—by Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch
Last night, I and many others breathed a sigh of relief as voters rejected a vision for our country that would have taken our economy, environmental regulations and consumer protections back to the 1920s. However, we cannot sit back and assume that protections for our food and water will improve. Rather, we need to take lessons from the last four years and redouble our organizing efforts to press the Obama administration, Congress and state legislatures across the country to keep our food safe and our water in public hands.
If there is one overarching lesson this election taught us, it’s that getting organized CAN overcome industry money in elections. Two ballot measures that Food & Water Watch worked on this cycle illustrate the need and power of organizing, even in the face of entrenched and powerful interests.
One of the most exciting victories from election night was in Longmont, Colorado, where voters passed an historic and precedent-setting ballot initiative to ban fracking. We were up against incredible odds in Longmont, with the oil and gas industry spending over half-a-million dollars for TV commercials, full-page ads and multiple mailers to try to scare Longmont citizens. Governor Hickenlooper sued the citizens of Longmont to slow down our efforts, and the Denver Post editorialized against this vote to ban fracking, but we were on the ground, knocking on doors, talking to voters and doing the hard work to support a citizen-led effort to protect our health, safety and property, and the citizens of Longmont still spoke loud and clear. We won with 60% of the vote!
We also worked hard in California with many of our allies to pass Proposition 37, which would require labeling for all genetically engineered foods. This popular measure was only narrowly defeated at the polls, due in large part to the massive spending by large chemical and junk food companies, which outspent our side by over $40 million.Despite this loss, support for GE food labels has never been stronger, and we will continue to build a robust national grassroots campaign to push for mandatory labeling across the country.
These measures prove what we already know: An educated and mobilized citizenry can fight back the corporate control of our common resources, but our work is far from over.
Right now, our policy experts are still sorting out what this election means for every issue we work on. I’m going to be giving a live telephone town hall meeting this Friday at 2 p.m. EST, and I want you to join me so you can hear our more detailed analysis of what this election means for your food and water, and you can ask me questions.
Protecting our water resources and making our food safe is challenging no matter which political party is in office. The truth is, because corporations have so much influence in our political and regulatory systems, we have to educate and mobilize citizens to build the power we need to hold our newly elected officials accountable.
We believe there is a role for strong government regulations over corporations that are abusing our essential food and water resources. Only time will tell if the newly elected Congress can get anything done during the next session, but we know we will need your help to make sure that existing regulations for our food system, the environment and the energy industry are strengthened, not weakened. Among the issues that we will be calling upon you to be involved in are banning fracking and labeling genetically engineered foods at the local, state and national level.
I hope to speak with you on Friday:
Thanks for taking action,
Executive Director—Food & Water Watch