The $41 million corporate ad blitz that is taking down California’s GMO labeling
California’s Proposition 37 would require that all genetically modified foods be labeled for consumer awareness. It’s pitched as a “Right to Know” campaign, and for a while things were looking bright for Nov. 6’s Election Day. But now?
A USC Dornsife / Los Angeles Times poll released Thursday showed 44% of surveyed voters backing the initiative and 42% opposing it. A substantial slice of the electorate, 14%, remains undecided or unwilling to take a position.
That’s compared to the last USC/LA Times poll done just over a month ago, which showed 61 percent in favor and 25 percent opposed. Basically: It is not looking good. From The Los Angeles Times:
Proposition 37 “is not dead in the water,” said pollster Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the Democratic counterpart. He cautioned, however, that “conventional wisdom says something that’s under 50% and tied … is not likely to pass.”
Why the sudden slip? It appears the $34 million anti-Prop 37 advertising campaign may have something to do with this. Some estimates put the total spending now over $41 million — from Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Agrosciences, Bayer, PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Conagra and, well, you get the point. (On the $4.1 million yes side? Dr. Bronner’s, Amy’s Kitchen, Clif Bar, etc.) From Truthout:
According to California Right to Know spokeswoman Stacy Malkan, a loss of public support is to be expected when massive television, radio, and mail advertising gobsmacks the electorate. “We attribute [the new poll numbers] to the pounding, incessant lies the No on 37 campaign has been hammering voters with all day, every day.” Asked what she meant by “lies,” Malkan listed two: “The false claims about cost increases. The confusing talking points about exemptions.”
Sure enough, in the sidebar on the Los Angeles Times site is one of the ads in question. “Prop 37 would increase grocery bills for a typical California family by $400,” it screams across a red banner. “Look into the facts.”
Those facts appear to hinge on a report from the California legislative analyst’s office, which states that the state administrative costs could range from “a few hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million annually” (plus potential costs associated with litigating over the legislation). (For some context, the 2012-2013 state of California budget appropriates $143 billion.)
Yesterday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science also came out strongly in favor of shutting down Proposition 37’s chances. From NPR’s The Salt blog:
The American Association for the Advancement of Science says labeling would “mislead and falsely alarm consumers.” The AAAS – best known for publishing Science magazine – says genetically modified foods are fundamentally no different from conventionally bred foods. In fact, the organization says they are tested more extensively than most new crop varieties … “Civilization rests on people’s ability to modify plants to make them more suitable as food, feed and fiber plants and all of these modifications are genetic,” the AAAS statement says.
That’s so weird! Here I thought civilization rested on people not tucking in to a hefty plate of Monsanto propaganda, but I guess that’s just me. Oh, and Michael Pollan.