With the disappointing results now in from I-522, the initiative in Washington state that would have required labeling of genetically engineered food (aka, GMOs), the looming question is, what’s next? At least for the junk-food lobby, that answer in painfully clear: stop this state-level movement at any cost. In last Wednesday’s New York Times, Stephanie Strom reports on the dirty details contained in industry documents that I obtained from the Washington state attorney general’s office in the wake of a lawsuit brought against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for illegally concealing donors to the “No on 522” campaign. As I explained back in February, the food industry’s ultimate game plan to stop the bleeding in the state-by-state onslaught of GMO labeling efforts is to lobby for a weak federal law that simultaneously preempts or trumps any state-level policy. While we have known that industry would want to put an end to the public-relations nightmare happening state by state, this document for the first time reveals the lobbyists’ specific strategy. The details are even worse than I thought and give new meaning to the word “chutzpah.” I had predicted a federal compromise, where industry would agree to a weak form of labeling in exchange for stripping state authority. But what industry wants instead is to stop state laws to require labeling, while not giving up anything in return. In their own words, the game plan is to “pursue statutory federal preemption which does not include a labeling requirement.” Let me repeat that: The junk food lobby’s “federal solution” is to make it illegal for states to pass laws requiring GMO labeling. Period. End of story. This is not the way preemption is supposed to work. A quick primer: preemption simply means that a higher law trumps a lower law, so federal trumps state, and state trumps local. This is often the most economically feasible policy approach for business. But it’s also industry’s way of ensuring uniformity and stopping a movement in its tracks. Here is the pattern: a grassroots movement builds over time to enact local or state laws to protect public health or increase the minimum wage or some other social goal, and industry fights these efforts for years, until they can no longer win. At that point, corporate lobbyists either get their own weak bill passed or work with advocates to pass a compromise version. In exchange, this new law will preempt or prevent any state or city from passing a different or stronger law. It will also negate any law already passed. Forever. But usually, there is some underlying legal requirement that industry must follow for the concept of preemption to even make sense. The idea is to require some action by industry, with the trade-off for companies to follow one standard instead of 50. Take menu labeling in chain restaurants as a good example. For that issue, there was also a grassroots movement in both states and cities around the nation. So when the National Restaurant Association had enough of fighting those bills, the lobbying group agreed to a federal compromise to require only calorie counts (a weak standard) in exchange for preemption; that is, not allowing any state or local laws to go further. In fact, the Grocery Manufacturers Association itself endorsed this plan. But, in the current GMA chutzpah scenario, the federal government would outlaw states from enacting GMO labeling, while food makers would not have to label their products. In other words, industry would stop the grassroots movement and not have to pay any price. Now that the junk food lobby’s true agenda has been revealed, our federal representatives and officials are on notice: the food movement will be holding you accountable to ensure that this democracy-killing power grab does not come to fruition. You can read the entire set of documents from GMA here. Much of the text is redacted, a sign that industry has a lot more to hide.

  • doc raymond

    The people of Washington State have voted and expressed their opinions. Perhaps they were smart enough to see thru the smoke screens of the anti-GMO pablum?

    • Unlikely .

      The pro-GMO inundated folks with commercials, ads, and other material, questioning, questioning, and undermining the bill’s language.

      All you jave to do nowadays is say something is going to cost more. You don’t have to have proof. You don’t have to have evidence, or even a good argument. All you have to do is plant doubt about cost, and do so often enough and with enough vehemence, that the assertion becomes almost impossible to refute.

      If anything, this is a celebration of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, otherwise known as FUD.

      It doesn’t help that the GMO labeling folks appealed primarily to reason and logic, because nothing beats diving for the wallet when it comes to an election.

      It also doesn’t help when those wanting GMO labeling are castigated as cranks, luddites, or given other offensive titles. Not to say there aren’t some questionable groups associated with the GMO labeling movement, but it as diverse as the animal welfare, or other movements of like nature.

      Bottom line, the GMO label folks just couldn’t overcome the sheer volume and noise that millions of dollars buys.

    • Your1Friend


      They were manipulated to vote against their own interests by industry propaganda — the smoke screens of pro-GMO pabulum, if you will.

  • msps

    Or, doc Raymond, maybe they were taken in by the misleading advertising of the pro-gmo lobby.

    • John Mark Carter

      What if someone tried to pass a new law subjecting YOUR industry to the costs of increased governmental accountability and oversight to appease a special interest group. The people of Washington are largely rural and agricultural. At first they were suspicious of GMOs, like some people were suspicious of test tube babies. Now GMOs have been an invisible part of American life for >20 years, and like test tube babies, there’s no need to stigmatize them.

      • msps

        My profession is intensely regulated for the safety of all of us. I don’t see any problem with providing information for those who wish to avoid, or purchase for that matter, gmo materials. Why assume labeling is stigmatizing? Maybe it’s a way of pointing those who wish to consume gmo foods toward the products that include them.

        • bluto42

          Labeling introduces and supports unfounded and essential falsified fears that GMOs are harmful or that the science concerning their safety is not complete or reliable. Mandatory labeling of GMO foods is like legislating that science textbooks in public schools include teaching that creationism is a viable competing theory to evolution, or that the moon landing was a hoax, or that 9/11 was an inside job. Fact, rather than conspiracy theory is the only information that the public funds should be invested in. It is already general knowledge that organic food is an alternative to food that likely contains GMOs. That being said, if public choice and safety are of primary concern, shouldn’t organics be labeled with questionable safety issues that they represent, such as radiation breeding, residual pesticides, and soil contamination. f there are flaws to my argument, please let me know.

          • msps

            Lack of evidence is the problem with your argument. I don’t support labeling, but I do take exception to the unsupported assertion that “labeling introduces and supports unfounded and essential falsified fears that GMOs are harmful or that science concerning their safety is not complete or reliable.” Where’s your evidence for that? As I said, perhaps labeling would serve the purpose of directing those who wish to consume foods containing GMO ingredients TO them.

          • bluto42

            Perhaps it would help me to understand your argument better if you could explain why you suggest that “labeling would serve the purpose of directing those who wish to consume foods containing GMO ingredients TO them.” Next, what could I offer for evidence that would satisfy you? I’ll make you a deal so we can cut to the chase. You send me a link to substantial information that argues your position and I will read it/them. In return, you agree to reading a comparable set of information that I send you. I am willing to change my views if I encounter credible evidence that shows that I should do so, are you? By substantial information, I’d like to propose that scientific consensus reports by credentialed experts in the field count as the greatest evidence, and anecdotal/unsupported reports count as the least. We can trade evidence that lies upon a continuum between the two, with corresponding degrees of ‘substantial-ness’. As to evidence that labeling causes unfounded fears, I guess I could dig up information, but is it unacceptable to reason that negative labeling deters consumers, and that if every product contained labels of all of the processes and all of the scientific names of the compounds/ingredients then labeling would become meaningless? I mean, why label with speculation? It’s like including creationism in science textbooks, along with flat earth theory, alternative theories to the moon landing, JFK assassination, alien encounters, etc…. I argue there is harm in labeling ‘just because we can’. The FDA determines labeling requirements by a fact-based system, is there another system that would serve the public better? I’m curious to hear your point of view.

          • msps

            I am not trying to change your views. I support labeling because I want to know what’s in my food and from where it comes. And I support your right to eat, and believe, whatever you think is right for you.
            What I am questioning is your premise that labeling is negative. So far you’ve presented no evidence that establishes that labeling is negative, so as far as I can tell, it appears that there are those who wish to consume GMO foods, perhaps including you, and if that is the case then labeling is a positive for you since you will know what foods contain your desired ingredients. Likewise, for those like me who wish to avoid such foods, labeling is a plus. Therefore, labeling serves both of us and I see no issue with not having it.

          • Your1Friend

            Well, you have provided us false analogies, your “arguments” appear to be right out of the industry play books, and, in general, your thinking is quite cluttered by indoctrination.

            GMO “science” is no science at all: it is merely bad technology. Learn the difference(s) between science and technology; they are not the same!

          • susan

            Right, lets skip right over labeling and just BAN GMO!

  • Dcdawg

    Yet another marvel of blatantly biased reporting by Ms Simon…. She has clearly drunken the cool-aid of the anti-gmo lobby, and in a state of depression brought on by the rapid drop in blood sugar after last week’s defeat in WA.

    • You could have taken the high road and calmly and dispassionately discussed components of her writing you disagree with, giving rationale for your disagreement.

      But you decided on a personal attack, which only demonstrates your lack of understanding of the issue.

      • Gra

        That’s because his position doesn’t have a leg to stand on that his muses on tv didn’t make up from whole cloth in the first place, and that’s considering the error rate between the tv speakers and his brain, which has to be high. Must be nice for Dc, having no standards for discussion to judge him/herself by. I’ll be “yt” goes online everyday and lays out debate beatdowns left and right!

    • Your1Friend

      This sounds like the beginning of a new grade B novelette. And fiction it will surely be.

    • Gra

      Or maybe she’s just up to speed on all the research being conducted around the world on GMO ingredients and plants. Unlike yourself, the FDA, and the Ind.Ag. lobby, their flunkies on Capitol Hill,.. Can you answer a question for us? What’s “gliaden”? How about this question: How do you live with yourself?

  • The same thing happened with eggs, though the industry did not have enough control over the elected officials to get it passed. Either that, or the association with the HSUS caused hissy fits.

    Excellent writing, but your material is always excellent.

    What I’d like to see is an online written debate between you and Dan about GMO labeling. He seems to think it’s all stuff and nonsense, and you don’t. Might be a helpful way to communicate the different perspectives.

    • Rocketjones

      Just watch some of the movies with documentation of testing being done on GMO’s. I’ll spoil it for you, it’s all bad. GMO’s have 0 benefits. Anything is better.

  • Your1Friend

    I would argue that the GMO Industry’s alleged plans to get the Federal Government to kill GMO labeling laws are not only morally wrong, but profoundly anti-Constitutional.

    Amendment 10: “The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or the press…”

    The GMO Industry’s alleged plans would subvert the Constitution, sabotage State’s rights, further concentrate power in Washington, undermine freedom of speech and freedom of information.

    • Thomas Loscar

      I thank you for the commentary, I hope you don’t mind but Im going to copy and share this on my facebook …. Thanks 🙂

      • Your1Friend

        Hello Thomas:

        Please do. Whatever we can do to help.

        The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are hated and detested by Corporate America, but we will win this war.

  • CharlaS

    Obama plans to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership by Dec. 31. This is a trade agreement that will allow biotech companies to sue ANYONE who tries to label GMOs. It also does A LOT of other vile things like practically making multinational corporations sovereign. It overrides laws of countries in favor of corporations. NASTY piece of trash treaty that is being kept VERY QUIET.

    • susan

      Agree! ✋ STOP the SECRET TPP/TAFTA/TTIP Petitions ✋ Please Sign and Share! More info in the comments. http://tinyurl.com/SecretTPP

  • It’s ruthlessly unlawful doings by these GMO companies salvaging GMO labelling.

  • susan

    Let us not forget the TPP.. Although most people’s eyes glaze over at the mere mention, it is our worst nightmare.. It will affect everything from GMOs and labeling, food safety, environmental issues, public health, jobs, the internet and much more and will give nearly unlimited power to the big corporations. The ultimate Monsanto Protection Act and Monsanto is one of the 600 privileged negotiators of this otherwise top secret deal. Not even congress has seen the text.

    ✋ Stop the TPP/TAFTA/TTIP Petitions ✋ Please Sign and Share ✋ More info in the comments ✋


    Join your State Action Groups! http://tinyurl.com/StateActionGroups


    ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋ ✋

  • msps

    I haven’t researched who owns/belongs to/supports the American Scoiety for Microbiology, but just because it “believes that labeling on the basis of process is not scientifically warranted” doesn’t constitute evidence in my opinion. I happen to believe that those supporting or endorsing a lack of labeling can only specifically say that no negative effects from such materials has been identified YET. That is insufficient to convince me. As we know already, materials such as Roundup Ready seeds are already giving rise to superbugs and superweeds. I do not care to be a guinea pig for big chemical companies. Actual evidence is, in my opinion, totally lacking. All opponents of labeling can point to is their belief that because no negative effects have surfaced so far, which statement I’m sure some would contest, that they never will. Not good enough for me.

  • Dr. Rob Stuart

    When groups like these finally realize that we live in a world that can not feed itself. GMO-food has been shown to be safe and nutritious by our government. Furthermore, how can one actually determine if a food is non-GMO. You can say it is PCR-negative, but you can’t say that the product comes from non-GMO seed, etc. One has to trust the supplier to be truthful, and we know how far that goes in this world.