Lies, Dirty Tricks, and $45 Million Kill GMO Labeling in California

Prop 37 - California Right to Know

California’s Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO foods, died a painful death last night. Despite polling in mid-September showing an overwhelming lead, the measure lost by 53 to 47 percent, which is relatively close considering the No side’s tactics.

As I’ve been writing about, the opposition has waged a deceptive and ugly campaign, fueled by more than $45 million, mostly from the leading biotech, pesticide, and junk food companies. Meanwhile, the Yes side raised almost $9 million, which is not bad, but being outspent by a factor of five is tough to overcome.

While we can always expect industry to spend more, the various groups fighting GMOs for years probably could have been better coordinated. I was dismayed and confused by all the fundraising emails I received from different nonprofits on Prop 37 and wondered why they weren’t pooling their resources.

But would more money and better strategy have made a difference? Given the opposition’s tactics, it seems unlikely. I am not easily shocked by corporate shenanigans but the No on 37 campaign is my new poster child for propaganda and dirty tricks. It’s worth recapping the most egregious examples.

Lying in the California voter guide: The No campaign listed four organizations in the official state document mailed to voters as concluding that “biotech foods are safe.” One of them, the American Council on Science and Health, is a notorious industry front group that only sounds legit. Another, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, actually has no position and complained about being listed. (I was attending the group’s annual meeting when this came to light and promptly notified the Yes campaign, but the damage was already done.) The other two organizations, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization, in fact have more nuanced positions on GMOs than just “safe.”

Misuse of a federal seal and quoting the Food and Drug Administration: This one caused even my jaded draw to drop. In a mailer sent to California voters, the No campaign printed the following text along side the FDA logo: “The US Food and Drug Administration says a labeling policy like Prop 37 would be “inherently misleading.” That is exactly how they wrote it, with the incorrectly-placed quotation marks. How can a $45 million campaign make a mistake like that? They can’t, it’s deliberately confusing. It also may even be a violation of criminal law to use a federal seal in this manner. I am told that some California voters were fooled into thinking FDA opposed the measure. Of course, that was the idea.

Misrepresenting academic affiliation: More than once, the No campaign gave the false impression that its go-to expert Henry Miller was a professor at Stanford University, in violation the school’s own policy. (In fact, he’s with the Hoover Institute, housed on the Stanford campus.) Only when Stanford complained did the No campaign edit the TV ad, but many already saw it, and then they repeated the lie in a mailer.

Deploying unfounded scare tactics: I fully expected the No side to use distracting arguments to scare voters while ignoring the merits of issue. But they took this common industry strategy to new heights, making wild claims about higher food prices, “shakedown lawsuits,” and “special interest exemptions.” While each of these claims is easily debunked, being outspent on ad dollars makes it hard to compete, especially when all you can really say is, “that’s not true.”

Additional lies and dirty tricks: 1) claiming the San Francisco Examiner recommended a no vote when in fact the paper endorsed yes; 2) putting up doctors and academic experts on the dole from Big Biotech as spokespeople without disclosing the conflict of interest; 3) securing a major science group’s endorsement just two weeks before Election Day; 4) somehow convincing every major California newspaper to endorse a no vote, often with the very same industry talking points; and 5) placing ads in deceptive mailers that looked like they came from the Democratic party, cops, and green groups.

Each of these tactics, combined with a $45 million megaphone to spread the lies and deceit, simply overwhelmed the yes side. Some on Twitter criticized Californians for voting no on 37, but do not under-estimate the effectiveness of scare tactics such as claims of higher food prices. Industry uses them because they work. And voters believe the arguments not because they are stupid or don’t care about the food they eat, but because they are pummeled with ads, getting only one side of the story. This is a problem inherent to the proposition process. (I live in California and have seen scare tactics work on everything from tobacco taxes to gay marriage.)

Indeed, the California experience may seem like déjà vu’ all over again to Oregonians who recall the ballot initiative there to label GMO foods in 2002. It lost miserably (70 percent voted no) and guess what the winning argument was then? And that measure also enjoyed an overwhelming lead in early polling, but a muli-million dollar ad blitz in the final weeks claiming higher food costs turned that right around.

While a lot has changed in 10 years for the food movement, the same industry tactics still work. (At least we came a lot closer here in California.) Advocates have also tried in 19 states to go through the legislature and failed there too, thanks to industry lobbying.

It’s a shame because we really need a win at the state level to boost the federal Just Label It campaign, which aims to get the FDA to require labeling. I disagree with Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farms and leader of Just Label It, for putting all his eggs in the federal basket. While Hirshberg and his company endorsed 37, he donated relatively little to the campaign and was even quoted in the New York Times saying he doesn’t think this problem can be solved state by state. Obviously not, but how does Hirshberg ever expect to get anywhere at the federal level unless and until we can gain traction locally? This is exactly how most policy change is made, especially when we face massive industry opposition. Some are already predicting that the California loss will set back the effort nationally.

But the campaign is still an important step forward in the larger political fight against Big Food, one that raised a lot of awareness about GMOs, food production, and corporate tactics, both in California and nationally. As Twilight Greenaway noted at Grist, win or lose, the effort to pass Proposition 37 in California demonstrates a “bona fide movement gathering steam.”

Now we have to keep gathering more and smarter steam. It was never enough to just be right, or even to have the people on our side. Not when the food industry gets to lie, cheat, and steal its way to victory.

125 Responses to “Lies, Dirty Tricks, and $45 Million Kill GMO Labeling in California”

  1. Why not develop an app that would let you know if a product has GMO ingredients? Maybe like Snaptell which when you take a picture of the product (book) gives you info on it.

    • Lauren McAuliffe says:

      There is an app– hooray! go to http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com for info

      • Drummond Macdougall says:

        BRILLIANT IDEA!!! In todays world of APS and ideas/videos going Viral I think creating an AP that compiles info on a plethora of products as to whether they use GMO content is brilliant.

        Bring It On. I’ll pay a buck – good fundraiser for your cause too!

        • Steve says:

          the “I’ll pay a buck” mentality is insulting to those who work hard to develop quality apps – both from the technical standpoint (programmers, designers, artists, etc) but also from the content standpoint (those who might labor to develop the lists of foods for such an app). If you are really behind such an idea, how about suggesting that you would pay a sustainable amount that actually affects your pocketbook in a realistic way?

          • Mark Andrew says:

            Californians voted against the prop out of fear some of the “no ” claims might be true – higher food costs, their local markets overwhelmed with documentation, from a conservative point of view, more unnecessary regulations. But if 80% of voters originally thought labeling was a good idea, there may be an app market of, what, 10 million in California alone? and if even 50% of the rest of the nation similarly would like to know what foods contain GMO’s, could we say maybe over 50 million potential app buyers are out there? Instead of labeling each unit, could conscientious companies simply make a list available to the app developers ? Would $1 an app be enough to motivate some high school kid with a knack for programming? My question, why hasn’t this happened yet?

    • Shelley says:

      I believe Fooducate is also planning on adding a GMO capability, too.

      Unfotunately, this won’t help us with fresh produce.

      • Jeanette Schuler says:

        Produce with stickers is easy conventional produce has a four digit number,
        ge produce has a preceding 8 and organic has a preceding 9. Other than that the non gmo guide says to steer clear of papaya (Hawaiian) and summer squashes.

    • Addicted says:

      I am not completely sold on the GMO labeling idea, but either way, an app is not even close to being a solution to labeling, because it requires active knowledge, and concern about this issue for someone to lookup.

      OTOH, labeling would be something almost every consumer would notice before making their purchase.

      If consumers aren’t as ready for GMOs as the food industry thinks (hence pouring $45mn! In 1 state to defeat a labeling proposition) then labeling will lead to a lot of consumers choosing the non-GMO item over the GMO one.

  2. As I wrote in Friday’s column: “The worst news of the day is that the Sheeple in California are an incredibly stupid lot, way to stupid to live, but not to fear, as they defeated Prop 37, and hence, they’ll all soon die from eating Frankenfoods which will be a good thing for the rest of us. Bon appetite, you losers! Trouble is, the poisons will remain in everyones foods, so I’ll continue to eat only organic raw foods as even the organic stores sell Frankenfoods in cans and jars. Remember do not eat any corn, unless it’s “Indian Corn.” Eat no beet sugar only cane sugar. No rice as it’s doubly poisoned, as it’s both GMO and poisoned by being grown in chicken manure from chickens fed arsenic. Yummy, huh? Better change that rapeseed oil, i.e., Canola oil for Olive Oil as all the Canola oil is now GMO, oh and lets not forget GMO fish and in Canada swine too, etc. As the government has been bought and paid for from Barry on down to allow them to poison your foods for an extra buck; beware, or be dead, your choice.”

    • marty says:

      please reconsider the use of the term “sheeple” or calling people stupid.

      • Michele says:

        Thanks, Marty, I totally agree and was calling people out on Twitter last night for the same thing, which is why I mentioned in my post. People do not have access to the kind of information they need to make informed decisions.

        • Christinezena says:

          I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree. This is a day and time in our history that we in fact do have access to information. A simple Google search of “California Prop 37 support” would have given anyone tons of information and discussion from those “in the know”. I’m from Canada and have been intently following this and to my horror found it was defeated. Rather than rant about those who voted against their own interests, I did just that; I searched the issue out and found this site. An excellent source of information. Anyone can and needs to do it. We have no excuse to be ignorant. We choose to be. I don’t say any of this in judgement. I say it to remind us all that we have far more power than we give our selves credit for. :)

          • marty says:

            Your words have “far more power” than you give them credit for.

          • KE says:

            As long as corn remains cheap and the farm bill tailors to Big Business lobbyists,

            as long as biotech companies are allowed to patent seeds which by extension are life,

            as long as fast food restaurants are allowed to spend billions brainwashing citizens into “choosing” highly addictive foods,

            as long as real food remains a lost part of our culture,

            there is no choice. Life-long robust health will be lost as well.

            Blaming individuals is an industry win.

            You could possibly blame individuals that grew up knowing the different choices, that know what true health feels like, that have time and resources to learn to choose the healthier foods, that know to shield themselves from the barrage of fast food advertisements and overwhelming choice of 400,000 junk foods available on grocery store shelves. But you cannot blame someone that does not know these things. Inherently, people want to be healthy. It’s other factors such as marketing and disparities that cloud this want. This is a classic economic principle known as concentrated gains and dispersed costs.

            You want to blame someone? Blame the industry. You want the industry to start losing? See your neighbor and believe in them. Value judgements have no place in the rEvolution.

        • Cameo says:

          Whoa- people do have access to information. This isn’t a third world country… Every library I know offers access whether it be books/internet or both! Most people choose to live in ignorance & don’t even think it’s the food that’s killing them & producing disease!

      • marty says:

        I’m not denying that this country is full of ignorant and relatively stupid people. That’s been the agenda of the DOE for generations (but that’s another story). What I am saying that it’s a matter of strategic communications. You’re not going to cultivate curiosity or empower anyone to learn by calling them “sheeple.” I used to think calling people names would inspire them to change. Then I turned 13.

        • Jen says:

          You made me laugh out loud Marty. I agree with your sentiment 100%. People don’t want to hear that nearly every food available to them in their local grocery store is toxic. That’s a defeating and discouraging thought. People need to be understood and then educated in a way that doesn’t offend everything they have been raised and then led to believe for their whole lives. I’m lucky that I have an interest in natural health and so I’ve sought to educate myself. Most people don’t have that interest. If they want to be healthy they watch of The Dr’s. and read Fitness magazine. Most people don’t know better.

    • Drummond Macdougall says:

      You’ve got some valid points mate, and I like all your stats … but the degrading comments and manner in which you treat people detract considerably from your cause making YOU look stupid and like a looser!

      Look on the bright side … get rid of the debasing and low brow attitude and negative way of presenting your argument and you too could be a winner :) and then people would actually listen and read your good ideas and not write stuff like these comments you’re getting!

    • Marcia says:

      It’s “way too stupid” not “way to stupid”. If you want to call us stupid, try to use the correct spelling and/or parts of speach.

      • Jaime says:

        Amazing how touchy folks get about being categorized with the forty-seven percent. My iPad keyboard makes numerous omissions and substitutions of text as I type, so let’s start by assuming it was a technical error, and not lake it so personal. Although I agree that most Americans are way too stupid, to have discovered the error.

    • Jalen says:

      Before we get too deep into blaming the victims, we don’t know that the people of California voted no as the results purport. What we know is what we’ve been told: 47% to 53%. But frankly, I do not believe that people voted that way. I live in California and I haven’t met ANYBODY who is against Prop 37 and voted no.

      There is a very likely possibility that the results have been falsified. Exit polls never lie, and there were suspiciously no exit polls, and the press did not mention 37 during their election night coverage. Read this:
      http://www.infowars.com/did-prop-37-really-lose-or-was-it-vote-fraud/

      The corporatocracy is thoroughly integrated here in 21st century USA. Government serves corporate interests, not public interests, and mass media is it’s mouthpiece. If they won’t tell us the truth about the food that we are sold, then NOTHING THAT WE ARE TOLD CAN BE BELIEVED, including this election result.

    • Steve says:

      I have a PhD in engineering and consider myself reasonably well read. My wife and I eat healthy food and get plenty of exercise. I have no connection to or love for “big business” much less the “big food.” However, I have also seen no good evidence whatsoever that suggests that GMO foods are bad for health. While I do see legitimate concerns surrounding GMOs with regards to “monoculturization”, basically, the claims that you make about “raw foods” are dubious at best, and outright lies at worst. A google search for something like “GMO food health risks” shows a bevy of speculative, fact-free articles from places like “natural health news” full of words like as “could” and “might”, but everything that actually quotes a sceintific study finds no effects. I’m not saying “go out and fill your body with known junk”, such as processed foods. I am saying that in the particular case of GMOs, we have no evidence that it’s worse for your health. That is to say, a snickers bar with GMOs is just as bad as a snickers bar without GMOs and a salad with GMOs is just as bad as a salad without GMOs.

      If people like you were the force behing this GMO labelling law, then I have no problem with the measure having been defeated as they failed to provide sufficient evidence to suggest that this is an important health thing. Given that we know that GMOs can increase crop yields and thus POTENTIALLY feed the world’s hungry / better make use of the world’s land, I would have expected a stronger case from the ‘anti’ crowd.

      So, am I a “sheeple” for “eating rice”? no, I’m not. I’m sorry. And you should be ashamed of the baseless and scientifically unevidenced claims you are throwing around.

      • Michele Simon says:

        Steve, can you please point to an example of the sort of “baseless” claims you say I made? I never said GMOs cause health problems.

      • Mark Andrew says:

        I voted for 37, not because I am worried about any particular GMO affecting my health in the short term – I trust the FDA and AMA and yes, even the producers themselves, to be smart enough to detect anything obvious that would bring discredit to their reputations. What I worry about is thirty or a hundred years down the road, when only a handful of corporations are responsible for all of our food, and it becomes impossible to grow anything without a highly evolved process of engineering labs and special chemical pesticides and herbicides that coincidentally are only provided by those same companies. And where we have no choice but to eat what they provide. And THEN, after millions of people have beta tested the products for half a lifetime, it is finally found that, uh, so sorry, turns out these products eventually cause sterility, stunted intelligence, Alzheimer’s, and sheeple thinking. But hey, it sure is cheap!

        GMO tech is unprecedented in history : I don’t believe that the corn plant, even with thousands of years of hybridization, could have ever come to contain the genetic material of a frog. Or that goats milk could have evolved to produce spider silk. But even if it could happen, it would happen while the rest of the world also evolved and things would balance. Making radical changes to the pace of evolution in such an eyeblink of human history seems rife with unintended consequences, and there are certainly plenty of examples of scientific hubris over the centuries documenting our folly when we try to tinker with nature.

        So yeah, it’s important that we know how our food is made, to give evolution a fair shot at proving winners and losers.

      • Dee Cota says:

        This comment is for Steve with the PHD. I have a copy of the FDA Documents Show They Ignored GMO Safety Warnings From Their Own Scientist. Dated June 24, 1999. The document also states– Lawsuit in USA
        Uncovers Disagreement Within FDA Over Safety Boitech Foods and also
        Agency Contradicted Own Experts in Approving Genetically Engineered
        Foods–Misrepresented Facts in Order to Promote U.S. Biotech Industry.
        The document states False Claims and a Policy at Odds with the Law.
        Now if that doesn’t give you pause Steve with the PHD, you can go to the website and check it out for yourself http://online.sfsu.edu/~rome/GEessays/FDAdocuments.html

  3. James A. Murphy says:

    It seems to me that it may be useful to gather all of the information from the 50 some nations, which currently require labeling for GMO’s.

  4. Al says:

    It`s not like we can boycott and stop eating.

    • Ron says:

      There’s always the choice to go organic. The nice thing about this proposition even in loss is a lot of people are now aware of food even being GMO. Hopefully it will make people research some more so they can be informed but as for me I’ll stick to everything organic and grow my own fruits and veggies as much as possible.

      • marty says:

        There’s a choice for those who can afford it. We need to have a cohesive movement to change the system so that EVERYONE can opt out of the GMO food experiment, not just those with access to health food stores and the money to spend there…

      • Shelley says:

        Unfortunately, access to organic foods is limited.

        And yes, they can be expensive. I bought two acorn squash last night that were organic. They cost $9.45.

        Of course, the cost of acorn squash is up across the board, but this was high enough for me to make this the last time this year I buy acorn squash.

  5. andy says:

    I heard on the radio this morn that there is talk of a movement to 1) obtain a list of all anti-37 companies and subs, 2) make GMO warning stickers, 3) go into stores and label those products ourselves. I like when people get off their couch to get involved in important issues, and think this is pretty slick! Any chance you could blog/broadcast this to help spread the news?

    • Mary says:

      Huh. I would have thought a lawyer would feel some professionally responsibility to tell her readers that tampering with packages is a federal crime.

      But do proceed.

      • Michele says:

        I don’t really have an opinion about that campaign either way. And I am not sure what federal crime you’re referring to. do you mean mail?

        • Mary says:

          http://www.khlaw.com/showpublication.aspx?Show=972

          “The recently enacted Product Packaging Act of 2002 now amends that law to apply to unauthorized materials that are either affixed to, or inserted in, the packaged material. The law is intended to prohibit activist groups from defacing product packaging or slipping unauthorized material into a box as, for example, a way of protesting the company or its products. Because these materials do not actually touch the food product, the original law did not apply. “

          • Michele says:

            interesting, thanks for sharing, news to me. we lawyers can’t stay on top of ALL laws you know. thx again.

    • marty says:

      “The Label It Yourself (#LIY) campaign empowers people to make educated decisions about what is in their food, without waiting for government or corporations to do it for them.” http://www.labelityourself.com/

    • Shelley says:

      As noted elsewhere, this is against the law.

      It’s also a dumb campaign. I can just see producers putting this on all of their products and proclaiming with false innocence that some activist must have affixed them in the store.

  6. Lying Cow says:

    Have these people not heard of Monsanto, and the damage they are doing to the health and safety of countries worldwide

  7. Niamh says:

    I really want somebody to explain something to me – I tend to over simplify things sometimes. From my understanding, corporations (since they are people too blah blah) have the same constitutional rights of people when it comes to the freedom of speach, which includes the right to ‘remain silent’. Hence they don’t have to say whether their products contain GMO’s. Well doesn’t this work in reverse? Why don’t companies who create products without GMO foods label the foods “NO GMO’s” … I know this is not the same as law at State level saying GMO’s have to be labeled, but at least it would assist those who did vote ‘YES’ to purchase safe food. Just get companies who are proud of their food products to label them as such. People have a lot of power in purchasing, so this might be a good start.

    • Ron says:

      Many companies do list No GMO on their products. The problem is that so many products have GMO in them or the companies don’t check that they can’t legally print it if they don’t know.

    • Lauren McAuliffe says:

      Good news– There is a lable that is already being put on lots of food packages by an organization called:
      nongmo.org
      Their non-GMO certification is a little blue square with a butterfly. Go to the website and you’ll recognize it. The more we buy, buy, buy to support these products, the more other companies will watch their sales dip and will come on board. Then more wholesalers will request non-GMO crops from the farmers to keep up with the trend. That’s the way it worked in Europe!! Let’s get the tipping point going here.

    • Shelley says:

      Any voluntary program is not going to be as successful as a government mandated program.

      More importantly, by forcing companies to put a GMO label on their products, we may them reconsider using GMO crops in their products. In Europe, many food manufacturers changed their ingredients rather than add the GMO label.

      I happen to believe that the environmental impact of GMO products is the main concern. Anything that helps to eliminate the use of GMO in crops is a good thing.

  8. Julie says:

    Where can I find a detailed explanation of exactly how GMOs are unhealthy. My husband thinks it is just hype :(

  9. Mike Everett says:

    So proud of the effort to label GMOs by everyone working on Prop 37. Hoping everyone will get together for the next effort. The limited resource, socially disadvantaged farmers in Red Oklahoma I work with to become more sustainable are joining with me in thanking you and getting ready to be of more help next time.

  10. alan says:

    I knew when Monsantose was backing no on pro 37 that I should voteo yes

  11. June MacArthur says:

    We couldn’t understand how this was such a big issue, of course everyone would want their food labeled, want to know what their really eating. I guess we didn’t know the lies going on. You’ve got to get more articles out there in the general magazines and newspapers.
    Thanks for the fighting though.

  12. Anne Brackett says:

    Thanks for writing and taking the time to sum up where we’ve come from and where we are.

    I have two ideas. (1) A statewide moratorium on GMO crops until they can be proven safe, using the same protocol as any other new drug coming to market. This would put the burden of proof as well as cost on the people who would gain from the effort. This could be argued as a conservative, fiscally prudent approach, since if they’re not safe, financial chaos could result. Remember thalidomide? A morning sickness drug that caused death and deformity in fetuses what was also believed at that time to be unable to cross the placenta.
    (2) Consider joining this class action lawsuit that is suing Frito Lay/Pepsico et al for calling its product ‘natural’ when it contains GE corn. Note Monsanto’s claim that it’s GE corn cannot be created naturally. I believe that this lawsuit catches them in their inherent lie that GMO crops are ‘substantively equivalent’

    • Anne Brackett says:

      sorry, that last post got sent prematurely…

      …this lawsuit exposes the inherent lie in Monsanto basing their claims that GMO food is ‘substantively equivalent’ to non GMO food and therefore does not need to be tested, AND Monsanto’s claim that GMO crops are intellectual property worthy of patent protection.

      Anyone interested in exploring these two lines of arguments, please contact me at annebrackett2@gmail.com

      • RL says:

        Weve already fought this fight that way and money trumps all science. We need to show people the history of Monsanto, from Agent Orange, monopolization of the seed and agriculture industry, its lawsuits against small farmers, its tactics abroad, and how both houses of our government are now its indentured servant.
        We need to portray the “bigger” picture and get people to fight on the premise of stopping corporate monopolies and how they are willfully destroying our country with the power they have rather than explaining the complexities of GMOs.
        We created laws in this country against powerful individuals and companys that have sought to drain out their competiton through unfair and dirty tactics. This is much more understandable to the common man than the manipulated DNA of a GMO crop.

        • Carol Potts Granger says:

          Is it possible we could use the Federal Trade Commission to go after Monsanto monopoly? Look at what happened to “Ma Bell” a couple of decades ago.

  13. Lauren says:

    Yes!!!! Let’s get it back on the ballot next year and launch much more of a grassroots campaign. It would have been so easy to print up bi-lingual flyers about GMO’s concerns and get out into the community with them. I am guilty of preaching to the choir in my own little bubble. Look at these county by county results to see where more of a difference could have been made: (next time)

    http://vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/maps/ballot-measures/prop/37/

  14. marty says:

    I really appreciate this post. Thank you for summarizing the lies. And for the feedback on what the movement could have done better.

  15. Stacy Malkan says:

    Thank you to Michele for the most insightful, important, honest reporting of the campaign. You are a hero.

  16. Pat Pearson says:

    Bummer! Next time we should dream “bigger”; it should be on every state ballot. How can this be done?

    • Michele Simon says:

      It can’t. Only some states have the ballot process. And it’s a huge undertaking, so more than one state at time would not be wise.

  17. Dani says:

    I participated as an active volunteer in the Yes on 37 campaign. While the lies and deceptions (well-done, Michelle!) and the large TV ad budget were important, I think they could have been overcome if a) some of the main newspapers had endorsed Prop. 37 and b) the Yes on 37 campaign had planned and executed a response to the claim that I think was decisive in a lot of No votes: the personal cost of labeling.
    As far as I can tell, the Yes side had few handouts available; they were out of date, and none EVER responded specifically to the financial issue. The Yes side did a great job on Internet outreach, and a poor job on supporting the grassroots with relevant literature. There was no centralized website to get campaign handouts, and as I said, those that did exist were out-of-date. Furthermore, up to the last weekend the campaign was making celebrity endorsement videos, instead of videos specifically countering the “it will cost you $400/year” claim. A link to such a video should have been prominent on every campaign coalition member’s website.
    I understand that the campaign wanted to stick to the “right to know” meme, and did keep the grassroots on message, but when the opposition showed up with the “it will cost you” message, the campaign did not respond. It’s said that our greatest strength – our grassroots – was not empowered with relevant, up-to-date campaign literature to download off the internet and videos specifically targeted at the public’s anxieties.
    I hope that the campaign strategists will learn from my comments, and that the California Legislature recognizes that the issue is now, at least in California, mainstream.

    • Peter M says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Dani. The ‘cost of labeling threat’ was, in my opinion, THE key issue for folk with limited knowledge of GM. The cost of living and eating is a BIG issue for most people who are not yet on the journey of food awarensss. While the celebrity videos were great fun – and an important tool – they did nothing to counter the cost threat, and COULD arguably have further engendered the elitist foodie image that the ‘non-GM’ and ‘organic’ campaign has (and which antagonists will exploit more and more). For one thing, celebs don’t have to worry about the cost of their groceries. While it’s very easy to criticize with the benefit of hindsight, the ‘cost of labeling threat’ should really have been predicted as THE core challange to the campaign – particularly in the current economic climate.

      While I think social media is very powerful, I still not 100% convinced of its effectiveness as a campaign tool, for various reasons. But the bottom line is that while money can’t buy you love, $46 million will buy you an awful lot of airtime and page ads…!

      Onwards and upwards!

    • marty says:

      very helpful criticisms. thank you.

  18. [...] more than 5 to 1, and beginning on October 1, spent about a million dollars a day on a hailstorm of false claims, misrepresentations and fear mongering over five simple words on a label. In the end, they spent enough money to hide the truth from the [...]

  19. Melissa Buffaloe says:

    Is there no way to start a class action lawsuit against all these lies? It seems like the only thing that will stop these biotech giants is to be hit hard where it counts. I can’t believe that they can just do that with no consequences!

  20. [...] promote, and peddle GMO’s are the companies that produced, packaged, promoted, and peddled ridiculous lies to convince Californians that knowing what’s in their food is bad for them. The sad irony is [...]

  21. Brett Wilcox says:

    Battle lost but eventually the people will defeat Monsanto and gang!

  22. Frank Plughoff says:

    Ernest, people aren’t sheep. They’re manipulated. The “system” is meant to keep you in fear, on edge & distracted so you can’t think for yourself. Once you can’t think for yourself, they are free to force feed you your thoughts, feelings & opinions. Once they are able to force feed you, they are free to do whatever the f@%k they want. Once they are able to force feed you & do whatever the f@%k they want, you’ll think it’s your ideas that are being carried out. Monsanto may have pulled the wool over some eyes … but that wool is theirs … it wasn’t shorn from sheeple.

  23. Gage Tarrant says:

    I voted “yes” on proposition 37 for 1.) personal and professional health reasons, and 2.) out of concern for the safety and protection of our planet, our home. Also ecause I have been urging, in writing, the FDA to do so for over a decade, to no avail, and voted for Obama in his first presidential election because he promised he would support labelling of GMO’s, then didn’t (and appointed Monsanto goons to key positions where they could further adulterate information and public safety.) Beyond being inherently predisposed to hyper immunity, I have experienced severe intestinal distress that also affects mood after consuming foods laden with excessive pesticides, and many GMO’s are created for the sole purpose of the plant being able to withstand more pesticides without being destroyed. The problem being the residues do, indeed, survive the plant, and in my experience, even cooking, to the point of causing enough distress to warrant avoiding them. I have a right to avoid chemicals that cause me harm, but beyond myself, I am concerned for the planet.

    The pollens carried from these creations are contaminating other crops, upsetting a delicate eco system that, although resilient, is too complex and fragile for arrogant humans such as scientists for hire and businesspeople from Monsanto to assume authority over. I demand that these companies stop committing actions that affect not only people, but animals, insects and the environment for their own profit, in complete disregard for the good science proving it is harmful to living beings, and the good opinions of others who agree that genetic modification of plants in many cases poses a threat to our world.

    I do not want the energy of my earnings going toward their poorly thought out and reckless profiteering, and deserve to know which company I am supporting through my purchases, including food purchases. The label on a product may list soy, but I want to know if that soy came from Monsanto, because if it did, I am not buying it. At this point, I feel that I can not know who I am supporting nor protect myself until this information is somehow disclosed through labelling.

    Instead of labelling measures, however, I am now convinced, through their shameless waste of $50 million dollars on ads lying to the public that the only solution is to selectively ban their use. Their hired scientists pandered additionally on HuffPostLive post victory over 37 stating that their GMO’s are the only way to feed the world; hell, their advertising budget alone could have fed an entire 3rd world country for a decade. This scientist even suggested that the ‘additional taxation’ would have hurt a troubled economy; it was an outright lie. There was no tax associated with this measure. The GMO folks have proven themselves to definitively comprise the definition of psychopaths. I want protection from them. And I want them stopped.

    Thank you.

  24. [...] post originally appeared on Appetite for Profit October 7, 2012.  © Food Safety [...]

  25. Michele Simon says:

    To folks saying that people have access to information, I assume you don’t live in California. This year’s voting ballot was 6 pages long, (3 pages both sides). We had 11 state-level measures to vote on plus local measures plus the candidates, which wasn’t easy either since locally we have ranked-choice voting. History has shown people tend to vote “no” on measures they don’t know about. All of the measures are complicated and confusing. Asking people to “just get the facts” about 37 in the context of this complicated voting procedure is really unfair. That’s why ads are so effective.

    • James says:

      Actually you are spot on in identifying a lack of coordination among NGO leaders as a cause of failure. I would take it a step further and say that several of the watchdog groups leading it are so selfishly opportunistic that they brought damage to the campaign. Let’s start with the fact that David Bronner led the initial charge on the initiative, and then left the leadership committee due to attacks from some of the others on the committee who claimed he was using his large campaign contribution to try to throw his weight around. Add to it that groups like Cornucopia blackmailed and slandered companies and individuals within companies like Gary H of Stonyfield – do you think this made the other companies who had already given $ want to open their wallets a second time and give more at the end when it was needed?? Absolutely not. The “larger” organic brands (and people who attack them for being large have no idea what large is) did not like seeing their colleagues attacked and the checkbooks went back in their pockets. The biggest thing the organic world should learn from this initiative is that the circular firing squad used by OCA and Cornucopia is at the core of the organic community’s ability to organize on national levels. Both groups desperately want donors…it would seem more than they want success.

      • Jeanette Schuler says:

        No not really, OCA has had issues with other entities in the past (for good reason) and surprisingly laid the hatchet down for this. I disagree with you I think they did a good job at coming together. And did so under the Right to Know organization.

        • James says:

          Did you see the “Organic Traitor” piece Cornucopia did on Gary Hirscheberg? And the constant attacks on Whole Foods by OCA? What company wants to give, or give more, after these tactics are used. I see no evidence of hatchets buried, and I know for a fact David Bronner, one of the most generous and most empathetic people in the movement, was forced off of committee. The organic insider infighting, driven by huge egos and tangential agendas, is irrefutably one of the biggest tragedies in our movement. Give one concrete example of “coming together” for us to consider.

  26. [...] to public health lawyer Michele Simon, Big Food companies like Monsanto, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Nestle, and Kraft, which donated funds to [...]

  27. [...] Prop 37″ button on my purse, and furiously blogged about it on this very site, but in the end, the money won out. I’ll admit I was pretty down yesterday and feeling a bit lost about where we go from here. [...]

  28. [...] than 5 to 1, and beginning on October 1, spent about a million dollars a day on a hailstorm of false claims, misrepresentations and fear mongering over five simple words on a label. In the end, they spent enough money to hide the truth from the [...]

  29. [...] Simon provides This detailed and disturbing report of how the biotech industry, Monsanto in particular, engaged in an [...]

  30. [...] the measure’s backers — not so much chipping away at the lead but demolishing it.Liz Meyer Yes, there were misrepresentations, deceit and outright lies. Yes, there were egregious missteps on the part of California Right to Know, the organization [...]

  31. [...] there were misrepresentations, deception and undisguised lies. Yes, there were gross missteps on a partial of California Right to Know, a classification heading a [...]

  32. [...] there were misrepresentations, deceit and outright lies. Yes, there were egregious missteps on the part of California Right to Know, the organization [...]

  33. [...] than $45 million dollars into the “No on 37″ campaign.According to public health lawyer Michele Simon, Big Food companies like Monsanto, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Nestle, and Kraft, which donated funds to [...]

  34. [...] 6, the No On 37 campaign spent $1 million a day on misinforming the public, and it worked. Click here to read the details about their dirty tricks, as collected by Appetite for Profit. All that being [...]

  35. Bob O says:

    A group of medical professionals need to form an association that can statistically show the effects of eating GMOs. This may take a few years to put together the research and analysis but the big picture will give the media and people in general a reason to take notice. I for one eat as much organic as possible and the odd times I have knowingly had something with GMOs my stomach has become very upset within a few hours. I recently did this as an experiment by having a root beer with GM high fructose corn syrup.

  36. [...] more than 5 to 1, and beginning on October 1, spent about a million dollars a day on a hailstorm of false claims, misrepresentations and fear mongering over five simple words on a [...]

  37. [...] raising the minimum wage is that food prices would necessary go up. (Such scare tactics are quite effective.) Instead of relying on self-serving and unsubstantiated claims, two labor experts at the [...]

  38. [...] the minimum wage is that food prices would necessarily go up. (Such scare tactics are quite effective.) Instead of relying on self-serving and unsubstantiated claims, two labor experts at the [...]

  39. Alan Schwartz says:

    Prop 37 would have passed if just 4% of the people who voted it down switched sides. An unmentioned primary reason for that disappointing loss (in addition to the 10 items listed) is that the ads in favor of Prop 37 did not discuss WHY eating GM foods is a really bad idea. The pro-37 ads needed to cite the many animal studies that show Prop 37 foods disrupt intestinal function, and cause cancers, allergies and reproductive harm. We need to get this information out to the voters around the country, and we need to continue to get Prop 37-like propositions on the ballots in all states that allow such propositions. As voters become better and better educated regarding WHY it’s essential to know what’s in the foods that we are eating, those favoring GM food labeling will eventually win, and I suspect sooner rather than later.

  40. [...] raising the minimum wage is that food prices would necessary go up. (Such scare tactics are quite effective.) Instead of relying on self-serving and unsubstantiated claims, two labor experts at the [...]

  41. [...] raising the minimum wage is that food prices would necessary go up. (Such scare tactics are quite effective.) Instead of relying on self-serving and unsubstantiated claims, two labor experts at the [...]

  42. [...] raising the minimum wage is that food prices would necessary go up. (Such scare tactics are quite effective.) Instead of relying on self-serving and unsubstantiated claims, two labor experts at the [...]

  43. [...] mandated GMO labeling. Unfortunately, Monsanto and gang combined their filthy millions with their filthy lies to defeat the proposition.) Delicata Squash Stir [...]

  44. [...] raising the minimum wage is that food prices would necessary go up. (Such scare tactics are quite effective.) Instead of relying on self-serving and unsubstantiated claims, two labor experts at the [...]

  45. [...] the minimum wage is that food prices would necessarily go up. (Such scare tactics are quite effective.) Instead of relying on self-serving and unsubstantiated claims, two labor experts at the [...]

  46. I’ve learn a few excellent stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you set to create this type of wonderful informative web site.

  47. [...] of time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a massive industry disinformation campaign) sparked a national movement that has resulted in labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  48. [...] of time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a massive industry disinformation campaign) sparked a national movement that has resulted in labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  49. [...] The dis­ap­point­ing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a mas­sive indus­try dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign) sparked a national move­ment that has resulted in label­ing bills get­ting intro­duced in [...]

  50. [...] of time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a massive industry disinformation campaign) sparked a national movement that has resulted in labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  51. [...] time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a massive industry  disinformation campaign) sparked a national movement that has resulted in  labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  52. [...] time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a massive industry  disinformation campaign) sparked a national movement that has resulted in  labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  53. [...] time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California—thanks to a massive industry disinformation campaign—sparked a national movement that has resulted in labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  54. [...] of time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a massive industry disinformation campaign) sparked a national movement that has resulted in labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  55. [...] of time. The disappointing defeat of Prop 37 last fall in California (thanks to a massive industry disinformation campaign) sparked a national movement that has resulted in labeling bills getting introduced in about half [...]

  56. [...] the big pesticide and chemical companies, who are already playing from the same playbook, and may stoop to even new lows this [...]

  57. [...] and chem­i­cal com­pa­nies, who are already play­ing from the same play­book, and may stoop to even new lows [...]

  58. [...] the big pesticide and chemical companies, who are already playing from the same playbook, and may stoop to even new lows this [...]

  59. [...] the big pesticide and chemical companies, who are already playing from the same playbook, and may stoop to even new lows this [...]

  60. [...] the big pesticide and chemical companies, who are already playing from the same playbook, and may stoop to even new lows this [...]

  61. [...] the big pesticide and chemical companies, who are already playing from the same playbook, and may stoop to even new lows this [...]

  62. [...] spent more than $45 million to defeat a ballot initiative there. The opposition engaged in numerous dirty tricks including lying in the official voter guide, misrepresenting its expert’s academic affiliation, [...]

  63. [...] more than $45 million to defeat a ballot initiative there. The opposition engaged in numerous dirty tricks including lying in the official voter guide, misrepresenting its expert’s academic affiliation [...]

  64. [...] are just the kind of dirty and underhanded tactics I wrote about during the two recent state-wide ballot measure fights to label GMO foods – in California in 2012 [...]

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