Before Citizens for GMO Labeling had a name, a logo or a website, a group of us had a vision. We wanted to form an organization whose mission was to support the grass roots movement of people throughout this country who are fighting for food transparency. We wanted to support and amplify the voices of American citizens so we could take back our food, our government and children’s future. CFGL has always believed that we are stronger unified than alone, that we should be fighting for GMO labeling in every state and that supporting activists is our best investment. But, in order to do that we were going to need funding, and it wasn’t coming easily. That was until we were introduced to Jeff Church, CEO of SUJA Juice. Jeff believed in us and our vision.

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Enjoying Suja on a break.

Enjoying Suja on a break.

SUJA gave CFGL our legs and the confidence to step forward with our vision. We will always be grateful to Jeff Church and SUJA, who have been generously donating to CFGL since our first days. They even created our first logo for us! At our First Annual Citizens For GMO Labeling Activist Training, SUJA sent us juice and we took photos of everyone proudly holding up their SUJA bottle. So it deeply saddens me that CFGL will no longer be able to partner with SUJA or accept their generous contributions.

In response to the leaked reports that SUJA was entering into an agreement with Coke, I called my friend, Jeff Church, so I could hear first hand what was happening. Jeff was completely upfront about the deal and explained how this move will help SUJA “democratize” their juice by making organic, non GMO, fresh pressed juice available to everyone. Who can argue with that mission? Anyone in the GMO labeling movement knows our fight is not just about labeling but is absolutely about economic and social justice. Clean, healthful, organic food should be available to everyone and it is not. We applaud Jeff and SUJA for making this happen with their juice and truly wish for their success. Our inability to accept their contributions going forward should not be misunderstood as a condemnation of SUJA. I am not a business person and will not pretend to understand that world, and so I will not pass judgment on their decisions. I can see how Suja saw this as their only path forward, how perhaps they thought that our food system is dependent on companies like Coke for ease of distribution, or may have thought they couldn’t make it on their own. But we are fighting for a different path. And if we opt to support a food system that is fighting against us we will not be able to clearly see, much less stay on the path we have chosen towards food sovereignty.

So, here we are living in 2015 where our reality is that a handful of biotech and junk food companies control our food system. SUJA’s deal with Coke presents us with a question: Do we simply accept this and become complacent in a food system that isn’t ours any longer? Or do we stand in our truth and hold sacred our vision for the future? Coke, my enemy, has spent millions trying to defeat our right to know what is in our food, and SUJA, my friend, is dedicated to Non GMO, Organic food and GMO labeling. Nothing is black and white. But, we must stand in our power and believe that the food system we envision and are working toward is possible and already happening.

In order to remain committed to our principles and vision, CFGL has now instituted the following corporate contribution guidelines that excludes SUJA from being a contributor:

“To be effective in representing grassroots activists around the country on the issue of food transparency, we must maintain our independence and organizational integrity. In addition, we will not be used as a vehicle for corporations working against us that are interested in “greenwashing” their image by expanding into healthy food markets through ownership, control of distribution channels or other techniques. CFGL refuses to inadvertently promote those corporations through their donations to CFGL.
To ensure this, we have established the following set of corporate donation guidelines.
CFGL will not accept any donations from any corporation that is engaged in any significant activities that are in direct conflict with CFGL’s mission or activities or involved in litigation with CFGL, its partners or against CFGL supported initiatives.
CFGL will not accept any donations from any corporation that requires CFGL to perform specific activities or adopt specific policies in exchange for the contribution, except in the case where CFGL looks to raise sponsorship funds for CFGL initiated events.

For the purposes of this policy, corporation shall include any corporate entity where at least 5% of the shares are owned by a legal entity that is engaged in any significant activities that are in direct conflict with CFGL’s mission or activities or involved in litigation with CFGL, its partners or against CFGL supported initiatives.”

We congratulate all independently owned, organic companies out there. We know it isn’t easy. We are fighting for your right to exist and thrive so that we may feed our families clean, healthful food. And, we need your support as well so we can continue to work toward a transparent food system that is independent from the mega junk food industry and biotech industry. We have your back and need you to have our back.

I have often been told that I am a bridge to the new paradigm. That essentially means I am stuck between doing IMG_6149things the old way and doing things the new way. This makes perfect sense to me as I see the way I want the world to be, but crossing that bridge completely would mean leaving too many of my loved ones behind. So here I am standing in the middle of the bridge. I am so grateful to my friends who have already crossed into the new paradigm who hold my hand tight and remind me where we are going. My other hand is open, patient, waiting to guide anyone across that bridge who is ready. Should there ever be a change where SUJA’s business model shifts away from Coke, that hand will be there waiting.

About the Author
Tara Cook-Littman