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A Requiem for Proposition 37? Just Say No by Voting Yes

Buzz around proposition 37 has grown steadily over the summer and is peaking now. (Via Upwell)

The amount of money spent in politics is huge and ever expanding; for the first time, the two main Presidential campaigns raised more than 1 billion dollars. That’s billion with a “b”, a staggering sum. But the role of money extends well beyond big-time presidential politics; it has moved all the way down to state ballot initiatives.

Here in California we are on the front lines of the battle over the future of food and the role of money in that debate has come into sharp focus over the last two weeks. On Tuesday, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, a bill that would make ours the first state to mandate labeling of foods made from genetically engineered organisms.

I and many others – have written elsewhere about how important Prop. 37 is to the future of food. Attention has grown steadily over the summer and is peaking now. Most of the discussion has centered on the growing food movement and the role of genetically engineered plants, however, at Ocean Conservancy we’re also concerned about plans to introduce the first genetically engineered animal – an engineered variant of farmed Atlantic salmon  – into the food supply and the potential consequences for a healthy ocean.

While Ocean Conservancy concludes we don’t have enough information about the impacts of GE fish to move forward yet, like many supporters of Prop. 37, we also strongly believe that GE salmon should be clearly labeled if the federal Food and Drug Administration approves it for sale.

Up until relatively recently, we were in good company with virtually twice as many California’s in support versus opposed to the initiative.

Then the money came in to play. With a huge war chest from Monsanto and many of the major food production companies, a blitz of ads has rapidly reduced support by 9 percentage points over a matter of days. While nearly every poll ever done on labeling of GMOs has shown upwards of 80 percent support for the basic right to know how one’s food is produced, Californians are now turning their backs on this innate desire, largely in response to these ads.

This increase in funding by the opposition shows how marketing and big bucks can truly influence voters. If you’ve ever wondered why politicians spend huge sums of money on ads, it is because they work. Prop. 37 is a prime example.

The “Right to Know” campaign is now fighting back with its own series of three ads that began to run this week. They’re compelling and absolutely worth a watch, not to mention a share on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. But like Senator John Kerry, who waited too long before he responded to the infamous Swift Boat campaign in 2004, the Yes Campaign is now playing catch up and time is running out.

Labeling genetically engineered food is not a radical concept, nor would it be difficult for food companies to comply with such a law. Already, over 61 other countries require GE food labeling. The well respected Mark Bitman has argued that this is a concept whose time has come in the US as well. But the track record of failure in the United States is tough to ignore: Twenty other state legislatures – including California  – have tried to label GMOs, but with well-financed opposition from Big Food, none has prevailed.

Unlike these states though, California has gone directly to the voters for approval. But if those voters don’t stand firm in their beliefs, the nation’s best opportunity to require labeling of GMOs – including genetically engineered salmon – may die at the voting booth this week.

I still firmly believe that it is too early to write a requiem for Prop. 37 and that it can pass this week’s test at the ballot box. But supporters of increased transparency and accountability in our food system need to vote “yes” on Tuesday.

Comments

  1. Oscar
    Canada
    November 6, 2012, 7:51 pm

    When a scientist comes to explain how this kind of “science” works he or she or they explain it the way they learned it from who? Because according to what I’ve read about all these companies, they didn’t start making all these kinds of stuff 10 years ago, they started over 100 years ago. So all the power that these companies have grown over the decades had influenced the political, social academic and intellectual balance that is necessary for a good understanding. what this companies do is not human and not animal(because animals don’t do that) comes from somewhere else.

  2. Mek
    Ca
    November 6, 2012, 1:34 am

    THE FIX IS IN. MONSANTO/BIG AG ALREADY RIGGED THE DIEBOLD MACHINES TO DEFEAT PROP37.

    This is why news propoganda is now announcing 28 pt drop in support in less than a month….yeah ok….whatever! People who support labels on GMO do not Flip Flop and suddenly change their mind after watching a 30 sec commercial….

    40 Million spent by GMO companies to RIG THE VOTE…

  3. Albertto
    Hawthorne ca
    November 6, 2012, 12:26 am

    Monsanto, Nestlé ,coca cola,PepsiCo,Godiva ,sunny delight,etc a don,t spent my money with your junky food

  4. Robert Wager
    Canada
    November 5, 2012, 6:21 pm

    No Marty it has been repeatedly made clear that I work for none of the biotech companies and never has. I am a academic who studies GMO’s and public education . now care to discuss the science of GMO’s

  5. Marty
    November 5, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Mr. Wager keeps touting AAAS’s statement on GMO labeling. Let’s see who they work for shall we? http://organicconnectmag.com/wp/aaas-serving-society-or-industry/

  6. Rick
    New Jersey
    November 5, 2012, 2:05 pm

    The list of Prop 37 oponents is a veritable who’s who of Ginat Bio-tech, multi-national Junk food producers, and quasi-political front groups. Monsantoi is of course leading the charge. I love the posters on here trying to make it about science. The science that is reported is much different than the science that is muffled. I can site you three examples of well respected scientists that have done in depth studies on GMOs and their effects. When trying to warn the public, their careers were systematically destroyed. The FDA has ignored studies by their own scientists because….Michael Taylor runs the place. The very same guy that was the lead attorney, head lobbyist, and VP of Public Policy for Monsanto. Like making Jerry Sandusky the head of Little Tykes daycare. The FDA stifled internal scientists by placing keylogger and other spy software on each computer so they could see where the leaks were coming from. Monsanto is worried. While Americans are easily fooled and manipulated by shiny things, they tend to be very focused and full of purpose once they see the truth. Monsanto has become synonomous with lies, poison, and big money. Not in my food dude.

  7. Peter White
    Yes on 37 Country
    November 5, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Simple: If GMO & GE food are so safe and healthy for us, where are the labels yesterday, last week, month, year, decade?

  8. Al
    November 5, 2012, 1:27 pm

    Robert Wagner, you obviously work for one of these poison purveyors. Tell us, which one is paying you?

  9. peter
    massachusetts
    November 5, 2012, 9:50 am

    Robert Wager, descent on the AAAS statement from AAAS members here:

    http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2012/yes-labels-on-gm-foods

    “As a group of scientists and physicians that includes many long-standing members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we challenge the recent AAAS Board of Directors statement opposing efforts to require labeling of foods containing products derived from genetically modified crop plants. Their position tramples the rights of consumers to make informed choices. …

    Importantly, despite their widespread use, the human and wildlife toxicity of herbicides has not been well studied. Evidence suggests that at least some may induce detrimental health effects even at low exposure levels. Importantly, recent molecular studies suggest that glyphosate-based herbicides can impair retinoic acid signaling, producing teratogenic effects. Thus, the finding of human effects consistent with impaired retinoic signaling in agricultural areas with heavy RoundUp use raises concern about the potential health effects of heavy herbicide usage. Although these studies do not prove that RoundUp/glyphosate creates unwarranted human risks, they raise significant concerns. Labeling GMO products would allow consumers to make choices based on these concerns….

    The AAAS statement notes that “GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.” The statement should have included the fact that the Food and Drug Administration’s testing program is voluntary. Our experience with other well-studied consumer products (tobacco, asbestos, bisphenol A, phthalates) demonstrates that a large number of tests provide no guarantee of safety. Typically, evidence of harm has only emerged when testing has been conducted independently of those who benefit from the product or practice. Unfortunately, years of manufactured doubt by those with a vested interest have and continue to slow public health decisions that rightfully should be based solely on science.”

  10. Michael
    California
    November 5, 2012, 12:12 am

    Monsanto creates an herbicide resistant plant. Farmers use herbicides liberally to kill weeds because their crops are safe. Monsanto sells them the herbicide. 45 times more herbicide is used now than 10 years ago. Weeds develop that are resistant to this herbicide. Monsanto creates another herbicide to sell for these weeds. This herbicide hurts the crops so Monsanto creats and sells a new herbicide plant resistant to this new herbicide. The cycle goes on and on and on and more and more herbicide is dumped on the land. I am not sure it makes any difference if it is safe for consumption or not. It is dangerous to be increasing the use of herbicide at this alarming rate. With labeling people can choose if they want this vicious cycle to continue.

  11. Haji Warf
    California
    November 4, 2012, 11:01 pm

    For those concerned about added costs and/or are confused about exemptions, here is my take:

    FALSE CLAIM 1: Grocery bills will increase by $400 per year.

    FACT: Grocery bills WILL NOT increase as a result of Prop 37

    • Historical real-world evidence shows that there will be NO INCREASE in food costs. In fact, none of the other 61 countries who have adopted labeling (or outright banned GMOs) have experienced a detectable rise in food costs.

    • The “study” these bogus cost figures are based on was conducted by consultants (Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants) paid by the giant pesticide companies who oppose Prop 37.

    • The cost estimate assumes that all farmers will immediately convert to organic or non-GM practices. This is not credible, because Prop 37 does not ban GMOs. It simply requires labeling. Interestingly, if the pesticide companies that make GMO seeds really believe that consumers, once knowledgeable, will reject their products, they must be painfully aware that these foods provide no consumer benefit, only unknown risks.

    • Companies routinely change their packaging, every 18 months. Compliance is not even required until 2014. There is plenty of time to get that little bit of ink on the box!

    FALSE CLAIM 2: The initiative is confusing, requiring labeling for some products but giving many exemptions for favored special interests.

    FACT: The only things confusing are the No on 37 campaign’s deceptive ads.

    • The California Constitution [Article II, Section 8(d)] prohibits any initiative from addressing more than one set of legal codes at a time. In other words, the exemptions are mandated by law.

    • The initiative covers only products that are genetically engineered themselves (such as almost anything made with corn), considered “first generation.” But it does not, and cannot, cover other products, such as those made with animals who have eaten GMO feed, alcohol, or other products governed by a different set of codes in the regulations. Had the other items been included, this initiative would have been disqualified by the State Attorney General.

    • Prop 37 seeks labeling of items that are most frequently consumed – the ingredients in grocery store food. Restaurant food cannot be covered in this measure due to the restriction noted above. Besides, when’s the last time you saw a label on restaurant food? This is only the first step, but the biggest bite we were allowed to take. No worries — there will be, most certainly, a second bite at the GMO apple.

    Vote YES on 37, and push back the poison peddlers!

  12. Robert Wager
    November 4, 2012, 10:01 pm

    Betty I work at a University, I receive exactly zero dollars from the biotech industry. You mistake my support for the science for support for companies. Easy to understand how you are mislead.

    As for DDT, i suspect you would have a very different opinion if you lived in an area of the world where malaria kills millions.

  13. Betty
    November 4, 2012, 9:45 pm

    Robert Wagner — which GMO company do you work for???? Polls consistently show that 70%+ of the people want labeling. Biotech DOES NOT want labeling because they feel we will reject their poisonous efforts to further spoil our food (chemical/factory farming is second to GMOs). If as you say there is NO difference, then why spend such vast sums of money to defeat Prop 37? And please do not question the intelligence of supporters of this measure by saying that it is cost of labeling. Companies change labels when they change their products. The thing they keep is the look that identifies their product.

    No point really in arguing with the misinformed, but fellow Californians, please vote YES for Prop 37 on Tuesday. We eat enough adulterated food already.

  14. Joe
    CA
    November 4, 2012, 9:12 pm

    I think Mercola generally offers good health advice although I don’t agree with everything he says. He doesn’t seem so bad compared to Henry Miller, a prominent spokesman for the anti prop 37 campaign:.

    BACKGROUND: The Dubious Credibility of No on 37 Science Spokesperson Henry Miller
    – Miller was a founding member of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, a Phillip Morris backed front group that tried to discredit the links between tobacco products and cancer.
    – In a 1994 PR memo recommending strategy to help Phillip Morris organize a worldwide effort to fight tobacco regulations, Henry Miller was referred to as “a key supporter.” http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/pqa35e00/pdf
    – In 2012, Miller wrote, “nicotine … is not particularly bad for you in the amounts delivered by cigarettes or smokeless products.”
    – Miller has repeatedly argued for the re-introduction of DDT, a toxic pesticide banned in the United States since 1972, which has been linked to pre-term birth and fertility impairment in women.
    – In 2011, after the Japanese tsunami and radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plants, Miller argued that “those who were exposed to low levels of radiation could have actually benefitted from it.
    – Miller sits on the “scientific advisory board” of the George C. Marshall Institute, which is famous for its oil and gas industry funded denials of climate change.
    – Miller has argued that the FDA should outsource more of its functions to private industries, and has publicly attacked the FDA for its efforts to ensure proper vetting and testing of new drugs.

    http://www.carighttoknow.org/no_on_37_forced_to_pull_ad

  15. HarrySmith
    Napa Valley
    November 4, 2012, 9:03 pm

    Lets give Monsatan (Monsanto), Kellogs, Pepsi and the others a slap in the face! YES ON 37!

  16. Robert Wager
    Canada
    November 4, 2012, 8:59 pm

    Again the quote from the AAAS:
    The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Acad-
    emy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.
    http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2012/1025gm_statement.shtml#.UJXi4xwUInI.email

  17. Francine Jacobs
    Ocean Street
    November 4, 2012, 8:49 pm

    Proposition 37 allows consumers the right to know that the food they are eating is Genetically Modified. It would not cost consumers any money and has the support of the Center for Food Safety, California Nurses Association. It is supported by Consumer Advocates, Makers of Organic Products and California Farmers. Don’t believe the negative ads.

  18. Steve Savage
    Encinitas, CA
    November 4, 2012, 8:23 pm

    Even those that would like to see labeling should vote no on 37. It has all sorts of random exceptions (like everything sold in restaurants) and it sets up enforcement by lawsuit, not by any rational regulatory group. It was paid for by Dr Mercola – an internet quack who uses fear to hock “natural supplements” (also exempted in the initiative). This is a guy who campaigns against vaccinations and believes that all cancers are just fungal infections.

    This initiative is not really about a “right to know.” It is about misusing the CA initiative system to advantage its backers in the food market.

  19. Robert Wager
    Canada
    November 4, 2012, 6:56 pm

    Sorry should have given the link to the 25 years of research in Europe
    http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/pdf/a_decade_of_eu-funded_gmo_research.pdf

  20. Robert Wager
    Canada
    November 4, 2012, 6:53 pm

    A Decade of EU-Funded GMO research 2001-2010
    The 50 research projects can be grouped into the following
    principal areas:
    • Environmental Impacts of GMO;
    • GMO and Food Safety;
    • GMOs for biomaterials and biofuels –
    .
    It is evident from this grouping that many of the research
    projects have been launched to address not only the scientific
    unknowns but, more importantly, public concerns about the
    potential environmental impact of GMOs, about food safety,
    the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops, and risk assessment
    strategies….The main conclusion
    to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research
    projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research,
    and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is
    that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se
    more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

  21. Bryansail
    Alta Loma, ca.
    November 4, 2012, 6:49 pm

    Yes on 37 ! In the very near future current gmo technology (specifically bt ) will be conclusively shown to be extremely damaging, in the meantime yes on labeling!

    Robert – independent studies are the reason why european countries are banning all gmo items.

  22. steve
    November 4, 2012, 6:16 pm

    GMOs alter DNA, they enter the bloodstream as opposed to being destroying by HCL which Monsanto claims.
    bt toxin is found in 90% of people ingesting GMO corn.
    By the way, Obama’s USDA and FDA are completely controlled by Monsanto and more GMOs have been approved under his administration than all other Presidents combined.
    Yes on 37
    No on Obama

  23. b2bliving
    Bay area
    November 4, 2012, 5:10 pm

    It is also highlights the pathetic ignorance of voters

  24. Chris
    Maine
    November 4, 2012, 4:49 pm

    While I’m not convinced that GMO are more dangerous than conventionally grown organisms, I do believe that we have to hedge our bets for the future and require that we’re informed about what we’re consuming.

    That said – and as someone not able to lodge a vote for the prop – I’ve heard references that there are valid arguments against; e.g. instituting the labeling system would be extremely costly. I don’t understand how the latter could possibly be true, but I’d love to hear what the opposition is saying, if anyone would be good enough to enlighten me.

  25. NICHOLAS PERONE
    November 4, 2012, 4:46 pm

    YOUR HEALTH SHOULD BE THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR TO CONSIDER HERE, ABOVE AND BEYOND ANYTHING ELSE!!

    DOESN’T COST ANY MONEY TO PUT A CHECK MARK NEXT TO YES ON 37!!

  26. NICHOLAS PERONE
    November 4, 2012, 4:42 pm

    PLAIN AND SIMPLE!! REGARDLESS IF GMO’S ARE GOOD OR BAD, CONSUMERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW |!! JUST A SIMPLE LABLE!! VOTE YES ON 37!!

  27. peter
    massachusetts
    November 4, 2012, 4:03 pm

    The AAAS Board of Directors statement is misleading at best. Members of that organization have denounced that statement. The UCS supports yes on labeling. There are sound scientific reasons to be wary of GMOs on the market today. FDA testing is woefully inadequate, especially for long-term health and environmental impacts where it is non-existent.

    http://aharriedgardener.blogspot.com/#!/2012/10/california-yes-on-prop-37-please.html

  28. Marty
    California
    November 4, 2012, 2:55 pm

    I see the familiar comments of Monsanto apologist, Robert Wager, in this response string, touting the company line: all critics of GMOs are pseudo-science Luddites and we should trust Monsanto’s record. We’ll find out Tuesday how this campaign of invalidation has worked, won’t we. For my part, the answer is clear. Labeling. Monsanto’s fear—and it is justified—is that labeling will threaten their monopoly. I surely hope so. It’s hard to fathom a company that has spread more corruption and distress in the name of profits. Unless we include other rapacious business entities like Eli Lilly, Glaxo Smith Klein and the Mexican drug cartels. Monsanto has achieved what not of these others seem to have: an ability to strangle, at senior government levels, any attempt to regulate it. Proposition 37 will hopefully be the template to put period to their reign. But let’s keep our eye on the ball. Proposition 37 is at its heart about our rights as individual consumers to be informed and then make our decisions. http://organicconnectmag.com/wp/trust-us-the-proposition-37-halloween-video/

  29. Peter White
    Yes on 37 Country....
    November 4, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Monsanto, DuPont, Clorox, Unilever, Bayer…They make poison, no? They’re just a few of the donors (here’s the link to who and what’s what in robofood dealers’ bad jujuland: http://www.NoProp37.com/donors) pushing disinformation – and poison – in comments, editorials, infomercials and advertising saying “newspapers agree”, designed to keep you drinking the Ku-Laid, believing only losers would want to know what’s in it… What’s in it for those defeating your right to know? Let’s see: all those “All Natural” and “Natural” products that proliferate the stores and food sales- well, if we apply the GMO food biz’ own executive’s words, “you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it” and there go the sales of billions of dollars worth of “Natural” food… not to mention the sales of untold thousands of tons of herbicides and pesticides that will drop significantly once people actually “get it” that not-exactly-feelin’ -the-love is such a big part of their caloric intake… Would you, right now, unless a party(?) with a profit at stake, not want to have your food – or poisons – labeled? Who would be advocating anything but the positive benefits of simple labeling? Note the high level of shill and BigFoodCorpse postings – in articles, comments, editorials and public service announcements – very rationally, with pat talking points, well-reasoned and “scientifically” advocating against labeling… Please join me, friends, family and associates and VOTE YES on PROP 37….

  30. Robert Wager
    Canada
    November 4, 2012, 12:16 pm

    What possible reason would the moderator hold up the statement from the AAAS or the European report on GMO’s. Either National Geographis is about science or it is not.

  31. Robert Wager
    November 4, 2012, 11:40 am

    This should be of interest to people:

    A Decade of EU-Funded GMO research 2001-2010

    The 50 research projects can be grouped into the following

    principal areas:

    • Environmental Impacts of GMO;

    • GMO and Food Safety;

    • GMOs for biomaterials and biofuels –

    .

    It is evident from this grouping that many of the research

    projects have been launched to address not only the scientific

    unknowns but, more importantly, public concerns about the

    potential environmental impact of GMOs, about food safety,

    the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops, and risk assessment

    strategies….The main conclusion

    to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research

    projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research,

    and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is

    that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se

    more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.

  32. Robert Wager
    Canada
    November 4, 2012, 11:40 am

    AAAS Board of Directors: Legally Mandating GM Food Labels Could “Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers” http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2012/1025gm_statement.shtml

  33. Ted
    Florida
    November 4, 2012, 10:39 am

    I’m with you George. Unless the polls are inaccurate, it boggles my mind that that many percentage points could flip.

    I cannot believe that people are this ignorant on a decision this obvious. GMO’s have not been thoroughly tested and preliminary tests are showing they are dangerous. We are dealing with patenting basic fundamental foods and the health of the human race along with the health of Mother Earth.

    Maybe the human race is not worthy to be this planet’s shepherds. Maybe we’re destined to be this planet’s cancer. Evolution sure doesn’t seem to move evenly on this species’ tree!

    We’ll find out Tuesday. History may show this being more important than the Presidential election.