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Ag Giants Spend Big To Defeat Labeling Initiative

The nation's largest agribusiness and biotech companies are pouring big money into the fight against the country's first-ever initiative that would require special labels on foods made with genetically modified ingredients, a sign of their determination to keep the proposal from sparking a nationwide movement.

So far, farming giants such as Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer and Cargill have contributed nearly $25 million to defeat the proposal, with much of that cash coming in the past few days. It's nearly 10 times the amount raised by backers of the measure who say California's health-conscious shoppers want more information about the food they eat.

With nearly three months to go before the November election, the measure's opponents appear to be following the previous blueprint developed by major industries to defeat ballot initiatives in the nation's largest consumer market: Raise large sums of money to swamp the airwaves with negative advertising.

The tactic previously worked for the pharmaceutical industry. And in California's June primary, the tobacco industry helped defeat an initiative supported by cycling legend Lance Armstrong that would have raised cigarette taxes to fund cancer research.

The food initiative, known as Proposition 37, is one of 11 statewide ballot initiatives to go before California voters in November. It would require most processed foods to bear a label by 2014 letting shoppers know if the items contain ingredients derived from plants with DNA altered with genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria.

If the measure passes, California would be the first state to require labeling of such a wide range of foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

It also could force a major production shift in the industry, given that Californians eat about 12 percent of all food consumed in the U.S., said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis.

Supporters of similar legislation in more than a dozen states say the intent is to give consumers more information about what they are eating and foster transparency and trust in the food system.

"It's an epic food fight between the pesticide companies and consumers who want to know what's in their food," said Stacy Malkan, media director for the California Right to Know campaign, which had amassed about $2.4 million by Monday to promote the initiative.

Major agricultural groups and the processed food industry oppose stricter labeling, saying it risks sowing fear and confusion among shoppers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said genetically engineered crops, or GE crops, pose no greater health risks than traditional foods.

The latest influx of cash seeking to defeat Proposition 37 puts the coalition of farmers, food producers, pesticide companies and taxpayer groups in a good position to fund a media and mailing blitz to illustrate how grocery bills would rise if the initiative succeeds, said Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the No on 37 campaign.

"Everyone is impacted because everyone buys groceries, and one of the impacts is going to be higher grocery bills," she said. "Prop. 37 leaves consumers with the incorrect impression that there is something wrong with GE crops, when that is not true."

Opponents also said new labeling rules could pose a future burden on taxpayers if Californians have to pay more for state inspectors to verify that labels are appropriately applied.

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Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | August 25, 2012 at 12:50 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

The opponents of Proposition 37 are funded by the largest Biotechnology, Chemical and Food corporations in the world. They will out spend the Prop 37 grassroots citizen’s movement beyond imagination. In October we will be inundated by opposition advertising aimed at distorting the facts and confusing our citizens in an attempt to avoid disclosing the truth about the Genetically Engineered ingredients used in their products.

I believe opponents of Proposition 37 oppose the labeling of Genetically Engineered foods, not because it will raise costs to consumers (their scare tactic) but instead because they fear it will undermine their corporate profits through reduced consumer demand, just as consumer awareness did in Europe.

Prop 37 does not seek to predict or dictate the behaviors of consumers nor does it attempt to suggest how food manufacturers should strategically respond to the law’s requirements. They have the right to change ingredients if they desire but this is not a requirement of the proposed law.

Prop 37 is a simple labeling law that opponents already satisfy around the world for the citizens of 49 other countries. Why are they afraid to label their Genetically Engineered food ingredients for Americans if they are so proud of them? What are they really hiding?

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Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | August 25, 2012 at 12:56 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Proposition 37 is Simple . . .

We have the right to know what’s in the food we’re eating and feeding to our families – we deserve an informed choice.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not tested for long term impacts on human health. There are 65 documented health risks associated with eating genetically engineered food. Is it ethical to be putting an experimental technology into the food we feed our children solely for the financial benefit of the world's largest biotech, chemical and food manufacturers?

Nearly 50 countries require labels on Genetically Engineered food, and many of these also have severe restrictions or bans against GMO food production or sale. Countries with mandatory labeling include Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and all of the countries in the European Union. Some of the countries with severe restrictions or bans against GMO food production or sale are Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, the Philippines, Australia, Peru and Japan. The U.S. and Canada are two of the only developed nations in the world without GMO labeling. Don’t we deserve the same level of protection and information as citizens in other nations around the world?

Proposition 37 (The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act) simply requires adding a few words to the label of retail packaged foods if the food contains ingredients that are genetically engineered. Packaged foods already have labels showing nutrition, allergy information and other facts consumers want to know. Prop 37 is easy to comply with and does not create new bureaucracies, force manufactures to change ingredients or ban the use of genetically engineering. Prop 37 will not add cost to farmers, manufacturers or consumers dispite claims by corporate opponents designed to scare less informed voters.

The most common Genetically Engineered foods in the United States are corn, soy, canola, beet sugar, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow). GMOs may be hidden in common processed food ingredients such as: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins and Yeast Products.

Proposition 37 will make it easier for consumers to know if the food they buy contains GMOs without having to make sense of a long list of unfamiliar ingredients.

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Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | August 25, 2012 at 12:58 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Visit any of the following websites for more information about the medical, environmental, political and social issues associated with Genetically Engineered food . . .

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Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | August 25, 2012 at 1:02 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

One of the most worrisome issues associated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in our food supply (approximately 75% in processed food and closer to 100% in typical U.S. fast food) is that long term human safety studies are neither required nor conducted in the United States.

Most Americans are unaware of the existence of Genetically Engineered ingredients in the food they eat and that they are untested for long term safety on children, adults or humans of any age. At best GMO developers might conduct a 42 day chicken study and/or 90 day rat study but these studies presented to FDA are carefully constructed to limit or hide negative data. These safety studies are never peer reviewed by independent scientists which makes them highly questionable for scientific validity. This is hardly a suitable level of safety testing for a man made substance that is secretly marketed to and unknowingly consumed by Americans over their lifetime.

For something as vital to our biological survival as food . . . proponents for labeling seek to protect themselves and their children from being treated as guinea pigs consuming a manmade substance developed solely for the financial benefit of the largest biotechnology, chemical and food manufactures in the world. There is no evidence showing any nutrition benefit for Genetically Engineered crops grown in the United States yet there is a growing body of evidence these crops are causing biological harm.

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Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | August 25, 2012 at 1:14 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Join other concerned San Diego residents fighting for honest food labeling . . .

Visit to learn all the ways you can get involved and make a difference for your family, friends and future generations.

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Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | August 25, 2012 at 1:18 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Watch the following films to learn more about Genetically Engineered foods so you can make an informed decision on Nov 6 . . .

Genetic Engineered Crops in Agriculture (4 minutes)

The Future of Food (88 minutes)

Controlling Our Food: The World According To Monsanto (109 minutes)

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