Right to Know Blog

DDT, Agent Orange, Tobacco, GMOs and YOU

smoke.pngWhy do we need to label genetically engineered foods? As Mark Bittman wrote in today's New York Times, because we have a right to know and to decide for ourselves what's in the food we're eating and feeding our families. Who could be against this core American value? That one's easy: the companies that are genetically engineering our food system without our knowledge or consent -- which happen to be the same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe. With a little help from their tobacco friends.

This is the important story behind Proposition 37's first television ad: The Same Companies that Told Us DDT and Agent Orange were Safe.  The 30-second ad presents the history of notoriously inaccurate health claims by the very same corporations that are funding the No on 37 campaign and opposing our right to know what's in our food.

Read on for the facts about who is behind the No on 37 campaign...

Who is behind the No on 37 campaign? 

Monsanto, the top contributor to No on 37 with $4.2 million in donations, was a primary manufacturer of Agent Orange, as was Dow Chemical, which has contributed $1.2 million to No on 37. Agent Orange was the code name for herbicides used by the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War. U.S. soldiers were told that it was “perfectly safe” and often wore little protective clothing when applying it, as shown in our ad. Agent Orange is now linked with various types of cancer and other diseases.

DuPont, the second largest funder of No on 37 with just over $4 million in contributions, was the first major manufacturer of DDT, which was marketed as “harmless to humans” but has since been linked to breast cancer, diabetes, reproductive disorders and other hazards to human health.

Because of patent restrictions on GMOs, companies like Monsanto now control and suppress much of the research on genetically engineered foods, as the editorial board of the Scientific American reported. Can these companies be trusted to protect our health?

Tobacco industry operatives are key players in the No on 37 Campaign No on 37 consultants MB Public Affairs worked for Altria (formerly Phillip Morris Companies, Inc.). Donations to No on 37 go to the law firm of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk. Charles Bell and Thomas Hiltachk were higher ups in the tobacco industry’s misinformation campaign in the 1980s and 1990s. Hiltachk is the treasurer of the No on Prop 37 campaign, was the architect of efforts to dismantle California’s global warming law, and is author of the union-busting Prop 32 on the November ballot which LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik described as the “fraud to end all frauds” 

Also see: Meet the Scientific Experts who Claim that GMOs are Safe.

Consider the Source: No on 37 is a Campaign of Lies

MYTH: “The World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and other respected medical and health organizations all conclude that genetically engineered foods are safe.” (Henry Miller, Hoover Institute fellow, No on 37 press release issued Friday, August 24, 2012)

TRUTH: None of these organizations has concluded genetically engineered foods are safe. The American Medical Association and World Health Organization/United Nations have said mandatory safety studies should be required -- a standard that the U.S. fails to meet. Numerous studies in the scientific literature suggest genetic engineering is linked to allergies and other adverse effects. Despite these scientific warnings, the U.S. federal government requires no safety studies for genetically engineered foods, and no long-term human health studies have been conducted. 

National Academy of Sciences report states that products of genetic engineering technology “carry the potential for introducing unintended compositional changes that may have adverse effects on human health.”

MYTH: Proposition 37 will raise the cost of groceries by “hundreds of dollars” per year.

TRUTH: Disclosing on labels that food was produced using genetic engineering will not force food companies to raise the cost of groceries. In a recent study of the economic impact of Proposition 37, Joanna Shepherd Bailey, Ph.D., Professor at Emory University School of Law, concluded: “Consumers will likely see no increases in prices as a result of the relabeling required.” In Europe, GMO labeling "did not result in increased costs, despite the horrifying (double-digit) prediction of some interests," according to David Byrne, former European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Parliament.

MYTH: Proposition 37 will “ban the sale of thousands of groceries” 

TRUTH: Proposition 37 does not ban genetically engineered foods; it merely requires that they be labeled with the phrase “partially produced with genetic engineering" somewhere on the front of back of packaging. This type of labeling is already required in 50 other countries around the world.

MYTH: Proposition 37 will result in “shakedown lawsuits.” 

TRUTH: Proposition 37 will enable consumers to make informed choices about the food we’re eating and feeding our children. The lawsuits argument is a red herring. Food companies accurately label for calories, fat content and other information required by law; likewise they will abide by the requirements of Prop 37. According to a legal analysis by James Cooper, JD, PhD, of George Mason University School of Law, Proposition 37 has been narrowly crafted in a way the provides "greater legal certainty" for businesses than other California consumer disclosure laws. It won't invite frivolous lawsuits. What it will do is help California consumers make informed choices about what they eat

MYTH: Prop. 37 would prohibit processed foods from being marketed as “natural.”  

TRUTH: Proposition 37 applies only to genetically engineered foods, not other foods. Processed foods such as canned olives could still be marketed as “natural” as long as the food is not genetically engineered. See legal analysis by Joseph Sandler of the law firm Sandler, Reiff, Young and Lamb. 

Remember: When you hear the claims from No on 37 that labeling GMOs will be too scary, weird or expensive, consider the source. Help us keep the facts straight. Join the Yes on 37 campaign, donate if you can (every little bit helps), and help us make history in November!

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