Why a Failed GMO Ballot Measure Still Matters
So Prop 37 failed. California won’t be labeling GMOs. On election night, my reaction to this news was extreme disappointment. How could voters actually elect to keep themselves uninformed? I just didn’t understand. But then it hit me: a lot of people are much less familiar with the issues surrounding GMOs than I’d like to think. This may sound like a depressing realization, but it actually gave me hope.
Prop 37′s failure is due in large part to the massive misinformation campaign led by Monsanto that, in true Orwellian fashion, claimed that labeling GMOs is deceptive. And they outspent the pro-Prop 37 crowd five to one. According to this article from the Huffington Post, Monsanto and its ilk illegally used the USDA seal to suggest that the USDA supported their position. They claimed that labeling GMOs would raise the cost of food, though an independent economic analysis concluded that it would not. They argued that there is no proof of the ill health effects of GMOs, though numerous reports suggest otherwise.
So why am I hopeful? Because those are the reasons that Prop 37 failed. Not because voters understood the issue and voted it down anyway. In this country, we are tragically uninformed about where our food comes from. We’ve turned over control of our food supply to massive corporations. It’s much easier and more convenient to simply microwave whatever these corporations peddle to us than it is to take the time to cook and think about where our food comes from. Therefore, many of us have traded our ability to make informed decisions about what we eat for convenience.
The key, then, is education. People don’t want to eat food that is potentially harmful – but they don’t know they’re doing it. Or at least they don’t realize the extent to which they’re doing it. If more people genuinely understood just how appalling genetically modified foods really are, if they understood the process by which cell walls are broken down and injected with foreign DNA, I’m confident they wouldn’t choose to eat GMOs.
It’s not apathy that we’re fighting, then, but a lack of education. And I don’t entirely blame the American people for this. To an extent, it’s certainly the responsibility of individuals to educate themselves. However, the corporate food system has been so successful in marketing its food-like products to us that many Americans don’t even realize there’s anything to educate themselves about.
And this is why Prop 37 is significant, despite its failure. Even though many voters were misled by the campaign spearheaded by Monsanto, Prop 37 brought the issue to larger stage. National media outlets covered it. The dialog surrounding the GMO controversy has reached a new level. Prop 37 demonstrated that there are enough concerned Americans to bring the issue to a vote. And although Prop 37 failed to gain enough support to pass, it brought the issue into the national consciousness. Many times, controversial issues such as this fail to pass the first time around. But after a few more states bring the issue to a vote, eventually change happens. Prop 37 was the first step toward achieving that change.
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