down totrue cost. The majority of the locally sourced organic foods available are priced to compensate for a number of things that conventional foods do not necessarily consider or need to be produced: fair labor compensation for growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping product; the costs associated with organic certification and the labor involved with implementing and practicing organic methods; and paying up front to implement practices that protect the land and water as opposed to passing the cleanup for environmental impacts associated with conventional farming practices to the taxpayer. Organic production, due to its labor intensiveness, does not have the luxury of the economy of scale. Keeping organic operations small keeps the costs of doing business reasonable. Because of this, expansion is difficult. Supply is not keeping up with demand, and so instead of seeing a price drop, we are seeing a market premium on the shelves. Furthermore, government subsidies are typically not offered to organic growers, and so conventional growers can typically offset some costs of production that organic growers cannot. Government support for conventional operations still outpaces the monetary support for the local organic supplier. The costs that are hidden from the price tag on conventional items are difficult to compare with the values you invest in your local and organic grocery cart. It all comes down to what the individual can afford and personal priorities. More details about this topic have been updated at

If you have concerns about the supply and cost of local and organic foods for both the consumer and the environment, please read Margaret Krome’s article on page 29 pertaining to FSMA implementation. It is very important for our Owners to speak up and ask the FDA to make sure that small producers, the majority of the producers that provide us with our beautiful selection of fresh products, have the flexibility they need to continue marketing their product in a way that is sustainable for business, sustainable for the land, water, and wildlife, and sustainable for your pocketbook. Food safety is important, but poorly designed regulations could cripple our thriving local farm community. We hope that you will join us (preferably with your laptop) at Willy West on November 4th from 5:30-7:30pm in the Community Room for the FSMA listening session to learn more about the comment process. Refreshments will be served. Special thanks to Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, REAP Food Group, FairShare CSA Coalition, and the Community and Regional Food Systems Project for leading the charge at the ground level and providing citizens an opportunity to learn how to weigh in on this important community food issue. More information is available at Make your voice heard.