I should have posted some reflection ten months ago when California’s Proposition 37 to label genetically modified food was defeated. In case you missed Dr. Bronner’s role, the company supported the Yes on 37 campaign with over $600,000 and we all did our part to speak out on behalf of labeling. After 37 lost, I heard many comments about what a tragedy it was. However, it could only have been a tragedy if that were the end of the story. Instead, it was merely the beginning.
Taken together, everything that happened around Proposition 37 served as a great catalyst to bring this issue to the forefront of the national stage. The debate is now being waged in many states, with progress in Connecticut and Maine who are waiting for four more New England states to join them in enacting labeling. And most importantly and immediately Washington state is prepped for victory this November on Initiative 522, mandating GMO labeling.
Lessons Learned from 37
Despite being outspent by over 5 to 1, Prop 37 lost by very little, only 1.4%. This was the closest vote among the 2012 propositions, and one of the closer proposition outcomes in recent history. The $46 million that the No on 37 campaign spent only bought them a scraping victory. Furthermore, much of the $8 million that Yes on 37 raised came in very late, somewhat past the point of usability. If you lived in California last October, think back on what the advertising was like. Every commercial break on every major TV channel and radio station contained an ad from the No on 37 side. Every day brought a new mailing in the mailbox. Yet, despite drenching, saturating, monopolizing the air waves, mailboxes, printed media, they were only able to win by so little.
This shows us that our arguments for labeling are extremely strong. People who knew the facts about the GMO situation, who were exposed to fact-based arguments beyond the opposition’s misleading commercials were not swayed. Furthermore, these people were passionately convinced enough to spread the word via whatever free mediums they had available. Although the $8 million raised by Yes on 37 was a tidy sum, it didn’t go far spread over a state the size of California. And therefore the hold on the vote that Yes on 37 was able to maintain is a testimony to the merit of the arguments to label GMO’s which passionate and persevering individuals mightily proclaimed.
We are applying this lesson right now in Washington state. Money needs to be raised now – with 7 weeks to go – so that we can get our argument for labeling in front of the voters as early as possible and right where they are; this means during the nightly news. We need to show them the facts through efficient advertising before the opposition muddies the water with nonsensical, misleading and irrelevant claims.
Another great success that emerged from 37 is the way the media is covering the issue. The media, too, underwent a steep learning curve last year which has continued beyond the election. As more and more research has emerged, they are waking up to the reality that they’ve been duped by biotech superpowers such as Monsanto, whom a year ago seemed to be writing the articles for the press.
Not a Tragedy
The Prop 37 outcome was not a tragedy because we made such enormous strides in public education –what GMO’s are, how they’ve been used, what industry concealment has occurred, and why we should care. Furthermore, some quiet and troubling truths of the food industry became clearly evident.
Part way through the 2012 campaign, the Cornucopia Institute published this comparison of the brands, and their parents, making up the two sides of the Prop 37 debate.
Why didn’t such healthy and natural heavy-hitters such as Kashi, Horizon Organic, Silk, Naked Juice, Odwalla, Cascadian Farms support the labeling of GMO’s? Because their parent companies Kellogg, Dean Foods, PepsiCo, Coco Cola, and General Mills were prime funders to defeat Prop 37.
How has this technology of genetic modification been put to use? Not to increase nutrient density, not to increase crop yield, not to increase drought-tolerance. Nope. The primary use of genetic modification has been to create crops that produce or withstand greater amounts pesticides and herbicides. Because of this tolerance, farmers apply vastly greater amounts of weed and pest killers on the crops. One such example of this vicious cycle is the development of Round Up Ready corn and soy which fuels Monsanto’s sale of Round Up herbicide. Now these are failing due to the emergence of resistant super-weeds and super-pests. Therefore, the industry is engineering tolerance for far more toxic herbicides such as Dicamba and 2,4 D which is the main ingredient in Agent Orange.
Where is this going to end? How about here and now, beginning with labeling that informs where these crops are found in our grocery stores.
The Ongoing Debate
What would have happened if we could have taken the passion of the Prop 37 supporters and magnified it with more manpower and more resources? We have the chance to find out. This year. Washington state. Initiative 522. Get involved regardless of where you are by going to YesOn522.com. Make phone calls, donate money, and just keep talking about it.
For my earlier posts on this topic, check out Let’s Talk Lunch – An Intro to Genetically Modified Food and Yes on Prop 37 – Label Genetically Modified Food.