In the wake of a 56%-44% defeat of California’s Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of genetically engineered foods, the San Francisco Examiner newspaper’s online editorial asked the relevant question:
“Polls routinely show that 90% of all Americans support genetically modified food labeling. So how is it that California’s Proposition 37 was defeated so soundly yesterday?”
Here’s their answer:
“A last-minute $45-$48 million advertising campaign by multi-national food corporations asking the state’s voters to vote No on Prop 37. [It] would seem that pure, old-fashioned, repetitive advertising carried the day.”
Maybe money was the deciding factor, but allow me to amplify that insight somewhat: Prop 37 failed because it was a lousy law that was fatally positioned by the organic and natural foods interests that drummed up the measure in the first place.
No matter how bland and benign the Yes on Prop 37 campaign tried to appear—“This is just a common-sense labeling issue because people have a right to know what’s in their food,” was a typical line—the measure’s supporters always ended up playing the dangerous and deadly card.
GMOs are dangerous to the environment. GMO foods are dangerous to human health. Biotechnology is an unproven, scary new science. Genetic engineering is creating horrible Frankenfoods that people are forced to eat. GM crops are allowing mega-corporations to control the world’s food supply.
All of that fear-mongering was eagerly encouraged, if not overtly promoted, by the groups working to mandate GE labeling.
Yet once the food industry and the biotech supplier companies began pointing out that more than two-thirds of all foods—including meat, dairy and foodservice products—were exempt under the rules of Prop 37, the obvious question arose: If GM foods are so horrible, why would the new law exclude the majority of foods people eat?
A moral victory?
Yesterday, the Yes on Proposition 37 campaign held a conference call with California media members to celebrate what they called the campaign’s “moral victory” and to outline the next steps in the group's continuing effort to push for GE labeling laws.
“We won a moral victory," said Dave Murphy, co-chairman of the Yes on 37 California Right to Know campaign and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, told reporters. “We exposed this issue nationally in a way that’s never been done before.”