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Big Agriculture Bankrolls Defeat of California's Proposition 37

Proponents remain positive about the future fight against GMOs

Common Dreams staff

Opponents of genetically modified food will continue to fight despite defeat in California (Photo by asianfarmers via flickr)

California's landmark Proposition 37 was soundly and sadly defeated on Tuesday by corporate interests and big money politics. As of Wednesday morning, with more than 94 percent of the precincts reporting, news outlets reported that the measure has been rejected.

Opposition of Proposition 37 was spearheaded by large agribusiness and chemical companies—such as Monsanto and Dow—and big food manufacturers—including PepsiCo, Nestle, and Conagra—who dumped more than $45 million into the fight. Monsanto, a leading maker of genetically engineered seeds, contributed $8.1 million alone against the measure which would have required labeling on genetically modified food.

As of early October, a USC/ Los Angeles Times poll announced that the measure was leading by a large margin, "with 59 percent of voters in favor versus 28 percent who are opposed."

However, nearly $27 million was spent by the "highly organized" No campaign on radio, television and Internet advertising to spread myths about increased bureaucracy and higher food costs.

In contrast, the yes campaign raised $9.2 million, relying primarily on social media and grass-roots initiatives. Supporters include the organic industry, consumer groups, and alternative medicine organizations. Proposition advocates believe that consumers have the right to know whether food has been genetically altered, particularly because long-term affects are yet unknown. Consumer groups estimate that about 70 to 80 percent of processed foods currently sold in the US are made with GM ingredients such as corn, soybeans, sugar beets and cottonseed oil.


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Despite the loss, proponents of this first-of-its-kind initiative remain optimistic that the conversation about the dangers genetically modified foods will continue.

"Whatever happens tonight, this is a win," Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms and co-chair of Yes on 37, said Tuesday while waiting for polls to close. "Never before have millions of Californians come together to support giving consumers a choice about genetically engineered foods."

A statement by Food & Water watch declared

One bought election does not change the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans want to join the more than 60 other countries around the world in knowing whether or not their food has been genetically engineered with a simple label.

"Thanks to all who have supported us," wrote the Yes on 37 campaign in a concilliatory tweet shortly before 1 a.m. "This is the first round of many!"

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