Wednesday, November 7, 2012

GMO Labeling Movement Pushes On Despite Prop 37 Defeat

Former Fairfax, CA Mayor Frank Eggar campaigning. Photo: S. Bates
Yesterday Californians voted on Proposition 37, a GMO labeling initiative that we've been following for many months now.  Unfortunately, the initiative lost by 6 percentage points, with the no on 37 vote at 53.7% and the yes vote at 46.3% as of early this morning.  This is certainly discouraging news, since labeling only seeks to give consumers the basic right to know what is in their food, and the initiative was favored by a large majority of California voters up until recently.  Agribusiness giants have been able to sway public opinion on GMO labeling by wielding huge sums of money used to advertise the no on 37 campaign.  With such wealthy opposition, the fight to label genetically modified foods in this country might seem like an impossible dream, but in the wake of the Prop 37 defeat, I want to share with you a quote from the San Francisco Chronicle's article written today:
Stacy Melken, a spokeswoman for the Prop, 37 campaign, said supporters believe they will win the labeling debate over the long term. She noted that proponents were outspent by a five to one margin and still managed to capture more than 4.2 million votes.

"We showed that there is a food movement in the United States, and it is strong, vibrant and too powerful to stop," she said. "We always knew we were the underdogs."
That quote helped to put things in perspective for me, and I don't feel nearly as discouraged now as I did this morning.  The fact that the yes on 37 campaign was outspent five to one and still managed to rally nearly half the California vote is really impressive, and proves that money is powerful, but a strong movement is more powerful.  It often takes time to build a movement, and even more time to push the values of that movement through government, so although feeling discouraged is natural and understandable in the wake of a defeat, the truth is that the loss of Prop 37 is really just one part of a much larger picture.

The GMO labeling movement isn't going away.   The issue of labeling will continue to be brought up in the political sphere, forcing agribusiness to spend its money each time to quell it until finally enough people who won't be swayed by costly marketing exist to pass a labeling law.  Proposition 37 shows us how far we have come as Americans who want the right to know what is in our food.  It shows how resourceful and resilient the movement is, and it shows that we really can pass labeling legislation if we keep working toward it.  In the meantime, know what's in your food by knowing where your food comes from.  Buy whole, local, organic, and in season whenever possible, and get to know farmers near you.  Ask your grocery store to stock more local items, and start a garden in your yard, or in containers if you don't have a yard.  And talk to your friends and family about GMOs and why it's important to label them.  Check out and sign the federal petition, and if you still feel a bit discouraged, read this article.  Labeling initiatives are currently being brought up in other states and nationally.  Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt company, and chairman of the "Just Label It" campaign, puts it very succinctly:
Labeling of GE (genetically engineered) foods is not a question of whether, but when.
Have a great evening!

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