1.Biotech and Food Companies Kick GM Label Hornet Nest in US
2.Did California Voters Defeat the Food Movement Along With Prop 37?
3.Lies, Dirty Tricks, and $45 Million Kill GMO Labeling in California

NOTE: Here's an interesting snippet about the former tobacco flack, Thomas Hiltachk, that Monsanto got to head up their campaign to sink GM food labeling in California (Prop 37):

"[Hiltachk and] his firm have been involved in many well-financed ballot initiatives ... They specialize in initiatives that are the opposite of what they sound like — the Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act of 2006, for example. It would have raised the state minimum wage slightly - by a lesser amount than it has since been raised - and, in the fine print, would have made it impossible ever to raise it again except by a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature, while, for good measure, eliminating overtime [i.e. extra pay for overtime] for millions of workers." - Taken from an article in "The New Yorker": 'Votescam'

More on Hiltachk here in this piece on how big oil turned "to the same deceptive tobacco operatives who engineered Philip Morris' fight against efforts to tax cigarettes and stop childhood as well as indoor smoking."

Go to the original pieces for multiple embedded links in items 2 and 3.
1.Biotech and Food Companies Kick GM Label Hornet Nest in US
GM Freeze, 8 November 2012

The biotech industry may have bitten off more than it can chew by spending big to defeat yesterday's California vote on mandatory GM labels at a time when initiatives in many other states are gearing up on similar votes in the near future.

Unlike Europeans US consumers have never had labels to help them see when the foods they buy come from GM crops. In California Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta and other Big Biotech corporations joined forces with food giants Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestle and others to spend US$45 million, but still only narrowly defeated a proposition to require labels on foods with GM ingredients. [1]

Despite the millions spent by Big Business in a propaganda campaign to influence voters, the vote was split 47% in favour of mandatory GM labels and 53% against. Over 4.27 million voters in one of the world's top ten economies want their families to know where GM is used in food. [2] The industry will find these figures hard to ignore, and this may account for the lack of triumphalism over yesterday's "win".

The "no" votes cost the food and biotech companies approximately US$9.30 each, and with similar GM labeling initiatives mounted in some 20 other states, the industry will have to open its wallet even wider to prevent labels being introduced. Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of "Yes" supporter the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement:

"It's disappointing that the flood of corporate money trumped public interest in California. Millions of people supported labeling of GE foods in California, and that should send a powerful message to other states and the federal government that public demand for the right to know what's in our food is not going away." [3]

While in Europe animal feed and all foods containing GM ingredients are labeled (GMO Traceability and Labelling Regulation 1830/2003), attempts to introduce labels on products from animals fed GM feed were narrowly defeated in the European Parliament on several occasions, most recently in 2010. [4] This runs against the tide of massive public support for this right to know what's in our food. [5]

Following consumer rejection of GM foods when there were introduced in the 1990s all major UK supermarkets operate a no GM policy in own brand foods, and some extend this to limited ranges of animals products. [6] In Germany and France some companies have responded to consumer concern by introducing a voluntary "not produced using GMOs" label on dairy and other animal products. [7] Such labels have proved popular, boosting sales for one company by 15% so far. [8]

Industry clearly fears GM labelling will drive shoppers away from its products – with good reason given the mounting scientific uncertainty around long-term safety and sustainability. Indeed an executive of a Monsanto subsidiary seed company famously said as long ago as 1994, before the first US crops were even grown commercially, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." [9]

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

"It's astonishing how far the industry will go to hide its products from its own customers. We have to keep asking – if there’s nothing wrong with these products, why not tell customers where they are? In any other industry big companies spend millions on advertising their products. In California they spent many millions keeping them hidden.

"Biotech and food corporations clearly put a high price on keeping consumers in the dark about GM products, but only barely succeeded. We stand right behind the US consumers preparing even now to demand GM labels in new votes.

"Labelling on GMOs in Europe enables people to vote with their wallets, and the supermarkets have got the message. Labels on animal products produced without GM feed would be an excellent next step here in the UK. More widely ending the use of biofuels based on food crops, where the vast majority of GM crops end up, is overdue."

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

[1] Right to Know, undated. “Facts – Yes on Prop 37”

[2] California General Election, 6 November 2012. “State Ballot Measures – Statewide results”

[3] Center for Food Safety, 7 November 2012. “Center for Food Safety’s Statement on the Results of California’s Vote on Proposition 37: Chemical Industry Spends its Way to Denying Californians’ Right to Know”

[4] GM Freeze, 8 July 2010. “MEPs Undermine Cameron on Food Labels”

[5] GM Freeze, undated. “Where to buy non-GM fed”. In a 2012 UK GkF/NOP poll 89% of respondents supported labels on products from animals fed GM.

[6] Marks & Spencer leads in non-GM animal feed use. Marks & Spencer, undated. “Food Manufacturing”. For further advice on where to buy non-GM fed products in the UK see GM Freeze, “Where to buy non-GM fed”

[7] Carrefour, undated. “Responsible Sourcing”

[8] Lebensmittel Zeitung, 17 June 2010. “Landliebe forces ‘GMO-free’ claims”. In translation by Trace Consult.

[9] Norman Braksick, President of Asgrow Seed Co, quoted in the Kansas City Star, 7 March 1994.
2.Did California Voters Defeat the Food Movement Along With Prop. 37? [Extracts only]
Tom Philpott
Mother Jones, November 7 2012

"Come at the king, you best not miss," the character Omar famously observed on The Wire. Does the law of the streets apply to the politics of food?

...Prop. 37 got crushed under fat stacks of cash: its supporters raised $8.7 million, vs. $45.6 million for its opponents. In other words, while Prop. 2 supporters managed to raise more than the industry it went up against, Prop. 37 got outspent by a margin of five dollars to one. The two biggest donors to the anti-labeling effort, Monsanto and DuPont (list of leading donors to both sides here), contributed a combined $13.5 million...

What do you get for $45.6 million? You get a slick, relentless, truth-challenged campaign, crafted by veteran GOP political hand and former tobacco flack Thomas Hiltachk. The "No on Prop. 37" campaign began its  television ad blitz on Oct. 1, a campaign spokesperson told me. At the time, Prop. 37 was leading in the Pepperdine University/California Business Roundtable poll by a factor of three to one. By the time of the next poll, Oct. 11, the race had tightened to a near dead heat—the proposition's slide toward defeat had begun.

By the day before the election, its fate had become obvious. "In a campaign reminiscent of this summer's successful fight against a proposed tobacco tax in California, opposition funded by Monsanto Co, DuPont, PepsiCo Inc, and others unleashed waves of TV and radio advertisements against Proposition 37 and managed to turn the tide of public opinion," Reuters reported Monday.

Given the formidability and deep pockets of the opposition, I think it's overblown to treat Prop 37 as a pass-fail test of the food movement's political viability. The movement made a strong move at the king and missed, but it isn't going anywhere. George Kimbrell, who, as senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, helped craft the legislation, told me that activists are gathering signatures to push a labeling initiative in the state of Washington in 2013, and he expects to see labeling bills in statehouses in Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, and others. "You try and try and fail, and eventually you succeed," he said.

Meanwhile, explicitly political efforts like Prop. 37 are only one part of the food movement. The other part, the effort to build viable, non-corporate alternatives to big food, moves forward in thousands of on-the-ground projects nationwide. These efforts proceed completely independent of and unimpeded by the machinations of Monsanto and its ilk.
3.Lies, Dirty Tricks, and $45 Million Kill GMO Labeling in California
Michele Simon
Appetite for Profit, November 7 2012

California's Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO foods, died a painful death last night. Despite polling in mid-September showing an overwhelming lead, the measure lost by 53 to 47 percent, which is relatively close considering the No side's tactics.

As I've been writing about, the opposition has waged a deceptive and ugly campaign, fueled by more than $45 million, mostly from the leading biotech, pesticide, and junk food companies. Meanwhile, the Yes side raised almost $9 million, which is not bad, but being outspent by a factor of five is tough to overcome.

While we can always expect industry to spend more, the various groups fighting GMOs for years probably could have been better coordinated. I was dismayed and confused by all the fundraising emails I received from different nonprofits on Prop 37 and wondered why they weren’t pooling their resources.

But would more money and better strategy have made a difference? Given the opposition’s tactics, it seems unlikely. I am not easily shocked by corporate shenanigans but the No on 37 campaign is my new poster child for propaganda and dirty tricks. It’s worth recapping the most egregious examples.

Lying in the California voter guide: The No campaign listed four organizations in the official state document mailed to voters as concluding that "biotech foods are safe." One of them, the American Council on Science and Health, is a notorious industry front group that only sounds legit. Another, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, actually has no position and complained about being listed. (I was attending the group's annual meeting when this came to light and promptly notified the Yes campaign, but the damage was already done.) The other two organizations, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization, in fact have more nuanced positions on GMOs than just "safe."

Misuse of a federal seal and quoting the Food and Drug Administration: This one caused even my jaded draw to drop. In a mailer sent to California voters, the No campaign printed the following text along side the FDA logo: "The US Food and Drug Administration says a labeling policy like Prop 37 would be "inherently misleading." That is exactly how they wrote it, with the incorrectly-placed quotation marks. How can a $45 million campaign make a mistake like that? They can't, it's deliberately confusing. It also may even be a violation of criminal law to use a federal seal in this manner. I am told that some California voters were fooled into thinking FDA opposed the measure. Of course, that was the idea.

Misrepresenting academic affiliation: More than once, the No campaign gave the false impression that its go-to expert Henry Miller was a professor at Stanford University, in violation the school’s own policy. (In fact, he’s with the Hoover Institute, housed on the Stanford campus.) Only when Stanford complained did the No campaign edit the TV ad, but many already saw it, and then they repeated the lie in a mailer.

Deploying unfounded scare tactics: I fully expected the No side to use distracting arguments to scare voters while ignoring the merits of issue. But they took this common industry strategy to new heights, making wild claims about higher food prices, "shakedown lawsuits," and "special interest exemptions." While each of these claims is easily debunked, being outspent on ad dollars makes it hard to compete, especially when all you can really say is, "that's not true."

Additional lies and dirty tricks: 1) claiming the San Francisco Examiner recommended a no vote when in fact the paper endorsed yes; 2) putting up doctors and academic experts on the dole from Big Biotech as spokespeople without disclosing the conflict of interest; 3) securing a major science group’s endorsement just two weeks before Election Day; 4) somehow convincing every major California newspaper to endorse a no vote, often with the very same industry talking points; and 5) placing ads in deceptive mailers that looked like they came from the Democratic party, cops, and green groups.

Each of these tactics, combined with a $45 million megaphone to spread the lies and deceit, simply overwhelmed the yes side. Some on Twitter criticized Californians for voting no on 37, but do not under-estimate the effectiveness of scare tactics such as claims of higher food prices. Industry uses them because they work. And voters believe the arguments not because they are stupid or don’t care about the food they eat, but because they are pummeled with ads, getting only one side of the story. This is a problem inherent to the proposition process. (I live in California and have seen scare tactics work on everything from tobacco taxes to gay marriage.)

Indeed, the California experience may seem like déjà vu’ all over again to Oregonians who recall the ballot initiative there to label GMO foods in 2002. It lost miserably (70 percent voted no) and guess what the winning argument was then? And that measure also enjoyed an overwhelming lead in early polling, but a muli-million dollar ad blitz in the final weeks claiming higher food costs turned that right around.

While a lot has changed in 10 years for the food movement, the same industry tactics still work. (At least we came a lot closer here in California.) Advocates have also tried in 19 states to go through the legislature and failed there too, thanks to industry lobbying.

It's a shame because we really need a win at the state level to boost the federal Just Label It campaign, which aims to get the FDA to require labeling. I disagree with Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farms and leader of Just Label It, for putting all his eggs in the federal basket. While Hirshberg and his company endorsed 37, he donated relatively little to the campaign and was even quoted in the New York Times saying he doesn't think this problem can be solved state by state. Obviously not, but how does Hirshberg ever expect to get anywhere at the federal level unless and until we can gain traction locally? This is exactly how most policy change is made, especially when we face massive industry opposition. Some are already predicting that the California loss will set back the effort nationally.

But the campaign is still an important step forward in the larger political fight against Big Food, one that raised a lot of awareness about GMOs, food production, and corporate tactics, both in California and nationally. As Twilight Greenaway noted at Grist, win or lose, the effort to pass Proposition 37 in California demonstrates a "bona fide movement gathering steam."

Now we have to keep gathering more and smarter steam. It was never enough to just be right, or even to have the people on our side. Not when the food industry gets to lie, cheat, and steal its way to victory.