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Full Speed Ahead for Food Movement, Despite GMO-Labeling Loss

Cecilia Garza and James Trimarco
Yes! Magazine / News Analysis
Published: Friday 9 November 2012
“Proposition 37 would have required the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and banned the use of the word “natural” to market products that contain GMOs.”
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Supporters of California’s Proposition 37 are not giving up the fight after Tuesday’s rejection. In fact, they’re saying that the organizing around the initiative helped forge a diffuse group of individuals interested in healthy food into a powerful, organized movement.

“The Organic Consumers Association is a million strong," said Ronnie Cummins, the founder and director of that group said on a conference call on November 7. "We have 5 million people on our email list and we’re looking forward to continuing this battle.”

Proposition 37 would have required the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and banned the use of the word “natural” to market products that contain GMOs. While the initiative won urban coastal counties such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, it lost in the state’s central valleys. 

“We just didn't have the funds to compete on the air” in those regions, said Stacy Malkan, media director at California Right to Know. “Many of those voters were getting their news from TV and we couldn't compete with them.”

Companies like Monsanto, DuPont, and Pepsi poured nearly $50 million dollars into opposing the measure—about seven times what its supporters were able to raise—and spent most of the money on television and radio ads. 

Throughout the campaign, the truthfulness of advertisements opposing the measure came into question. At one point, the No on 37 campaign ran an ad that identified Henry I. Miller, an opponent of the measure, as a professor at Stanford University. The campaign was forced to pull the ad after Stanford announced that Dr. Miller was not a professor there.

Multiple strategies going forward 

Despite these frustrations, the mood was bright on Wednesday among supporters of Proposition 37, who were already discussing plans to introduce a similar ballot initiative in Washington state in 2013. Such an measure would need 325,000 signatures in order to significantly exceed the requirements for inclusion on the ballot, and organizers on the ground have already gathered half of that, according to Cummins.

Activists are making preparations for a similar effort in Oregon, although signature gathering there has yet to go into full force. Meanwhile, GMO-labeling bills have been introduced in the state legislatures of Connecticut and Vermont, which do not have a ballot initiative process.

Alongside efforts to implement GMO labeling in individual states, the food movement is putting pressure on the federal government. Dave Murphy, co-chair of the Yes on 37 campaign, explained that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled in 1992 that GMO crops are “equivalent” to traditional crops and therefore did not require labeling. 

“We believe that there is evidence that GMO crops are not equivalent and now is the time for the FDA to review that policy,” Murphy said. He added that the “Just Label It” campaign had collected more than one million signatures on a petition asking the FDA for a review and that the Center for Food Safety has said it is prepared to sue if the administration fails to respond.

Another achievement of the Yes on 37 campaign was the education of consumers, Cummins said. People had previously thought that products marketed as “natural” were “almost organic but cheaper.” 

The Yes on 37 campaign opened the conversation and changed that, he said. “‘Natural’ is a marketing term and has nothing to do with health or environmental sustainability.”

Cecilia Garza and James Trimarco wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. James is web editor at YES! and Cecilia is an online intern.

ABOUT Cecilia Garza

Cecilia Garza is a regular writer for Yes! Magazine.

With Michael Taylor at the

With Michael Taylor at the FDA there isn't much chance of changing the write Obama, your reps in D , and demand either gmos are "substantially the same" and thus do not deserve patents; or if they aren't, then the FDA must demand tests for human safety...and for more than 3 months!

However, the issue of patents is obscene...If I eat ge corn and the bt molecules enter my dna...I'll be damned if Monsanto can claim a patent on me!...Don't laugh, organic farmers whose crops have been polluted by ge pollen are sued and pushed into bankruptcy if they resist. It's scarey out there!!!

Even assuming that Prop 37

Even assuming that Prop 37 will lose when all ballots are counted, nonetheless even here in California there may be at least one near-future alternative: we're getting an improved state legislature.



It MUST be a fix! Who in

It MUST be a fix! Who in their right minds would want to buy food without knowing what's in it? Would you buy a car without knowing its performance? Well, some probably do but that's not the point. The point is that these companies just spent millions to defeat a proposal that would inform people what's in their food.
A car manufacturer spends that on advertising to let people know what the car can do. So obviously, biotech companies have something to hide! And we all know what that is, don't we? I can only come to one conclusion here: election fraud. No surprise really, when you know what they're up to and how much money they make from it. They're systematically poisoning the planet and all that lives on it, including us, only to line their own pockets! Stand up, people, demand that the votes are ALL counted, publicly! Then we'll see who's won!
And Monsatano et al can go packing!

"Supporters of California’s

"Supporters of California’s Proposition 37 are not giving up the fight after Tuesday’s rejection."

Not so fast -- All the ballots haven't been counted yet!


According to the link, there are over ONE MILLION ballots that haven't been counted. The California Secretary of State's website indicates that Prop 37 is behind by 559,776 votes.

It's not over, and if these ballots are never counted, IT'S ELECTION FRAUD!

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ABOUT James Trimarco

James Trimarco wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. James is web editor at YES!

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