Big names in corporate agriculture and biotechnology firms are spending big -- to the tune of $12 million -- in their fight to prevent Californians from knowing whether their food contains genetically engineered ingredients.
Contributions on file with the California Secretary of State's office show that the Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme, the group with a loaded name fighting the labeling, has raised nearly $11.9 million in funds to fight the labeling.
The fight is over Proposition 37, which noted food writer Michael Pollan called "easily the most important food battle of the fall," and is set for the ballot in California in November. If the "yes" votes win, genetically engineered foods would have to be labeled; if the "no" votes win, the status quo will remain -- a scenario in which consumers don't know if the food they're consuming contains genetically engineered ingredients or not.
The top donors to this anti-labeling campaign include some of the most well-known names in biotechnology and industrial food: DuPont Pioneer (over $2.4 million), Bayer Cropscience (over $1 million), BASF Plant Science (nearly $1 million). PepsiCo, Nestle USA, General Mills, Conagra Foods, Coca Cola and Syngenta each gave $500,000.
“Why are these giant corporations spending so much money to hide the truth about what’s in their food?” asks Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the Yes on 37 Right to Know Campaign, who muses that the big funds will be used in deceptive ads in the lead-up to the vote.
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“We’re in for another David versus Goliath fight. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we expect will be millions more dollars flooding into misleading ad campaigns from multi-billion dollar businesses that don’t want us to know if our food has been genetically engineered,” stated Malkan.
Data (last updated Monday) from KCET shows the opponents of Proposition 37 dramatically outspending the supporters:
Despite this spending disparity, support for the labeling has been strong. “Surveys show that more than 90 percent of Californians believe it’s their right to know if genetically engineered ingredients are in the food they eat and feed their kids, and for years now they’ve had no way to find out,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that has joined the fight to label genetically engineered food. “Who will honor that right? Certainly not the global pesticide companies that produce the genetically engineered ingredients that ends up in our food, and definitely not big multinational food companies. In this instance, they’re saying the customer is not always right. In fact, Big Food has already announced that defeating California’s Proposition 37 is their top priority,” Cook said.
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