This is a stranger than fiction sort of story. It has more twists and switchbacks than San Francisco's Lombard Street.
- On November 8, the California Electoral Authority declared Proposition 37 the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act defeated 53% to 47%, despite the fact that at that time 3.3 million ballots were still uncounted, according to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). The Organic Consumer's Association is considering legal action if the results differ substantially from their pre-election poll, which results are yet to be released. The state has until Dec. 14 to certify the election results. A nationwide ABC poll reported that 93% of Americans want the federal government to require products containing GMOs to be labelled.
- It may come as no surprise that GMO producers Monsanto and Dupont poured millions into defeating Prop 37 and perhaps no less unsurprising that household brands like Coca Cola, Kraft and Pepsi also contributed millions. However, it may shock some to know that parent companies of organic brands also made contributions to the NO campaign.
- Which parent companies of organic brands actively tried to defeat the consumer's right to know what's in their food? In August, the LA Timesreported a poll showing that the proposition support was solid with a three to one ratio of voters backing the proposition. In that same article the newspaper reported that jam producer Smucker contributed $388,000 to the No-campaign: Smucker owns organic brands R.W. Knudson as well as Santa Cruz Organic. Consumer reaction has been swift and unforgiving. The company is backtracking saying now that they opposed Prop 37 because they are in favour of nationwide instead of state-wide legislation, but judging by their social media site, it looks like consumers are having none of it.Writing in Huff Post, author John Robbins details some of the other organic brands whose parent companies donated to the No-campaign including Silk soy and Kashi. It’s tempting to speculate that they did so in a bid to protect the market advantage of “organic” since it currently is the only way a consumer can be confident she is avoiding GMOs, and because other products in their portfolio would be forced to own up to the GMO content. Cornucopia has published a shopper’s guide listing brands that fought and those that supported Prop 37.
- The New York Times reported that support for the initiative, which polls said once was greater than 60 percent, crumbled over the last month under a barrage of negative advertisements paid for by food and biotechnology companies. MapLight, an organization that tracks campaign contributions, lists the major contributors both for and opposed to Prop 37. Their figures show that the No side spent $46 million to defeat the proposition compared with just $9 million spent by proponents.
- Pro-GMO labeling advocates in Washington State have already collected more than half of the signatures needed to put a similar GMO labeling initiative on the ballot there in 2013. In Vermont and Connecticut, where laws don’t provide for citizens ballot initiatives, work is underway to get changes made through the legislature.
- Writing in Huff Post, Ocean Robbins draws attention to the fact that it took fifty years to get any meaningful change in the tobacco industry. He details some of the most egregious shenanigans of the Prop 37 campaign, like how the No-campaign used the Stanford logo in their TV ads and mailings despite the fact that the university remained neutral, and that they also used the FDA logo illegally, suggesting that the FDA was against Prop 37 when the FDA had no public stand.
- Fortunately some organic brands did make significant contributions to the Yes-campaign. They include Dr. Bronners, Lundberg Rice, Organic Valley, Amy’s and Eden Foods, among others. A complete shopping list is available from Cornucopia. (This post was originally published on Alimentary Initiatives site Nov 14/2012.)