Kiki Hubbard is an intern at the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit organization that addresses the impacts of our current industrial food-production system on human health, animal welfare, and the environment.

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C.

I begin the day by getting lost in Arches National Monument. As I end a chapter in Desert Solitaire, my train comes to a halt at the Eastern Market Metro stop, where I proceed to take on my daily challenge of weaning myself off coffee. Most days I win this battle, but reading about the desert made me crave warmth — and for once there is money in my wallet.

The phone begins to ring at precisely the moment I step into the comfortable, informal office of the Center for Food Safety. The man on the phone is inquiring about our genetically engineered (GE) fish campaign, and I put some materials together for him before heading to the post office. Many of our phone calls come from understandably angry individuals who have just learned about food-safety issues affecting both human health and the environment. It is exciting to hear the urgency in many of these voices, and to share with them information about how they can play an active role in ensuring that federal agencies make ethical decisions about our national food supply.

In May 2001, CFS filed a petition with the U.S. FDA and four other agencies in response to an application currently being reviewed by the FDA to approve the first GE fish, a salmon that will grow faster than its natural cousins. If the application is approved, these GE salmon may be grown in open waters and sold commercially. Our concerns is that the FDA will approve the application without sufficiently analyzing the human health concerns, including the potential impacts of significantly elevated growth-hormone levels in the fish. The FDA would also allow GE fish to be marketed despite recent studies showing that they could decimate native salmon populations.

The GE fish postcard.

This morning’s caller requested a large quantity of our GE fish postcards, which are addressed to the FDA and express support for a moratorium on the approval of GE salmon. It is encouraging to correspond with people who understand the imperative nature of our efforts, and even more encouraging when they want to serve as local leaders for our campaigns. Each day I am reminded of how much our influence depends on one particular tool: education.

After returning from the post office, where I mailed dozens of letters and publications to members, I left the office with CFS’s other intern, Hilary, who has given me the privilege of knowing that I began a shared internship with a stranger, but will conclude it with a close friend. We spend the rest of the afternoon representing CFS at American University’s “Externship Fair.” We accepted resumes for law clerk positions, which involve conducting legal research, writing legal memorandum, and attending hearings, agency meetings, and press conferences. University fairs offer valuable opportunities to distribute materials about our campaigns and expose prospective interns and clerks to the issues that CFS addresses. Several people impressed Hilary and me, and I hope that the conversations we had with them will help garner the interest of these intelligent and highly motivated individuals for legal work on behalf of the environment.

After the fair, we join the other recruiting organizations for drinks and food, compliments of American University. As we put on our coats and finish our beers, we classify our afternoon as one of the perks of our job. And while not every day leaves me with something to toast, I always seem to find a reason to smile.