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Did Monsanto Win Prop 37? Round One in the Food Fight of Our Lives

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.

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Prop 37 showed us yet once again what money can buy. And the No on 37 forces, led by the six largest pesticide and junk food manufacturers in the world, had a seemingly endless supply of cash to pour into their campaign of lies and deceit. Yet all that cash couldn’t convince consumers that they shouldn’t have the fundamental right to know what’s in their food, much less that GMOs are a good idea.

In the end, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola were forced to pretend they were on our side. They ultimately argued through their advertising that sure, consumers should have the right to know, but that Prop 37 was the wrong path to take toward consumer free-choice and truth in labeling.

Big Ag's strategy? Convince voters that industry respected our right to know, but that they were so concerned about saving consumers money and protecting them from a law they portrayed as ill-conceived, that they just had to rush in with their millions to protect us from ourselves – as if they were the ones who were going to come back with a more consumer-friendly law.

Should we hold our collective breath for Monsanto’s new-and-improved version of Prop 37? A GMO labeling law written by grannies, not trial lawyers? A law that will ensure that meat from animals fed GMOs and shot up with GMO growth hormones must also be labeled? A stricter law, requiring that restaurant food containing GMOs be labeled so consumers can choose to avoid their laboratory-concocted Frankenfoods even when they dine out?

Prop 37 won in most coastal counties, including Los Angeles County and San Francisco, but lost in rural areas – areas the No on 37 campaign began pounding with anti-Prop 37 propaganda on Oct. 1, a week before early voting began. Flush with cash, they outspent us 5 to 1, running ads for almost a month before we were able to respond with our own campaign. Results showed that once we got our message out to those areas, the tide started to turn back in our direction.

The election result numbers shed a great deal of light on how powerful this consumer movement is: With only $8 million to spend, compared with their $46 million, we came within six percentage points of winning. And we are not going away anytime soon.

No Turning Back for the Alternative Food and Farming Movement

Prop 37 was the largest and most successful GMO labeling campaign yet, but it was not the first and it will not be the last.

In the last two years alone, 19 states have made a run at GMO labeling, either through citizens’ initiatives or legislative efforts. We’ve come a long way from the failed push for GMO labeling in Oregon 10 years ago, a campaign that barely made a ripple outside that state. We’ve put GMO labeling on the national map, and we’ve put Monsanto on notice: This movement is stronger than ever, and it’s not going away.

Activists in Washington State have already collected more than half of the signatures they need to put Initiative-522 on the ballot there in 2013. Oregon activists are eying a similar initiative in 2014. Plans are now in the works to restart campaigns in states like Vermont and Connecticut,  where laws don’t provide for citizens ballot initiatives, and reignite legislative those states’s efforts to pass GMO labeling laws. Consumer support in those states is running higher than the national average of 90%, yet previous attempts to pass laws in Vermont and Connecticut  those failed when legislators caved into threats by Monsanto to sue if they passed GMO labeling laws.

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