GMO Labeling Fight Gains Momentum Across US

The defeat of California Prop 37, which would have required labels on food products that contain GMOs, hasn’t discouraged labeling advocates.

If anything, it has emboldened them and added momentum to the movement, which is becoming a national campaign – organizers in 30 states are now working on initiatives to require GMO labels.

California’s referendum was narrowly defeated (51.8%-48.2%), even though the opposition spent more than $46 million, 10 times that of GMO labeling advocates. But it brought national attention to the issue.

Analysis of the election results reveals the proposition lost among early voters (almost half of Californians voted early) and won among those who voted on election day. It looks like the advantage went to labeling opponents because they had the money to launch their TV ads early. Advocates couldn’t get on the air until late October, losing those early voters.

In Washington state, where San Juan County passed a ban barring planting of GMOs, activists are gathering signatures to get I-522 (The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineer Food Act) on the  2013 ballot. They need another 100,000 signatures in addition to the 230,000 they’ve already collected by December 31.

Unlike California’s measure, the Washington referendum has strong support from local farmers, ranchers and dairies – both organic and conventional. Its strong network of natural food advocates are fueling interest and another big plus is that the state’s new Governor Jay Inslee is a long-term supporter of GMO labeling and organic agriculture.

There’s even a chance that it could be passed into law without requiring a referendum. Sign up here if you would like to help collect signatures.

Read about Washington’s campaign.

In Vermont, organizers are preparing for round two of the state’s fight to introduce GMO labeling. An earlier effort was thwarted by Monsanto’s threat to sue the state – the new bill anticipates this and is written to withstand those threats.

“This is about our fundamental right to know how our food is produced," says Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont. "The corporate-led campaign against labeling food that has been genetically engineered represents an enormous threat to the integrity and diversity of our food sources. This multi-state coalition will focus and coordinate the power of ordinary citizens to overcome corporate control of our food system.”

It wasn’t just Monsanto, DuPont and Dow that ponied up millions to defeat California’s labeling initiative. Nearly half of the $46 million came from multinational food and beverage companies that own iconic organic and natural brands.

"A third of the largest food processing companies purchased organic brands between 1997-2007, and half introduced organic versions of their conventional food brands," says Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "Over the past decade, every link in the organic food chain, from purchasing to processing to distribution to retail, has been dominated by a small number of huge corporations."

Hundreds of thousands of people are hounding these companies on their Facebook pages, calling their customer service phone numbers, and boycotting their products.

  • PepsiCo (Donated $2.5M): Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic
  • Kraft (Donated $2M): Boca Burgers, Back to Nature
  • Safeway (Member of Grocery Manufacturers Association, which donated $2M):O Organics
  • Coca-Cola (Donated $1.7M): Honest Tea, Odwalla
  • General Mills (Donated $1.2M): Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar
  • Con-Agra (Donated $1.2M): Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife, Alexia
  • Kellogg’s (Donated $791k): Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms, Gardenburger
  • Smuckers (Donated $555k): R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic
  • Unilever (Donated $467k): Ben & Jerry’s
  • Dean Foods (Donated $254k): Horizon, Silk, White Wave

Some are flocking to resources such as the Non-GMO Project, which has verified 764 products that are GMO-free – there were almost 200 new enrollment inquires in October alone. Others are using information resources like Fooducate’s mobile app that can be used to research the GMO status of many foods.

Read the report, The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies:

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Comments on “GMO Labeling Fight Gains Momentum Across US”

  1. Ella Baker

    GMO labelling is important but it is not the solution, GMO products should be banned and the government should empower organic farming.

  2. Chris Keefe

    A quick correction to a great article… At the time of publication, the Non-GMO Project had verified 6771 products as compliant with our standard. Thanks for thinking of us!

  3. steve

    As a environment (genetic) scientist, I beleive we have a long way to go.

    There are too many products vs too few compliance.


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