The David Vs. Goliath Battle of GMO Labeling
Genetically engineered food has never been proven safe and a growing body of evidence links these foreign foods to allergies and other significant health risks.
NOTE: This is a guest post from Stacy Malkan, media director for the Yes on 37 California Right to Know Campaign.
This fall, Californians will vote on a question that affects all of us – do we have the right to know what’s in our food? A huge majority of people across the political spectrum are saying yes, we do; and they want to know specifically if their food has been genetically engineered in a lab.
“In a country seemingly dominated by partisan polarization on everything from the cause of hurricanes to the state of the economy, it’s hard to find issues, outside of motherhood and apple pie, that can muster over 90 percent support,” wrote respected national pollster Mark Mellman in The Hill.
In a recent survey, he found one. “Voters express almost unanimous support for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods,” Mellman wrote.
Several other polls have shown similar results: 89-93% support for labeling. But will the overwhelming support translate to votes this fall for Proposition 37?
The measure – which would simply require labels to include information about whether food has been genetically engineered, which means its DNA has been manipulated by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria – is likely to be the biggest David vs. Goliath battle on the California ballot this fall.
“Proposition 37 promises to set up a big-money battle pitting natural food businesses and activists against multinational companies including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Kellogg,” reported Marc Lifsher in the Los Angeles Times.
“Backers and opponents have already raised nearly $4 million combined for campaigns to sway voters, an amount that’s likely to swell into the tens of millions of dollars as the November election approaches.”
On the opposing side are some of the largest anti-union, pro-pesticide agrichemical interests in the world, as Zack Kaldveer wrote in California Progress Report.
These include Monsanto, the chemical companies and the largest food manufacturers – the same food companies that already label genetically engineered food in 49 other countries including all of Europe, Japan, China, India and Russia.
Americans deserve to know what’s in the food we eat, too. But can the public interest, and the overwhelming majority support, stand up to the country’s richest corporations?
While it’s a safe bet that proponents of Proposition 37 will be outspent in the ad war, the Yes on 37 Right to Know campaign has a war chest of a different kind: people power.
In one of the most inspiring political stories of the year, thousands of volunteers mobilized across California to help the labeling measure collect almost a million signatures in just 10 weeks, nearly twice the number needed to qualify for the ballot. Many of them were mothers and grandmothers who are not typically out on the streets petitioning for political issues – but they want to know what’s in their food.
Few, if any, other election campaigns in the state have mobilized so many voters so quickly with such a huge network of volunteers. Now, the Yes on 37 Campaign is pledging to make history again with an ambitious goal of organizing One Million More Californians for the Right to Know.
The One Million More drive, launched this week, involves thousands of volunteers going door to door and reaching out at grocery stores and farmers markets around the state. The campaign is also launching an online organizing offensive, with voters showing their support at www.CARightToKnow.org and in social networks and online communities.
More than 300 bloggers have signed on to promote the campaign and more than 800 organizations have endorsed Yes on 37, including farm, business, consumer and environmental groups, public health advocates and labor unions.
As these groups attempt to make history by organizing a million more supporters, the Yes on 37 Right to Know Campaign has already made history by standing up to some of America’s most powerful corporations that want to keep us in the dark about what’s in our food.
Which side of history will you be on?
You can sign up to join One Million More who agree that we have the right to know what we eat and feed our families.
Stacy Malkan is media director for the Yes on 37 California Right to Know Campaign to label genetically engineered foods. If passed by voters in November, California would be the first state in the U.S. to require labeling for a wide range of genetically engineered foods.
Photo courtesy of the California Right to Know Campaign