California's Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO foods, died a painful death Tuesday night. Despite polling in mid-September showing an overwhelming lead, the measure lost by 53 to 47 percent, which is relatively close considering the "No" side's tactics.
As I've been writing about, the opposition has waged a deceptive and ugly campaign, fueled by more than $45 million, mostly from the leading biotech, pesticide, and junk food companies. Meanwhile, the "Yes" side raised almost $9 million, which is not bad, but being outspent by a factor of five is tough to overcome.
While we can always expect industry to spend more, the various groups fighting GMOs for years probably could have been better coordinated. I was dismayed and confused by all the fundraising emails I received from different nonprofits on Prop 37 and wondered why they weren't pooling their resources.
But would more money and better strategy have made a difference? Given the opposition's tactics, it seems unlikely. I am not easily shocked by corporate shenanigans, but the "No on 37" campaign is my new poster child for propaganda and dirty tricks. It's worth recapping the most egregious examples.
The biotech industry may have bitten off more than it can chew by spending big to defeat yesterday’s California vote on mandatory GM labels at a time when initiatives in many other states are gearing up on similar votes in the near future.
Unlike Europeans US consumers have never had labels to help them see when the foods they buy come from GM crops. In California Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta and other Big Biotech corporations joined forces with food giants Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestle and others to spend $45 million, but still only narrowly defeated a proposition to require labels on foods with GM ingredients.
Despite the millions spent by Big Business in a propaganda campaign to influence voters, the vote was split 47% in favour of mandatory GM labels and 53% against. Over 4.27 million voters in one of the world’s top ten economies want their families to know where GM is used in food. The industry will find these figures hard to ignore, and this may account for the lack of triumphalism over yesterday’s “win”.
The “no” votes cost the food and biotech companies approximately $9.30 each, and with similar GM labeling initiatives mounted in some 20 other states, the industry will have to open its wallet even wider to prevent labels being introduced.
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, November 2, 2012
This Tuesday, Californians have a chance to vote for the basic principle that consumers have a right to know what is in the food they eat.
By supporting Proposition 37, we can join with the 61 countries throughout the world — from Great Britain to Japan to Australia — that already ensure that genetically engineered foods are properly labeled.
This is not a controversial notion to most consumers. In fact, polls suggest that roughly 90 percent of Americans say they want to know if the foods they feed their families have been genetically modified.
CNN, by Amanda Enayati, November 2, 2012
On Election Day, California residents will vote on Proposition 37, which would require food companies to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients (known widely as GMOs).
The national debate for and against GMO foods has reached a fever pitch, with activists on both sides now weighing in virtually hourly over social media.
There is, however, an emerging wave of unlikely activists on the front lines of the food revolution, whose voices and opinions you are not likely to hear over traditional or social media for some time to come:
What I knew about food when I was growing up could be counted on one hand -- and the first two were: "I like it" and "I don't like it."
Not so with this new generation.
Kids are sponges and often alert to the concerns of their parents. Nowadays, that translates into an uncanny sophistication, from a very young age, about food, even as mothers and fathers struggle to understand and react to the alarming proliferation of diet-related maladies in children, from obesity to diabetes and severe allergies.
NAPA VALLEY REGISTER, by Peter Jensen, November 2, 2012
For Napa resident Erica Martenson, getting Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods, on ballots for Tuesday’s election is the culmination of six years of research and advocacy on the issue.
Martenson and local doctor Robert Moore formed a nonprofit in 2006, Preserving Integrity in Napa’s Agriculture, that was devoted to study the available research on genetically engineered crops and foods.
That led to the creation of a stakeholder group that included the Napa County Farm Bureau, the Napa Valley Vintners and the Napa Valley Grapegrowers. In 2009 that group agreed to oppose such foods, and to not allow genetic engineering in Napa Valley winemaking.
Proposition 37, Martenson said, is the next step in her efforts to oppose genetic engineering in agriculture.
SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, by Editorial Staff, October 30, 2012
A case in Sacramento Superior Court led to the public disclosure of who donated to an Arizona-based nonprofit group that has dumped millions in California to affect the outcome of two ballot measures.
The nonprofit Americans for Responsible Leadership made an $11 million donation to the Small Business Action Committee PAC. That group is actively working to defeat Proposition 30, the tax measure put on the November ballot by Gov. Jerry Brown, and to help pass Proposition 32, a measure that would curb the ability of California unions to spend money on political activities.
Americans for Responsible Leadership has been sued by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which tried to make it reveal who was behind the $11 million donation. Under California’s campaign contribution regulations, nonprofits that donate money for political purposes are supposed to reveal their financial backers.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, by Daneen Linder, October 30, 2012
California voters have a historic opportunity Nov. 6 to reclaim our fundamental, democratic right to know what's in the food we eat and feed our families.
Proposition 37 would simply require food sold in California supermarkets to be clearly labeled if it contains genetically engineered organisms. GMOs are plant or animal products whose DNA has been artificially altered in a laboratory using genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't require safety studies of GMOs, and a growing body of science suggests that they may be contributing to rising rates of allergies, especially among children.
CALIFORNIA PROGRESS REPORT, by Richard J. Jackson, MD MPH, October 30, 2012
In less than two weeks, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which would require labeling of food sold in California grocery stores if the food contains genetically engineered ingredients. Sixty-one other countries already have this requirement in place. You should not have to be a chemist, toxicologist or geneticist to have trust in your food.
There is a long history of false reassurances in the environmental health world, including about many pesticides, fumigants, food dyes and preservatives. The most outrageous manipulations of public trust were industry denials of hazards from tobacco, and the misinformation from the lead industry, which worked aggressively in opposition to the concerns of pediatricians and others about lead's toxicity, especially to children.
Genetically engineered foods have been on the U.S. market since the mid-1990s. Studies on short- or long-term health effects are hard to find since the FDA does not require them for market approval. The health effects of genetically engineered foods are still unclear.