You may have never heard of Henry I. Miller, but right now he is attempting to determine the future of food in this country. And he has enormous financial backing.
Mr. Miller is the primary face and voice of the “No on Prop 37” campaign in California. At this very moment, Monsanto and other pesticide companies are spending more than $1 million a day to convince California voters that it’s not in their best interest to know whether the food they eat is genetically engineered. And Henry I. Miller is their guy.
If you live in California today, he’s hard to miss. You see him in TV ads, hear him in radio spots, and his face is all over the expensive fliers that keep showing up uninvited in your mail box. Initially, the ads presented Miller as a Stanford doctor. But he isn’t. He’s a research fellow at a conservative think tank (the Hoover Institute) that has offices on the Stanford campus. When this deceptive tactic came to light, the ads were pulled and then redone. But they still feature Miller trying to convince the public that Prop 37 “makes no sense,” and that it’s a “food-labeling scheme written by trial lawyers who hope for a windfall if it becomes law.”
Actually, Prop 37 makes all the sense in the world if you want to know what’s in the food you eat. It was written by public health advocates, and provides no economic incentives for filing lawsuits.
Who, then, is Henry I. Miller, and why should we believe him when he tells us that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safe?
Does it matter that this same Henry Miller is an ardent proponent of DDT and other toxic pesticides? Does it matter that the “No on Prop 37” ads are primarily funded by pesticide companies, the very same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe?
I find it hard to avoid the impression that Henry Miller is a premier corporate flack. He was a founding member of the Philip Morris backed front group that tried to discredit the links between tobacco products and cancer. After the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, he argued that exposure to radiation from the disaster could actually provide health benefits. He argues that drug companies, not the FDA, should be responsible for testing new drugs. And he is a board member of the George C. Marshall Institute which, funded by oil and gas companies, is notorious for its denial of climate change.
Now he’s telling us that we should vote No on 37 because, he says, the labeling law contains exemptions included “for special interests.” As if the corporations he fronts for weren’t the biggest “special interests” of all. And by the way, the exemptions in Prop 37 conform to those found in GMO labeling laws in the 61 other nations around the world, including the European Union, that already require labeling for foods that are genetically engineered.
Miller and the No on 37 campaign say that labeling would increase family food bills by hundreds of dollars per year. Interestingly, the study they cite to justify this claim was paid for by the No on 37 campaign itself. It was the work of a Maine public relations firm, Northbridge Consulting, that has no economic expertise, but has worked on behalf of Coke and Pepsi against laws that would require the recycling of soda pop bottles.
Would the passing of Prop 37 actually raise the price consumers pay for food? Henry Miller adamantly proclaims that it would. But according to the only fully independent economic analysis of Prop 37, prepared by researchers at Emory University School of Law, “Consumers will likely see no increase in prices as a result of the relabeling” required by the bill.
Somehow I keep getting the feeling that Henry Miller may not be the man you want to listen to when your health is at stake. But Monsanto and its allies are seeing to it that this man’s face and beliefs are everywhere in California today. One television viewer in San Francisco reported seeing ads featuring Miller no less than 12 times in a single day.
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Other “No on 37” ads feature a physician, Ronald Kleinman, dressed of course in the obligatory white coat. Though the ads don’t mention it, Dr. Kleinman’s ethical principles don’t seem to hamper him from being a highly paid voice for the interests of the junk food companies. While working for Coca-Cola, he advocated for “the safety…of sugar, artificial colors and nonnutritive sweeteners in children’s diets.”
Not content with misrepresenting Stanford University (three times), the pesticide and junk food companies behind No on 37 have also:
- Misled voters in the state voter guide by claiming falsely that the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, believes GMO foods are safe.
- Illegally affixed the official US FDA seal to their campaign propaganda, and attributed a fabricated quote to the FDA, falsely implying that the FDA has taken a position against Prop 37.
Regrettably, this deluge of deception seems to be having an impact. Although polls originally showed that more than 80% of the California public want genetically modified food to be labeled, more recent polls are showing a virtual dead heat on Prop 37, with the advertising deluge only increasing in intensity.
Some daily newspapers in California are contributing to this unhappy trend by coming out against Prop 37, with editorials that use entire paragraphs directly from the “No on 37” press releases. Might this have anything to do with the fact that processed foods companies are the primary source of advertising revenue for newspapers today? And that the lobby for the processed food companies, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, has called the defeat of Prop 37 its single highest priority for the year?
The famed food author Michael Pollan wrote recently that Proposition 37 is the litmus test for whether or not there is actually a food movement in this country. Public health activist Stacy Malkan adds that it also may be the litmus test for whether there is democracy left in this country.
These are good points. There is no food movement if Monsanto has its way with us. And there is no democracy without an informed citizenry.
The question now is whether we are going to allow special interests to dictate what we are allowed to know about the food they sell us.
In this case, ignorance is not bliss. It’s subservience to the agenda of Monsanto and the other pesticide companies. Without labeling, we are eating in the dark, with potentially disastrous consequences.
What remains to be seen is whether Californians will, come November 6th, allow Monsanto and its allies to control what you are allowed to know about the food you eat.