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GM Free Me

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GMFreeMAntonio8th July 2017

A new campaign using portraits and selfies is letting the UK public have it's say about GM crops 


GM Free Me is an online visual petition for people  concerned about the effects of genetically modified food and farming. So far, more than 2,250 people have put their faces, names and comments about the subject on the website The campaign is the brainchild of Pat Thomas, a former editor of the Ecologist, and to get things rolling Pat and I toured farmers markets, health food shops, conferences and cities across the UK to find out how ordinary people feel about GMO's (genetically modified organisms).

Well-known supporters of GM Free Me include fashion leader Vivianne Westwood, increasingly outspoken about protecting the environment, TV gardener Alys Fowler, organic cosmetics producer Jo Woods and musicians Don Letts and Bez. Westwood commented on her GM Free Me page, “GMOs are a democratic issue. They are a massive, unethical experiment in human and environmental health. People are voicing legitimate concerns about why, if so many unanswered questions remain about GMOs, our government is continuing to try and force them on the British public."

I joined Pat on the Leeds and London leg of the rockstar Neil Young’s Rebel Tour of Europe in 2016 as part of his Global Village, a group of tents and stalls run by NGO’s educating about climate change, GMO’s and global justice. Hordes of fans charging the venue doors looking for the bars stopped off to chat and participate in GM Free Me; their concerns ranging from food allergies, to the unintended impacts on the environment, to farmers loosing livlihoods and getting caught up in cycles of indebtedness to the GM seed manufacturers.

Neil Young has been writing songs in defence of Nature since the 1960’s. In 1985, he co-founded Farm Aid, a series of concerts with Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and others concerned with the plight of North American farmers indebted to agribusinesses which promised bumper harvests that failed. Recently, he celebrated his 70th birthday at Standing Rock, supporting the Sioux protesting the Dakota Pipeline being laid on sacred tribal lands. Native Americans and people from all over the world were intimidated, sprayed with water cannon and their camp destroyed by police and the National Guard. But the courts have since ruled the pipeline is illegal, a vindication for the Sioux.

I bumped into Neil Young backstage as we hauled our yellow trollies bulging with campaign literature into the Leeds arena. In a baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans, he looked more like a gangly teenager. But on stage,  we watched in awe as he stomped and wielded his guitar, dropping songs from his album The Monsanto Years onto the audience with a velvet hammer. The CD, released in 2015, is a searing outpouring against corporations that profit from degrading the planet. And, like many ordinary people, many of Young’s fans are concerned about the impact of GM on the earth, human and animal health and the wellbeing of future generations. Sowing the seeds of environmental awareness for fifty years, Neil Young’s message is more important than ever.

GM Free Me is a serious, but fun campaign giving a voice to people in the UK who are aware that when it comes to examining the safety of genetically modified foods and toxic herbicides successive governments are blindly following the business as usual model based on the advice of company scientists and vested interests. All you have to do to have your say is upload a selfie to the website with your comments, alternatively, you can sign the petition here .

GM Free Me Collage 2

Of over 700 portraits that I took for GM Free me, these are some of my favourites. Pics by Sam Burcher (c) Beyond GM