California’s Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of many grocery products containing genetically-engineered ingredients, was defeated by voters on Nov. 6. The setback for the organic industry has temporarily discouraged the spread of this measure to other states. But it isn’t over by a long shot.
The organic trade insisted that Proposition 37 was strictly a means to provide consumers with the right to know what’s in the products they eat. But many saw it as a thinly concealed attempt by organics to impose excessive regulation on its competition.
At the very least, Proposition 37 is standard operating procedure for organic product marketing. If your produce is no different in terms of taste, safety and nutrition from a competitor, and costs more, apparently the only marketing option is to create a negative image of your competitor’s product.
Fifty-three percent of California voters saw through the charade and clearly understood agriculture’s message.
After the defeat of Proposition 37, Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, said the ballot measure “would have required most, but not all, foods made with genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled in the state, and would likely have caused unnecessary, increased food costs for California consumers and frivolous lawsuits against farmers, grocers and food companies.”
On the other hand, the debate around Proposition 37 “did put a spotlight on consumer interest in our U.S. food system and added to the modern agriculture dialogue we at CLA and many stakeholders have actively been having in recent years,” Vroom said. “We look forward to widening the discussion and learning more from one another.”
The Cornucopia Institute had a different view of the defeat, writing in a blog, “After a deluge of allegedly misleading advertisements paid for in large part by pesticide and biotechnology corporations, California voters defeated Proposition 37.”
Others simply refused to believe that their cause didn’t resonate with California voters on message alone. “This is a story about money,” fumed Stacy Malkan, media director of the Proposition 37 campaign. “Our loss had to do with being outspent. We didn’t have the funds to compete on the air in the central regions of the states.”
The defeat of Proposition 37 doesn’t mean an end to GMO labeling. A somewhat facetious post on a Facebook page called Yes to 37 suggested that in the future, California recruit the rich and famous. “With the pesticide companies and big ag funneling millions to trick people into thinking Prop 37 is costly and confusing, we need all the people power we can get. This is where celebrities can help out. They are people and consumers just like the rest of us, but they have big mouths!”
With or without celebrities speaking loudly, expect a much more polished, and more well-funded GMO labeling campaign the next time around.