GM labeling Proposition 37 fails in California

By Matt Reese

After a hyped-up and expensive campaign in California, West Coast voters said “No” to the labeling of genetically modified crops by a surprising vote of 53% to 47% on Proposition 37.

The measure had substantial opposition from the agricultural community and ample initial support from California voters.

“It’s just awful in my opinion,” said Dean Kleckner, Truth About Trade and Technology Chairman Emeritus and former American Farm Bureau president. “It’s as though there’s something wrong with biotech. Seventy percent of the food that we buy in the supermarket in this country has some element of biotechnology in it — could be corn oil, could be soybean oil.”

Campaign spending on the measure totaled $54.5 million with the “No” campaign spending $45.6 million, and advocates spending $8.9 million. Monsanto Company spent the most on Prop. 37, with $8.112 million going to the “No” campaign and DuPont was second, giving the “No” side” $5.4 million. The top two contributors to the “Yes” campaign were Mercola.Com Health Resources, with $1.115 million, and noted saver of seeds Kent Whealy at $1 million.

The idea of labeling genetically modified foods had tremendous support coming into the campaign season. Last spring, a national pollster found that 90% of Americans supported labeling genetically modified foods. So what brought about the tremendous change?

According to the National Corn Growers Association, a sharp decline in support in the weeks leading up to the election showed that Californians understood that the regulation would increase opportunities for frivolous lawsuits and redefine simple terms like “natural” in a confusing way without actually providing useful information that benefits consumers. This change was partially driven by the fact that 33 daily newspapers opposed of the ballot initiative and outlined its faults in detail.

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  1. Matt, look at the facts as an objective reporter. You will see the following. After you look at the effects of labeling in Japan and Europe on supply and cost of food.

    It was a major scare campaign that had no real economic base. Look at the lies on top of lies the no campaign hit the public with in the month leading up to the election. Lies like there would be major food storages including no food in the stores, that farmers could not get seed to grow crops, that food costs would increase over three times. The real losers are the public and the farmers for the profits of the food companies. It was labeling not a ban on GMO. All those editorials assumed that it was a de facto ban.

    • Dan, I have looked at the facts and actually read the proposal. Personally, I have no problem with food labeling, but this particular proposition was riddled with loopholes and jargon and would have created more consumer confusion, all with a hefty price tag for food processors and California consumers. I am certain that, as in all campaigns, the folks pushing for the no vote relied on a lopsided set of facts, but the yes vote camp can certainly (and even more so) be accused of the same thing. People absolutely have the right to know what is in their food, but the realities of Proposition 37 did little to further that goal. The voters, and numerous California newspapers, agreed.
      Based upon consumer demand, Japan and Europe have a food processing system set up to handle non-GM production. We are not yet set up that way here in the U.S. If U.S. consumer demand and willingness to pay more for non-GM foods becomes evident (which it may) there are some great opportunities for an enterprising entrepreneur (maybe you) to start a non-GM food processing facility that could more easily start their own non-GM label at a fraction of the cost of a mandate through public policy.
      – Matt Reese

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