GMO Labeling in the News
Some great articles this week and a wonderful YouTube video too. Mom
How California’s GM food referendum may change what America eats
The vast majority of Americans want genetically modified food labelled. If California passes November’s ballot, they could get it
In the US, an estimated 70% of items on supermarket shelves contain GM ingredients, commonly corn, soy and canola oil products. Photograph: David Sillitoe/Guardian
Last month, nearly 1m signatures were delivered to county registrars throughout California calling for a referendum on the labeling of genetically engineered foods. If the measure, “The Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act”, which will be on the ballot in November, passes, California will become the first state in the nation to require that GM foods be labeled as such on the package.
This is not the first time that the issue has come up in California. Several labeling laws have been drafted there, but none has made it out of legislative committee. Lawmakers in states like Vermont and Connecticut have also proposed labeling legislation, which has gone nowhere in the face of stiff industry opposition. And the US Congress has likewise seen sporadic, unsuccessful attempts to mandate GM food labeling since 1999.
What makes the referendum in California different is that, for the first time, voters and not politicians will be the ones to decide. And this has the food industry worried. Understandably so, since only one in four Americans is convinced that GMOs are “basically safe”, according to a survey conducted by the Mellman Group, and a big majority wants food containing GMOs to be labeled.
This is one of the few issues in America today that enjoys broad bipartisan support: 89% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats want genetically altered foods to be labeled, as they already are in 40 nations in Europe, in Brazil, and even in China. In 2007, then candidate Obama latched onto this popular issue saying that he would push for labeling – a promise the president has yet to keep.
In Europe, only 5% of food sold contains GMOs, a figure that continues to shrink. In the US, by contrast, an estimated 70% of the products on supermarket shelves include at least traces of genetically engineered crops – mostly, corn and soy byproducts and canola oil, which are ingredients in many of America’s processed foods.
Given their unpopularity with consumers, labeling “Frankenfoods” would undoubtedly hurt sales, possibly even forcing supermarkets to take them off their shelves. In one survey, just over half of those polled said they would not buy food that they knew to be genetically modified.
This Hidden Food Poisons Your Family – Ignore These Cooked Up Lies
June 14 2012
By Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins
What do a former mouthpiece for tobacco and big oil, a corporate-interest PR flack, and the regional director of a Monsanto-funded tort reform group have in common?
They’re all part of the anti-labeling PR team that will soon unleash a massive advertising and PR campaign in California, designed to scare voters into rejecting the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Acti.
In November, California voters will vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a law to require mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered ingredients in processed foods, and ban the routine industry practice of mislabeling foods containing genetically engineered ingredients as ‘natural.’ Polls show that nearly 90 percent of the state’s voters plan to vote ‘yes.’ But when November rolls around, will voter support still be strong? Not if the biotech, agribusiness, and food manufacturers industries can help it.
It’s estimated that the opposition will spend $60 – $100 million to convince voters that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safeii. They’ll try to scare voters into believing that labeling will make food more expensive, that it will spark hundreds of lawsuits against small farmers and small businesses, and that it will contribute to world hunger.
None of this is true. On the contrary, studies suggest just the opposite.
Here’s what is true: The opposition has lined up some heavy-hitters and industry-funded front groups — masquerading as “grassroots” organizations — to help spin their anti-labeling propaganda machine. You have the right to know what’s in your food. You also have the right to know who is working tirelessly to prevent you from ever having that right – and who is signing their paychecks. Here’s a partial lineup of hired guns and organizations behind the anti-labeling advertising blitz soon to hit the California airwaves:
Tom Hiltachk: Monsanto’s Man in California
Tom Hiltachk is the PR gunslinger behind the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition (CACFLP), an anti-labeling front group. A partner at the Sacramento-based lobbying firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, Hiltachk is no stranger to front groups. With a little help from his friends at Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, he helped organize the Californians for Smokers’ Rights group to fight anti-smoking initiatives in the 1980s and 1990siii.
He also helped form the Californians for Fair Business Policyiv – a so-called “grassroots” organization, but actually a front group to mobilize business opposition to anti-smoking initiatives. That organization was funded by an “academic” front groupv – the Claremont Institute – which was in turn funded by tobacco companies.
Hitachk also has ties to Big Oil, including a colorful history with California’s Proposition 23, a conservative-backed ballot initiative launched – and defeated – in 2010.
The initiative, supported by Big Oil, would have repealed California’s clean energy and climate laws. Hiltachk was initially an ally of Ted Costa, a veteran right-wing activist behind many conservative initiatives, including Prop 23, and head of the group People’s Advocatevi. But that relationship soured, according to ThinkProgress.orgvii, when Costa realized that Hiltachk’s main motivation was to funnel the $50 million that he hoped would be raised from oil companies and the Chamber of Commerce to himself and his friends.
Coalition Against Costly Food Labeling Proposition
The Coalition Against Costly Food Labeling Proposition (CACFLP)viii runs a website called stopcostlyfoodlabeling.com, giving the impression that this is a group concerned about protecting consumers’ wallets. But the website lists only one consumer group in its coalition – Consumers Coalition of California. A search of the IRS.gov site turns up nothing on this group.
According to the coalitions’ 2009 990-Form published on Guidestar.org, this Torrance, California-based coalition describes itself as: “Research and oriented community education studies and info for residential and small businesses advocating on issues affecting major legislation.” The group has no website.
No other national or California-based consumer groups are listed on the CACFLP site.
CACFLP’s website does list some powerhouse coalition members, however, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), whose members also include Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta, as well as many large food processors and supermarket chains, and the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) , whose members include Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta. Both groups are based in Washington DC. As of March, the GMA and the CBI had contributed a combined $625,000 to the CACFLPix – presumably to “protect” consumers from GMO labeling. Both groups have publicly opposed this initiativex.
Monsanto recently made the following statement in support of CACFLPxi:
“Monsanto is part of a growing coalition of California farmers, food producers, grocers, retailers, and others which has been formed to oppose the California measure. As a member of both GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) and BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization), we support the organizations’ involvement in the California campaign to oppose the costly and extreme measure.”
And Oregon is starting up a ballot initiative too!
Read more, great Monday Mania posts here: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/monday-mania-6182012/
Read more, great Fat Tuesday posts here: http://realfoodforager.com/fat-tuesday-june-19-2012/
Read more, great Real Food Wednesday posts here: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2012/06/real-food-wednesday-6132012.html
Read more, great Simple Lives Thursday posts here: http://gnowfglins.com/2012/06/21/simple-lives-thursday-101/#