Prop 37 defeated but GMO labeling issue is here to stay

Published: November 7, 2012

Category: GM Food Labeling and Regulations

GMO Food, Safety Threatened

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More than 4 million Californians voted for the right to know; initiative raised consumer awareness of GMOs

Proposition 37, California’s ballot initiative to label genetically modified foods was defeated by the state’s voters 53-47%.

More than 4.2 million voters supported the initiative despite a $46 million ad campaign by opponents of the measure led by Monsanto Company. The California Right to Know-Yes on Proposition 37 campaign was outspent five to one.

The No on Proposition 37 campaign flooded the airwaves with misleading ads claiming that Prop 37 would increase consumers’ food cost by $400 per year, lead to many frivolous lawsuits, and hurt farmers and food retailers. None of those claims was backed by any evidence that these things would happen. A statement from the Yes on Prop 37 campaign said, “In the end, they spent enough money to hide the truth from the majority of voters.”

State Coalition, Just Label It pressing on

Despite the loss, GMO labeling advocates emphasize the fight for labeling will continue. Washington’s labeling initiative, I-522, is likely to appear on the ballot in 2013, and Monsanto & Co. will have to fork out millions more to defeat this and other initiatives in the works. A new Coalition of States for GMO Labeling has been formed with organizers from 23 states.

Just Label It aims to reach 2 million comments on its labeling petition to the FDA. The group aims to continue to ensure that GM food labeling gets the national attention it needs, emphasizing that Americans deserve the same rights as citizens in the European Union, Japan, Russia, China and more than 50 other countries worldwide where GM foods are already labeled.

“California’s Proposition 37 is a win for all Americans who believe in our democratic right to have the information we need to make an informed decision about the food we eat and feed our families,” said Gary Hirshberg, Chairman, Just Label It.  “Prop 37 placed the issue of GM food labeling front and center, and took critical steps forward in heightening the discussion, and raising the profile, to make labeling and transparency around our food a reality for the nation. Thanks to the efforts of the millions of people who supported this initiative, the issue of GM food labeling is here to stay.”

Increased awareness of risky technology; tipping point is coming

As Hirshberg emphasized, Prop 37 also raised awareness of the GM food issue among millions of more Americans. The initiative put the risky technology of genetic engineering into the spotlight forcing biotechnology corporations and food manufacturers to defend their experimentation with the food supply and with public health. People are becoming more educated about GMOs, they don’t like what they see, and they want the right to know whether their foods contain them.

According to the Cornucopia Institute, the biotechnology and food manufacturing industry’s efforts to defeat Proposition 37 revealed just how terrified these corporations were of consumers knowing what they are eating.  

“Their obvious fear of people knowing what they’re eating raises serious questions about their products’ safety, and more and more consumers are making that connection,” says Cornucopia's Mark Kastel. 

Food manufacturers may start to wonder why they are supporting GM technology when it provides little benefit to them and lots of downsides. In fact, Forbes magazine recently questioned the wisdom of food manufacturers fighting GM food labeling and called for “a hide-nothing, tell-all approach.”

A biotech industry lawyer recently told the Chicago Tribune, the tipping point for labeling is coming. It’s only a matter of time when.

The Yes on Prop 37 campaign is optimistic: “Today is not the end of our campaign to secure our fundamental right to know what’s in our food. It is a strong beginning, and we thank the millions of Californians who stood with us. We will keep fighting for consumer choice, fairness and transparency in our food system. And we will prevail.”

© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, November 2012