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Supporters Of GMO Labeling Call ‘No On 37’ Campaign Mailers ‘Criminal’

The race over Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically modified food, heated up this week as the "Yes" side called for a criminal investigation of one of the "No" side's campaign mailers.


No on 37 Campaign Mailer

No on 37 Campaign Mailer

A "No on 37" campaign mailer with a possibly fraudulent statement from the FDA.

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The No on 37 campaign, which opposes labeling GMO food, sent out a mailer with what might look like a direct quote was from the FDA. The quote called the labeling of GMO food “inherently misleading.”

But an FDA representative said the agency never made any statement about Prop 37.

"The FDA has not made such statements with respect to Prop 37," wrote FDA spokeswoman Morgan Liscinsky in an email. "We cannot speculate on Prop 37 and have no comments at this time."

Tom Fendley, the political director of the Yes on 37 campaign, said this mailer is one of many deceiving things the "No" side has done.

“Whether it be the TV ads or radio ads that have been widely discredited," he said. "Or now, in this case, a new mailer which implies strongly that the FDA has opposed Prop 37 when in fact they have no position on it because they’re not allowed to have a position on it.”

Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the "No" campaign, said the FDA hasn’t said anything about Prop 37 specifically. But, she said, the agency has called GMO labeling misleading in the past.

She pointed to a 2009 report to the World Health Organization and the United Nations that contains the “inherently misleading” quote.

Fairbanks said her opponents’ complaints are an "act of desperation."

"The FDA has a long held policy against mandatory labeling," she said. "They have said over and over that it would be misleading to consumers and would give them the impression that something was different about the food, when in fact the scientific evidence shows that’s not the case."

But the "Yes" side also says the mailer’s use of the FDA’s official seal is a criminal offense. U.S. law says you can’t misuse the seal of a government agency.

The Department of Justice and the San Diego U.S. Attorney’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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