Prop 37 and Corporate Lies in the Post-Truth Era
By Zack Kaldveer
As a historic vote with profound implications for the future of our food system nears, the question becomes whether a campaign with limitless resources and a disdain for the truth can defeat an overwhelmingly popular idea supported by a grassroots army, and over 3000 public interest organizations: the right to know what's in the food we eat and feed our families.
Poll after poll showed 90% of Americans (and Californians) favored labeling foods that have been genetically engineered (GMOs) and nearly a million signatures were gathered by California volunteers in just 10 weeks - easily qualifying Prop 37 for the ballot. And as of the first week of October, the Yes on 37 campaign enjoyed a 2 to 1 lead in the polls.
This broad statewide (and national) support - across party lines - made perfect sense. Prop 37 posits a simple question: Do we have the right to know what's in the food we eat and feed our children, or is that a decision better left to the pesticide and junk food companies bankrolling the opposition campaign?
Prop 37 isn't a referendum on genetically modified foods. It's not a ban, or a warning, it's a label.
The debate over the efficacy of genetically engineered foods should and will continue. In the meantime, Californians have a right to know, and for good reason.
A growing body of research links GMO foods to potential health risks, increased pesticide use, biodiversity loss, the emergence of "super bugs" and "super weeds" and the unintentional contamination of conventional crops.
Prop 37 simply adds a line of ink to a label - as is currently required for 3,000 other ingredients - so consumers know which products have been altered in a laboratory. 61 other countries have provided their citizens with this right, and choice, it's time we do the same.
Corporate Backlash Against Our Right to Know
In response to this growing outcry for food transparency a who's who of the world's most notorious corporate bad actors, with long histories of deceiving the public, polluting the environment, and endangering public health, converged on California to convince us we don't deserve this basic, human right. A right that nearly half the world's population already enjoys.
The No on 37 campaign's two largest contributors are pesticide giants Monsanto ($8.1 million) and Dupont ($5.4 million) - who for decades assured us Agent Orange, DDT, and Tobacco were safe. At the same time, Monsanto has actively advocated for labeling in Europe.
So how do companies like these go about persuading us that we don't deserve the right to know what they're doing to our food?
The Only Recourse: An Unprecedented Campaign of Deception
The campaign against the right to know has relied on three essential components: unlimited resources, a willingness to repeatedly lie, and a willingness to double and triple down on those lies-even when they are debunked by independent fact checkers.
Seriously, when was the last time giant, out-of-state pesticide and junk food companies spent $45 million to improve your health, protect the environment or save you money?
Spoiler Alert - they never have.
The No On 37 campaign knows that the less you know about your food, the more money they are likely to make. Their goal is literally that simple, even though their campaign of deception is far more elaborate.
They've set up phony AstroTurf groups, misrepresented spokespeople and embellished their credentials, and misrepresented leading science, government, professional and academic organizations-including (but not limited to) the National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, US Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization. They've bankrolled demonstrably phony "economic studies," made repeated false statements in advertisements, deceived voters with mailers sent by obvious front groups, and repeated one falsehood after another - hoping somehow that no one would ever notice.
Well, someone just did. We filed a complaint to the Department of Justice about the potentially fraudulent use of the FDA seal in No on 37 campaign propaganda, and the DOJ has referred the matter to the FDA to look into.
The No on 37 Campaign and the "Post-Truth Era"
After four weeks of million dollar a day advertising by out of state pesticide and junk food corporations, No on 37 shrunk a 40 point deficit into a lead. Not because they were right on the facts - because they don't care about the facts.
Ultimately, we believe that No on 37's financially motivated corporate "sting operation" constitutes a profound disdain for the democratic process and the citizens of this state.
Why Spend $45 Million To Prevent A Simple Label?
Just follow the money: If we know what's in our food, and what's being done to our food, many of us will seek alternatives, and that would reduce the profit margins of companies like Monsanto and DuPont.
Their fears are well founded: since Europe instituted labeling 15 years ago, only 7 percent of its food now contains genetically engineered ingredients - compared to approximately 70% in the United States. Imagine what that would mean to these corporations if a similar shift in purchasing habits took place in California?
Multi-billion dollar pesticide and junk food companies believe there is no greater threat than an informed consumer - and with transparency comes accountability.
Prop 37 threatens their monopoly of our food system - which prevents small farmers, the organics industry, and truly natural food producers from competing on an equal playing field.
Whose Side Are You On?
On Tuesday more than a label is on the ballot. Democracy itself is. Will voters allow out of state, multinational pesticide and junk food corporations tell us what we can and can't know about the food we eat, and what they're doing to that food? Are we going to allow television ads based on one demonstrable lie after another convince us that information is somehow a radical concept that we don't deserve?
This right to know movement began with a farmer, a grandmother, and former midwife, organizing women across the state two years ago toward a 2012 ballot drive.
Prop. 37 is about one and only one thing - our right to know what's in our food, and make an informed choice about what we eat and feed our children.
We can't allow our democracy to be hijacked by unscrupulous corporate interests willing to say and spend anything to protect their profits at the expense of real people, and our rights as free citizens.
We must ask every voter that will take the time to listen a few simple questions:
- Who do you trust with the health of your family? Pesticide and junk food companies and the $45 million they've spent lying to you, or Prop 37 supporters like the California Nurses Association, the Breast Cancer Action Fund, the California Council of Churches, and the American Public Health Association?
- Who do you trust when it comes to protecting our natural environment and food supply? Monsanto and DuPont, or Prop 37 supporters like the Sierra Club, California League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council?
- And finally, who do you trust to make decisions about what you know about the food you eat? Pesticide and junk food companies, or Prop 37 supporters like the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and Public Citizen?
Prop 37 is not just about our health and our environment, and the future of our food supply. It's also about the health of our democracy, and whether something so simple, so popular, and so "people-driven" can be stomped out by giant out of state corporations polluting our state with $45 million of lies to protect their profits, at our expense.
Say yes to democracy. Say yes to your right to know. Vote Yes on Prop 37. And please tell everyone you know to do the same.
Zack Kaldveer is Assistant Media Director for the Yes on 37 Right To Know campaign.