Did Monsanto Win Prop 37? Round One in the Food Fight of Our Lives
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
It was a mighty fight. And it’s far from over.
Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 6, 4.3 million Californians – nearly 47% of those who voted – cast their ballots in favor of what would have become this country’s first law to require mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and ban the routine industry practice of marketing GMO-tainted foods as "natural."
That Monsanto and Big Food's 4.8 million votes managed to scuttle Prop 37, one of the most widely publicized and closely watched state ballot initiatives of 2012, is almost a footnote to the real story. (As of today, with reports of almost 3 million votes still uncounted, some still question the "official" vote count and whether the No on 37 camp really won at all).
The real story is this. Prop 37, the grassroots-powered California ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods in California has focused a national spotlight on GMOs, and the serious hazards that transgenics pose to human health and the environment.
It has permanently altered the national debate surrounding food safety, chemical-intensive agriculture, and sustainability. And it put the consumers' right-to-know and truth-in-labeling on the table for millions of Americans.
Prop 37 has exposed the dark side of Big Ag and Big Food, and their desperation to keep U.S. consumers in the dark about whether or not our food has been genetically engineered, a fundamental right enjoyed by citizens in over other 60 countries.
This monumental food fight has underscored how dirty money, indentured media, and dirty tricks have polluted our democratic process.
Prop 37 has brought together an unprecedented state and national coalition of more than 3000 organic food retailers and public health, faith and labor, consumer and agriculture, and environmental and political groups, with combined email lists of over 10 million people. The campaign collected almost a million signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot. It mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers and raised more than $8 million, much of that from individual organic consumers and natural health advocates from around the country, not just from California. It spawned new networks like GMO-Free USA and the 30-state Coalition of States for GMO Labeling, alliances that will help raise public awareness and money, and streamline the process of writing state GMO labeling laws.
Prop 37 has awakened a sleeping giant. It has created a statewide and national Movement with the potential to transform the entire U.S. food and farming system, part of a new political awakening in which grassroots forces have begun challenging the power of the corporate and political elite.
Prop 37 may indeed symbolize the "beginning of the end" for agricultural biotechnology and industrial food and farming, a profoundly unhealthy, unsustainable, climate-disrupting system that has dominated American agriculture for the last 60 years.
The real story is this. Prop 37 has created an unstoppable Movement, one that is already preparing for a new fight, on the next battlefield.
Behind Monsanto’s Narrow ‘Victory’
What did Big Ag and Big Food win on Nov. 6? A closer look reveals just how narrow their victory was.
Pre-election poll results revealed that early voters and those who still planned to vote No on 37 supported Prop 37’s basic premise: that consumers should have the right to know what’s in their food.
So why did so many vote No? Because they heard over and over, via $46 million-worth of TV and radio ads, that Prop 37 was poorly written, “made no sense,” included special-interest exemptions, would trigger thousands of lawsuits, and would cost them money at the checkout counter. They were even led to believe, through blatantly fake voter guides mailed to their homes, that the Democratic Party urged them to vote No - even though the California Democratic Party had loudly and publicly endorsed the measure.