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Food labeling proponents blame loss on well-funded opposition, and vow to continue the fight

November 7th, 2012

From Green Right Now Reports

Voters turned down Prop. 37 on Tuesday.

California’s ballot measure Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically modified foods, a precursor to probable labeling across the U.S., failed narrowly in Tuesday’s election.

The first major ballot-box test in the U.S. for labeling GMO foods was killed by a tidal wave of opposition spending by giant biotech firms and pesticide makers and global food corporations, advocates of labeling said.

All told, pesticide giants Monsanto, Dow, BASF and Bayer, joined by food corporations like Pepsico and Kraft, spent an estimated $45 million to defeat Prop.37 (about 5 times what pro-labeling forces spent), producing extensive advertising that argued that labeling would raise food prices and trigger expensive law suits.

The major of corn and soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified, and usually that means it has been bred to resist a certain pesticide.

The vote No advertising said food companies would be forced to pass along costs to consumers, raising their grocery bills by $400 a year.

The anti-labeling forces either persuaded or enlightened the public — depending on one’s views of labeling — that the ballot initiative was a “flawed law,” telling voters there was a problem in how Prop. 37 was written. That implied that the corporate coalition fighting Prop. 37 wasn’t really opposing labeling, but how this particular law would have played out.

Amplifying on that message, most major newspapers in the state ran editorials against Prop. 37. Meanwhile, the  “No on 37″ coalition ran hundreds of TV and print ads saying labeling would only cause problems.

That forced the less well-funded “Yes on 37″ or the “Right to Know” onto the defensive, struggling to maintain the public support they had enjoyed when the campaign launched early in 2012 with a million petition signatures forcing the issue onto the ballot.

“In the face of unrelenting deceptive advertising funded by giant chemical and processed food corporations to the tune of nearly $50 million, California’s Proposition 37 calling for a simple label on genetically engineered food narrowly lost with 47 percent of the vote,” said Food & Water Watch Pacific Region Director Kristin Lynch in a statement. “While support for GE food labels has never been stronger, the incessant drumbeat of misleading and outright false industry advertising was barely able to defeat this popular measure.”

As recently as September, polls showed that 60 percent of the public in California wanted to know if foods have been produced with genetic modification techniques, which include injecting bacteria and genetic material from other species into crop seeds to make plants resistant to certain pesticides.

Those fighting for labeling of GMO foods say they'll continue the campaign to add the US to the list of nations with disclosure.

More than 85 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, but opponents say too few independent and almost no long-term tests have been conducted on these plants to assure they’re safe.

Proponents of genetic modification, though, say the food is essentially the same as non-GMO varieties.

Advocates of labeling also noted that GMO crops, which are by design dependent on pesticides, are raising the levels of chemicals used in corporate farming, destroying soil and water.

Most industrialized nations already require labeling of GMO foods, and U.S. food advocates who supported Prop. 37, which received funding from Mercola and several organic food groups, vowed Tuesday to fight on.

“Prop 37 may not have passed, but it brought together and galvanized people from across California, the country and the world who believe deeply that people have the right to know whether their food has been genetically engineered, and this momentum will only grow,” said Lynch of Food & Water Watch.

“We are already organizing in over a dozen states and in the coming year will be ramping up our campaign across the country to let consumers decide and make GE labeling the law.”

Megan Westgate, Non-GMO Project Executive Director, also promised the fight for labeling would continue, posting this on Facebook:

“Don’t worry, everyone, this is the beginning not the end. If you’re confused about why prop 37 didn’t pass, when it seems so obvious that OF COURSE people want to know what they’re eating, consider this: the opposition spent $46 MILLION on a misinformation campaign that was full of lies and unethical (illegal?) tactics. And in spite of that, 4.6 million Californians (47%) STILL voted yes. This vote has brought the GMO issue into the national spotlight, and it’s not going away. Onwards and upwards!”

 

 

 

 



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