Proposition 37, a citizen’s initiative that will be up for vote in California on November 6, seeks to mandate clear labeling of genetically modified (GMO) ingredients on food packages. Nearly 70% of Americans support GMO labeling and 53% say they would choose non-GMO brands when given a clear choice.“Just as we’ve observed in Europe, where labeling of food containing GMOs is mandatory, we fully expect that when given a choice, consumers will choose organic or non-GMO products,” said Mark A. Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, a sustainable and organic agriculture public interest group.
But massive contributions to fight Prop. 37 have poured in from the biotechnology industry and food manufacturers, including $4.2 million from Monsanto and more than $1 million each from Pepsico and Coca Cola. According to the California Secretary of State, contributions to fight the measure have already exceeded $23 million. Surprisingly, many of these hefty contributions are coming from brands that sell products in the health food section.
“Consumers might be surprised to find out that brands hiding under ‘natural’ façades are in fact owned by multi-billion-dollar corporations that are contributing bushel baskets of cash to defeating Proposition 37,” says Charlotte Vallaeys, director of farm and food policy at the Cornucopia Institute.
Such brands include Kellogg, which owns Kashi, Bear Naked, Gardenburger and Morningstar Farms, and has contributed $612,000 to defeat Prop. 37. Dean Foods, the owner of Silk and Horizon Organic, has contributed $253,000; General Mills, owner of Larabar, Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen, has contributed $520,000; and Smucker, owner of R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic, has contributed $387,000.
In contrast, food manufacturers contributing to help pass Prop. 37 include Eden Organics, Lundberg, Amy’s, Nature’s Path, Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Valley, Uncle Matt’s, Straus Organic, Baby’s Only and Nutiva. Thus far, their support has garnered approximately $2.6 million in funds.
“Hiding the truth about our food is pervasive, unethical and only done for the money,” says Michael Potter, CEO of Eden Foods. “Let [Prop. 37] be the beginning of an end to it.”
Farmers, doctors, nutritionists and health advocacy groups are also educating the public on the extensive health problems associated with GMO consumption to show their support for the labeling of foods containing these ingredients. The Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on GMO foods, recommending that “all physicians prescribe non-GMO food for all patients and…educate…on the potential health dangers and known health dangers of GMO foods.” Since Americans began unknowingly consuming GMOs in 1996, inflammatory bowel disease has risen 40% and food allergies, infertility, asthma and autoimmune diseases have accelerated.
Dr. Emily Linder, who has seen a huge improvement in patients to whom she prescribes non-GMO diets, says: “When I change people from a GMO diet to a GMO-free diet, I see results instantaneously in people who have foggy thinking and people who have gut symptoms like bloating, gas, irritation. In terms of allergies, it might take two to five days. In terms of depression, it starts to lift almost instantaneously.”
Farmers are also telling of the dramatic changes they’ve seen upon eliminating GMOs from the diet of their livestock. One Danish farmer who switched to non-GMO soy in April 2011 said that within two days, serious diarrhea problems virtually disappeared in his 450 sows and their offspring. During the following year, death from ulcers and bloat, which had claimed 36 pigs over the previous two years, vanished. Conception rate was up, litter size was up, diseases were down and birth defects were eliminated. Similarly, a feedlot operator with 5,000 head of cattle switched to non-GMO corn and reported, “We’ve had a lot less pneumonia and health issues since that time,” adding that “the cattle have been a lot calmer.”
The Cornucopia Institute’s Right to Know campaign currently has a petition stating, “Passing Proposition 37 in California may be our best, if not last, chance at seeing all foods containing GMO ingredients labeled nationally.” The petition aims to gather support from companies like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Stonyfield Organics, all of whom have previously expressed the need for GMO labeling, but have yet to contribute financially to the passing of Prop. 37.