Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Sad Day in America: Prop 37 Defeated by Dirty Dollars

It's a very sad day for this country, and most people don't even know it. They also don't know what's in their food, thanks to the $50 million spent by pesticide and junk food companies to keep it that way and defeat California's Prop 37. Thank you, Monsanto, and your $8.1 million. Thank you, DuPont, for your $5.4 million. Thank yous as well to Pepsi, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, Kraft and Coca-Cola for your millions.

The pattern, though, is not unprecedented. When these and similar companies feel threatened by possible changes in laws that will hurt their bottom lines, they spend as much money as necessary to keep the status quo. Add the labeling of genetically-engineered foods to a list that includes soda taxes and plastic bag fees.

While California would have been a huge win considering its economy is one of the world's largest, the next fight is ongoing in Washington State, where supporters of I-522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” are working to collect the 241,153 valid signatures needed to get I-522 on the state's November 2013 ballot.

Here's this morning's New York Times article by Andrew Pollack on Prop 37's defeat. Rest in peace Prop 37; may I-522 be subject to a more fair fight, minus the chicanery, obfuscation and tomfoolery.

"California voters appear to have rejected a closely watched ballot measure that would have made the state the first in the nation to require the labeling of foods made from genetically modified crops.

"With 95 percent of precincts having partially reported by early Wednesday morning, the measure was trailing by 53 percent to 47.0 percent, according to the California secretary of state.

"Support for the initiative, once greater than 60 percent according to opinion polls, crumpled in the last month under a barrage of negative advertisements paid for by food and biotechnology companies.

"Had it passed, the initiative, called Proposition 37, could have prompted other states to follow California and perhaps given impetus to efforts to require such labeling nationally.

"It could also have led to a reduction in the use of genetically modified crops, which now account for more than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and sugar beets grown in the United States. That is because food companies, fearing that some consumers would shun products labeled as genetically engineered, would instead reformulate their products to avoid such ingredients.

"With so much at stake, food and biotechnology companies amassed a $46 million war chest, according to Maplight, an organization that tracks campaign contributions. Monsanto, the largest supplier of genetically engineered seeds, contributed $8.1 million and DuPont, another seed supplier, $5.4 million. Kraft Foods and Pepsico each contributed at least $2 million.

"Proponents of the measure, mainly from the organic and natural foods business, raised only $9.2 million and did not mount a meaningful television advertising campaign until a few days before the election.

"Backers of Proposition 37 argued that consumers have the right to know what is in their food and that dozens of other countries, including those in the European Union, require such labeling.

"The Food and Drug Administration does not require labeling of a food just because it is genetically modified, saying that there is no material difference between such foods and conventional counterparts. If the genetic engineering were to impart some significant difference – such as changing the nutritional characteristics or introducing an allergen — then that difference would be noted on the label.

"The opponents of Proposition 37 did not so much directly attack the notion of consumers’ right to know. Instead, they said Proposition 37 was worded in a way that might lead to red tape, rising food prices and a flurry of lawsuits against food companies and supermarkets.

"Backers of Proposition 37 called these claims misleading. 'We’re not forcing them to do anything but put two to six words on their label,' said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group opposed to crop biotechnology.

"The big issue in the background is whether such crops are safe. The general consensus in the scientific community and among regulators is that the biotech crops now on the market generally are. Critics say adequate safety studies have not been done."

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