ASHLAND — Movie star Bill Pullman, who played the president in the sci-fi thriller “Independence Day,” on Monday presented a script for passage of a statewide ballot measure mandating labeling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms.
“All eyes are on Oregon. This state is being looked up to a lot,” said Pullman, who is at Lake of the Woods shooting the comedy “Brothers in Law.”
Speaking at the Ashland Grange before a showing of the film “GMO OMG,” Pullman said it’s “very exciting” the issue got on the ballot and did it by a petition drive from the people — but said he believed that in the remaining nine weeks before the election, agri-chemical corporations would “start corroding everyone with money” to defeat it.
Campaigning with Pullman, Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of 10-term Ohio congressman and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, said the GMO labeling proposal has “tremendous support and is serving as a backstop for democracy in America.”
Kucinich, the producer of “GMO OMG” and director of policy for the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., said GMOs are banned in 64 countries and passage of the Oregon measure could help get a national GMO labeling bill passed into law.
The ballot measure is getting a life, said Pullman, from a “new synergy” in Oregon across political and generational lines, with young and old farmers on the same page about it.
Pullman said he and his wife thought about living in Ashland in 1979, when their pickup broke down here, and said he plans to hang out this week with his close friend Bill Rauch, artistic director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Pullman said he also plans to get to u-pick peach orchards locally with his children.
Pullman said he became interested in the politics of food in the Hollywood hills, attempting to get neighbors involved in a communal fruit orchard and giving produce to the hungry. He is featured in the film “The Fruit Hunters,” which explores the topic.
The tagline of the anti-GMO film is “Is this the end of real food?” The film shows a father driving his three kids around the Midwest, trying to get answers about what GMOs really are, only to find most people have never heard of them. Farmers tell the father they must grow with GMOs to make a profit and feed the world. If they go organic, says one farmer, a billion people will starve. It suggests traditional, non-engineered seeds (and small farmers) are history.
Vegan food entrepreneur Donna Benjamin of Ashland called the film “a wonderful way to introduce the topic to people who are not in the anti-GMO choir.”
Ashland chiropractor and organic gardener Matt Sheehan called the movie “a disturbing treatise on a confusing battle ... about how GMO technology is steadily taking over world agriculture.” He noted, however, that it offers no way out of the dilemma, except possibly more research to determine what threats GMOs pose.
“The film makes me want to double my efforts to pass Measure 92,” says Sheehan. “If it passes, the issue will be all over the place. It’s on the ballot in 35 states right now.”