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Tougher Tactics Desperately Needed to Win War on GMO Food

Winning the fight for GMO labeling will require bold new tactics against a well-funded and well-organized biotechnology and subsidized food industry.

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Meanwhile, the Monsanto-led No on 522 campaign, with a $22 million war chest made possible by a food industry's Hall of Shame, took to the airwaves with the same deceptive negative messages that had worked like a charm in California. Despite the fact that what their ads warned of never happened in the many other nations that sensibly require GM food labeling, they argued that labeling would cost consumers hundreds of dollars, create confusion, and hurt farmers and small businesses. So insipid was the Yes on 522 campaign that, like the California campaigners, it again ceded the "public safety" ground to the anti-labeling campaign. Again, just as they had in California, Monsanto and its allies remarkably claimed to be faction standing up for public health. In this slick TV ad for the No on 522 Campaign, a "Registered Pediatric Dietician" expresses grave concern over the impact of "misleading labeling."

It is worth noting that the most persuasive voices in the struggle to protect our bodies, families, and planet from the potential dangers of genetically modified food are often mothers who make health hazards front and center in their reporting. The tireless food safety blogger and author Robyn O'Brien, who writes the "Inspired Bites" blog for Prevention , regularly ties GMO's to health issues, such as this report on a major study released in July. At the more radical end of the activist spectrum is Orange County mom Zen Honeycutt, who started Moms Across America, which organized 172 anti-GMO parades in 44 states. Her latest blog post a few days ago expressed outrage, not restraint, over the health implications of GM food: "Our Sick Children are Collateral Damage in War for Power."

The self-defeating mythology among professional activists against "going negative" is made worse by a refusal, on the part of many activists, to criticize "people who worked so hard" (and spent so much donated money) on the campaigns. The desire to provide a positive spin on the results of the two failed initiatives to label GMO's ignores the need to learn from the mistake of avoiding consumer health concerns, presumably because organizers want to encourage activists to "stick with it" next time.

Next time is already underway in both Colorado and Oregon, where groups are working to get labeling measures on state ballots. It is not reassuring to note that they are calling their efforts Oregon Right to Know, and Right to Know Colorado.

It's time to shift tactics and follow the "lead with the negative" example that Monsanto's much better paid experts have set. Perhaps for the next election season, campaign organizers will wake up to reality. If they could re-orient the campaigns to create "Right to Safe Food"-focused initiatives, fewer voters would be swayed by Monsanto-funded deceptive ads.

Like millions of parents and activists who oppose genetically modified food, I feel that the stakes are very high in this battle the safety of our world's food supply. If we are to win it, we are going to have to fight tougher. And smarter.

Jonathan Greenberg is an investigative journalist, new media executive and founder of ProgressiveSource.com.