By a much larger margin than expected, California voters have decided they can live without labels on genetically modified food, a decision that means the state will not be at odds with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s policy of not labeling GM foods, which goes back more than two decades.
By a vote of 53 to 47 percent, the Golden State voted “No” on Proposition 37.
The vote was a stunning reversal for an initiative that easily started out with better than two-to-one support in California. One national pollster last March found that nine out of ten Americans supported labeling GE foods.
But after what rates as a fully engaged campaign for California, Prop. 37 saw that support evaporate under the pressure of a paid campaign by opponents and the “Yes” campaign’s failure to write and explain the law they wanted voters to pass.
Prop. 37 was a big bucks California initiative with funding that totaled $54.5 million. The “No” campaign had the most to spend, with $45.6 million, but the “Yes” side was not without financial resources, coming in with $8.9 million.
Map Light, a nonprofit that tracks California campaign spending, reports that Monsanto Company spent the most on Prop. 37, with $8.112 million going to the “No” campaign. DuPont was second, giving the “No” side” $5.4 million.
Others in the top ten contributing to the “No” campaign included PepsiCo, Grocery Manufactures Association, BASF Plant Science, Bayer Cropscience, Dow Agrosciences LLC, Syngenta Corp., Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola.
Those companies all gave between $1.7 million and $2.1 million.
The top two contributors to the “Yes” campaign were Mercola.Com Health Resources, with $1.115 million, and the “seed saving” Kent Whealy at $1 million.
Others in the top ten contributing to the “Yes” campaign included Nature’s Path Foods, Organic Consumers Fund, Dr. Bonner’s Magic Soaps All-One-God-Faith Inc., Mark Squire (Good Earth Natural Foods), Wehah Farm Inc., venture capitalist Ali Partovi, Amy’s Kitchen and the Stillonger Trust.
These companies all gave between $190,000 and $660,709.
The “Yes on Prop. 37” campaign did build on the coalition it created to get on the ballot. In addition to the state’s organic food movement, it brought such powerful groups to the party as Consumers Union, United Farm Workers, Center for Food Safety and the California Council of Churches, among others.
The campaign argued that California food shoppers have a “right to know” before they purchase GM food, and pointed out that consumers in 61 countries around the world are able to do that now.
But the Yes on Prop. 37 campaign was troubled from the start, losing the editorial support of the overwhelming majority of California newspaper editorial writers, who became concerned about the language the drafters used in the measure.
And the well-funded “No on 37” campaign pounced on those problems, raising concerns about how the how labeling costs could get passed on to consumers and how easy it would be to launch lawsuits against California farmers and retailers.
The No campaign also pointed to what it claimed is more than 400 scientific studies that have all concluded there is no food safety difference between GMO and non-GMO foods.
Prop 37 was not the only food-related campaign on a state ballot Tuesday. By far the most successful were the National Rifle Association’s (NRA’s) ballot measures in Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska and Wyoming to make hunting, fishing and trapping constitutionally protected activitieis.
About a dozen other states already have adopted similar protections, which are designed to make the right to “harvest” wildlife. In each of the states targeted by NRA in this election cycle, voters agreed by margins in the three-to-one range.
Also Tuesday, North Dakota adopted a “right to farm” measure, which is intended to make it more difficult to challenge current farming practices. While North Dakota voters easily approved that measure, they rejected one that would have made some acts of animal cruelty felonies instead of misdemeanors.© Food Safety News