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Proposition 37 – gone, but probably not forgotten

  • The defeat of Proposition 37 doesn’t mean an end to the push for GMO labeling, which many see as an attempt by the organic trade to impose regulation on its competition. Expect a far more polished, and well-funded campaign the next time around.

California’s Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of many grocery products containing genetically-engineered ingredients, was defeated by voters on Nov. 6. The setback for the organic industry has temporarily discouraged the spread of this measure to other states. But it isn’t over by a long shot.

The organic trade insisted that Proposition 37 was strictly a means to provide consumers with the right to know what’s in the products they eat. But many saw it as a thinly concealed attempt by organics to impose excessive regulation on its competition.

At the very least, Proposition 37 is standard operating procedure for organic product marketing. If your produce is no different in terms of taste, safety and nutrition from a competitor, and costs more, apparently the only marketing option is to create a negative image of your competitor’s product.

Fifty-three percent of California voters saw through the charade and clearly understood agriculture’s message.

(For more, see: Prop 37 supporters blame defeat on several wrong reasons)

After the defeat of Proposition 37, Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, said the ballot measure “would have required most, but not all, foods made with genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled in the state, and would likely have caused unnecessary, increased food costs for California consumers and frivolous lawsuits against farmers, grocers and food companies.”

On the other hand, the debate around Proposition 37 “did put a spotlight on consumer interest in our U.S. food system and added to the modern agriculture dialogue we at CLA and many stakeholders have actively been having in recent years,” Vroom said. “We look forward to widening the discussion and learning more from one another.”

The Cornucopia Institute had a different view of the defeat, writing in a blog, “After a deluge of allegedly misleading advertisements paid for in large part by pesticide and biotechnology corporations, California voters defeated Proposition 37.”

Others simply refused to believe that their cause didn’t resonate with California voters on message alone. “This is a story about money,” fumed Stacy Malkan, media director of the Proposition 37 campaign. “Our loss had to do with being outspent. We didn’t have the funds to compete on the air in the central regions of the states.”

The defeat of Proposition 37 doesn’t mean an end to GMO labeling. A somewhat facetious post on a Facebook page called Yes to 37 suggested that in the future, California recruit the rich and famous. “With the pesticide companies and big ag funneling millions to trick people into thinking Prop 37 is costly and confusing, we need all the people power we can get. This is where celebrities can help out. They are people and consumers just like the rest of us, but they have big mouths!”

With or without celebrities speaking loudly, expect a much more polished, and more well-funded GMO labeling campaign the next time around.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 28, 2012

History will eventually document the organic movement to be one of the greatest consumer cons of all time. What was destined to always be a niche market for the "trendies" searching for eternal life here on earth, was highjacked by a group of well-to-do elitists who turned organic food production into a politically charged full blown social movement as they launched hysterical campaigns of fear mongering aimed at modern American agricultural production in order to further their cynical goals......all for a product that is proven to offer no additional health benefits but is proven to harm one's wallet!

Mary Orcutt (not verified)
on Nov 28, 2012

Both sides wage a fear campaign--one side says GMOs threaten life, the other side says food will double in price without them. Partial disclosure I work for a large pro GMO company, and was educated in the state univesities here in CA in Ag, where we never even thought there was anything negative about GMOs--a new tool to help farmers! But I will tell you that comments from Facebook, people I know and even at meetings where I go are almost universally negative for GMOs. People are frightened of this technology and it's very hard to convince anyone of the safety.

Chemie Babe (not verified)
on Nov 28, 2012

I agree with Mary, and it's too bad. We have become a nation that allows emotion and social media to dominate every aspect of our lifes. There is no room for common sense. As a nation we are so weak in science and math that we don't have the tools to investigate claims made by either side. When people reley on Facebook and "People" magazine for the bulk of their information about the world they are doomed to dumbness!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 29, 2012

People today are programmed and believe that if a doctor says something is good for them on the news theyll consume it. If dog poop was a cure for wrinkles people would rub it on their faces. The problem goes further than that. People are programmed like robots. They work, pay bills, eat and sleep. They do nothing to stop the laws and pass laws. If measures would have been taken we would not have big corporations like monsanto and getting labels on our food would not be a problem. IT IS A HUGE PROBLEM. When one person controls all of our food!!!!!!!!!!!! Wake up people for our childrens children and lets pull together and take control of our human rights!!!!!! Every single non profit organization needs to connect. Organic farmers, sustainable farmers, Consumers. Its time to know your neighbors and its time to form together. I pray this stops soon but I predict it getting a lot worse before it gets better.

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