Big Ag Defeats GMO-Labeling Proposition

Despite having widespread support for months leading up to the November 2012 election, Proposition 37 — which would have required labeling of all food products containing genetically modified ingredients — was defeated by a six percent margin.
By Shelley Stonebrook
February/March 2013
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California voters had a chance in the November election to push back against Big Ag and stand up for our right to know what we’re eating. Proposition 37, which would have required labeling on all products that contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, had widespread support and a substantial lead in the polls throughout the state in the weeks leading up to the election. That’s when huge corporations such as Monsanto started getting scared — and decided to amp up spending efforts to defeat the proposition.

In the end, Monsanto spent more than $8 million to stop the law and chemical giant DuPont spent $5.4 million. Other significant contributors to the No on Prop 37 campaign were Pepsi, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, Nestle, Kraft, Coca-Cola, General Mills, ConAgra, Kellogg’s and Campbell’s Soup. The money these companies poured into defeating the proposed labeling law helped create misleading, fear-inducing advertisements that flooded TV screens across California. The ads told consumers that labeling GM foods would add hundreds of dollars a month to their grocery bills and would cripple farmers with fees, paperwork and other headaches.

Advocates of healthy, sustainable food worked tirelessly to try to combat these accusations and to inform consumers about the health and environmental problems with GM crops (see our report on the many Threats From Genetically Modified Foods), but in the end, the deluge of money from the opposition won out and Prop 37 was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent. For more on the companies and brands that spent big money to defeat the proposed law, see the Organic Consumers Association’s Comprehensive Boycott Guide

Several companies were on the other side of this debate, and we want to thank the individuals, nonprofits and brands that supported this important labeling initiative. Some of the major contributors included Nature’s Path, Dr. Bronner’s, Lundberg, Udi’s, Organic Valley, Amy’s, Clif and Annie’s.

The fight for our basic food rights continues. Sixty-two other countries have already required labeling of GM foods and all products containing them. Twenty-three states are currently working on mandatory labeling laws (although none are law yet). U.S. citizens have been made into guinea pigs by the companies who patent, grow, process and sell us genetically modified foods. And these ingredients are not just in a food item here and there — they’re ubiquitous, in part because GM corn and soy are in so many products. (See our map of GMOs in supermarkets in the article How to Avoid Genetically Modified Food.) Thorough, long-range, human-based and independently funded studies showing that these foods are safe simply don’t exist. Plus, the environmental damage caused by the large-scale, chemical-dependent agricultural methods associated with growing GM crops is undeniable.

For now, it’s up to consumers to vote with their forks. Educate yourself about GM foods, eat organically grown foods, don’t support the companies that don’t support your right to know, and, if a GMO labeling law makes its way onto a ballot in your state, join in to help get out the vote.

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