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California News: YES on Prop 37!

Campaigners seeking mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods in California claim that food processing giants and agribusinesses have paid millions of dollars in an attempt to stifle them.

The California Right to Know campaign, which is backing Proposition 37 on labeling GM food and ingredients, has disclosed campaign finance reports which show major agrochemical and food companies have spent over $7 million (£4.5 million) to oppose their campaign. According to California Secretary of State disclosure forms, the largest contributions so far have been made by agribusinesses Dupont Pioneer ($2,441,500), Bayer Cropscience ($1,064,000) and BASF Plant Science ($996,500).

Other major food players have also spent large amounts to oppose the labeling campaign. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle USA and General Mills have each spent $500,000. All of these corporations use genetically modified ingredients in almost every food and beverage they produce, including Coke and sodas, chips, salsas, pizza, bread and more. They have a huge vested interest in keeping the American public in the dark about how many genetically modified ingredients they use.

Payments were made to the counter-campaign ‘No on 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme, Sponsored by Farmers, Food Producers and Grocers’. The ‘No on 37′ group claims that food labeling laws would “increase food costs by billions, add more government bureaucracy and [give rise to] frivolous lawsuits, without providing any health or safety benefits.”

The campaign has said the current Proposition 37 is flawed, and funded press statements advising voters vote against introducing new legislation. These statements include testimonies from a number of eminent scientists who express support for GM food and condemn the proposed labeling laws.

However, the United States’ Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch service revealed at the beginning of the month that the ‘No on 37′ group, “formerly known as the ‘Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition’ receives significant support from the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA),” which it claims are both well-known front groups for the “Big 6″ pesticide and genetic engineering companies.

More Pesticides Are Used To Grow Genetically Modified Foods Than Regular Crops

Both sides in the prop 37 debate claim the other is disseminating misinformation. The ‘No on 37’ campaign claims labeling laws would lead food manufacturers to switch to conventionally grown ingredients. They state this would lead to rises in food prices and even to increased use of damaging agricultural chemicals.

However, in addition to pointing out that an increase in pesticide use would at first glance seem beneficial for the agchem companies fighting to ensure the proposition fails in California, Dr Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, a senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, retorted, “Rather than reducing the need for hazardous pesticides, genetically modified seeds have driven a massive increase in chemical use that has been linked to significant environmental and public health concerns.”

Many genetically modified seeds are modified to be herbicide-resistant, so that more dangerous chemical weed-killers can be sprayed on them than crops grown with regular seeds.

She continued, “It’s clear that genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant seeds are the growth engines of the pesticide industry’s sales and marketing strategy. These seeds are part of a technology package explicitly designed to facilitate increased, indiscriminate herbicide use and pump up chemical sales.”

The Right to Know campaign also points out that Prop 37 will have no cost impact on consumers or even on food producers. It simply adds a label to genetically engineered food.

Voting on Proposition 37 will take place on 6th November. The results will apply only to California, but supporters of GM labeling have said that, if successful, the campaign could spark a groundswell of support and lead to similar consumer awareness campaigns elsewhere. Polls in California currently show 69 per cent support for prop 37, though the ‘Yes on 37’ campaign claims in excess of 90 per cent support.


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