On November 7 2012, Californians had a chance to vote on a law that would require labeling of all Genetically Modified (“GMO”) ingredients found in the processed foods sold in their state. The proposition also included a ban on the use of the word “natural” when it’s used to describe foods that contain GMO ingredients (a common approach used by many processed food manufacturers).
What set California’s proposition apart was that it was the first to be sponsored by citizens. As Haji Warf pointed out on my Facebook page, “Vermont and Connecticut attempted to implement labeling through the legislative channels. Even California tried that with genetically engineered salmon; it didn’t even make it out of the Appropriations Committee. By contrast, Proposition 37 is a citizens’ initiative — people taking the decision-making power back into their own hands instead of relying on state representatives.”
The fact that it was a bunch of citizens who couldn’t be sued made pro-GMO companies very nervous. So nervous in fact, that a group consisting of many of the top names in the processed food industry (including every one of the labels shown at left) joined up with Monsanto to finance, develop and distribute anti-GMO labeling publicity.
By the time citizens were ready to cast their vote, this group of anti-GMO labeling companies had spent approximately $43 million on television commercials, YouTube videos, a website, social media, multiple mailers, print advertising, and even an “activity” booklet for children titled “Look Closer at Biotechnology” to create as much voter confusion as possible.
With $43 million at their disposal, tactics ranged from using a fake FDA quote and mailers that fraudulently displayed the FDA seal (a criminal complaint has been filed with the FBI, but the FBI is simply referring the complaint back to the FDA, which, being controlled by several ex-Monsanto VPs and attorneys, probably won’t go much further), to fabricated front groups, and even impersonating a police organization (among others) to send out more mailers opposing GMO labeling.
The majority of these publicity efforts were handled by the same high-powered PR firm who was responsible for helping Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds in the “Californians for Smokers’ Rights” initiatives back in the 1980s and 1990s, and more recently the big oil companies’ fight against clean energy and climate laws in 2010.
As a result of all the confusion and “faux facts,” California’s Proposition 37 failed to make GMO labeling a reality.
What can you do now?
1) Keep sharing the truth. This page is packed with cross-referenced studies showing the inherent risks and proven health impacts resulting from genetically modified organisms. This video is a great way to wake up your unaware friends—especially those with children.
2) Sign a local petition. Visit your nearest natural / organic grocery store / food co-op or farmer’s market, and ask them if they’ve started a GMO Labeling petition you can sign. If not, give them this letter and ask them to consider starting one. If they won’t, you can always start one of your own!
3) Don’t let the big food manufacturers bully you… buy organic. Is organic always GMO free? Yes, most of the time. Plus buying organic goes further towards supporting the right kinds of farms, food manufacturing companies, and nutrition choices. And last but not least…
4) Meanwhile, DO NOT BUY from the following anti-GMO-labeling companies. These companies are responsible for producing the majority of GMO-laden processed foods sold in the United States and for making a financial contribution to fight California’s anti-GMO labeling campaign. Don’t put these products in your grocery basket:
Bimbo Bakeries USA: think Boboli, Earth Grains, Oroweat, Entenmanns, and more
Bumble Bee Foods, LLC: canned fish and ready-to-eat meats
Campbell Soup Company: so much more than soup—their brands include Prego sauces, Pace salsas, Pepperidge Farms, Swansons (broths), V8 juice, and more
Cargill, Inc.: manufacturers of processed food ingredients
C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc.: manufacturers of Pioneer and White Wings flour, baking and gravy mixes, and tortillas)
Coca-Cola North America
ConAgra Foods: manufacturers of Marie Callenders, Orville Reddenbacher, Banquet, Hunts, Chef BoyarDee, Hebrew National, David Sunflower seeds, Wesson Oils and many, many more
Dean Foods Company: manufacturers of Silk and Horizon organic products… talk about walking both sides of the fence!
Del Monte Foods Company
Dole Packaged Foods Company
General Mills, Inc.: manufacturers of Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Gardettos, Gold Medal, Green Giant, Haagen Dazs, Hamburger Helper, Larabar, Muir Glen, Mountain High, Nature Valley, Pillsbury, Progresso, Totinos, Yoplait, and more breakfast cereals than I can list.
Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.
Hero North America: 100% “natural” jams and jellies (with GMO sugars)
Hormel Foods Corporation
House-Autry Mills, Inc.
Idahoan Foods, LLC
Inventure Foods, Inc.
J.M. Smucker Company
Knouse Foods Cooperative, Inc.: apple sauce, juices, and pie fillings
Land O’Lakes, Inc.: butters, cheeses, eggs, spreads, creams and more
Mars Food North America: M&Ms, Snickers, Skittles, and more, plus Pedigree and Royal Canin pet food
McCain Foods USA, Inc.: frozen potato products and snack foods
McCormick & Company, Inc.: spices, packages of seasoning mixes, and instant sauces
Nestlé USA, Inc.: more than just chocolate… they provide bottled water, dairy products, cereals, baby food, ice cream and more
Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.: juice, dried fruit, snacks and sauces
PepsiCo, Inc.: in addition to sodas and beverages like Naked Juice, they’re responsible for manufacturing Fritos, Doritos, Tostitos, Sun Chips, and Quaker brand oats and cereals
Pinnacle Foods Group LLC: think Armour hot dogs, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, Bird’s Eye vegetables, Duncan Hines cakes, Hungry Man dinners, Mrs. Paul’s and Van de Kamp’s fish sticks, Nalley’s chili, Tim’s Cascade potato chips, and more…
Reily Foods Company: coffee, tea, cake mixes, mayonnaise and more
Rich’s Products Corporation: too many to list… click the link to see them all
Richelieu Foods, Inc.: pizza and sauces… and an organic line on the side to keep us no-GMO people quiet…
Sara Lee Corporation: Ball Park franks, Jimmy Dean sausage, Hillshire Farm meats and more…
Sargento Foods, Inc.: packaged and processed cheeses
Solae, LLC: DuPont Chemical’s soy brand
Sunny Delight Beverages Company
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company: gum, mints and candy
This graph was compiled in September 2012, view the total contributions by these and other related companies here).
In addition to the above food manufacturers, why do you suppose the world’s top chemical manufacturers—those responsible for DDT, Agent Orange, and other formerly “proven safe” chemicals—are taking the lead in preventing you from knowing what’s in your food?
Even though “Big Ag” spending caused enough confusion with their “faux facts” to defeat Proposition 37, we are confident that US citizens will be even more prepared for the next labeling initiative. Until then, make sure you vote with your wallets at the grocery store by avoiding the list of food manufacturers and products shown above!
Update on GMO Labeling:
Organizers in multiple other U.S. states have begun building labeling campaigns, under the banner of the “Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO labeling.” These states include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. New Mexico recently announced its own labeling initiative (I’m not yet able to determine if it’s related to the Coalition effort).