How Corporate Interests Killed Common Sense

California's 2012 General Election ballot had some key ballot measures on it. One was an initiative requiring food labels to disclose whether or not products manufactured were made with genetically modified foods (GMO).

Until mid-September, the measure led with overwhelming margins. Then the billionaires came to the state. In the case of Proposition 37, they at least did their evil in the sunlight. The same can't be said of other billionaire efforts.

But for Proposition 37, they gave, and they gave, and they gave. And when they weren't sure they were going to win, they called out their US Chamber of Commerce friends to give, and then whipped up some grassroots support from local farmers and grocers.

All in all, $40 million was spent to defeat a measure which would have expanded food labels. Food labels! Here is the million-dollar plus Hall of Shame, much of it reported after the election:

  • Monsanto: $8,100,000
  • DuPont: $5,400,000
  • Dow Agroscience: $2,000,000
  • PepsiCo: $2,055,180
  • Kraft Foods Global: $1,916,095
  • Bayer CropScience: $2,000,000
  • Sygenta Corp: $1,936,700
  • BASF Plant Sciences: $ 2,000,000
  • NestleUSA: $ 1,754,129
  • Coca-Cola: $1,394,191
  • Conagra Foods: $1,020,102
  • General Mills: $1,115,899

The total from those twelve donors was over $34 million of the $40 million spent to defeat the initiative. For food labels.

Evidently food labels step on right wing treasured tropes, like "frivolous lawsuits" and disclosure, because in their opinions, the science proves GMO foods to be perfectly safe. Of course, there might be a problem with that thought pattern, since corporations often buy their own scientists to keep doing what they're doing.

Whether or not there's a safety issue, labeling food seems like a no-brainer. Those who want to read labels, do. Those who don't want to read them, don't. It's really that simple, unless you're Monsanto and don't want any negative PR or suggestions that what you're doing might really not be good for people.

Despite the transparency of Proposition 37's opposition in 2012, it may be the last time we see it. I noticed a $375,000 contribution to the effort made by the Council for Biotechnology Information. It sounds all think-tanky and stuff, doesn't it? But it's really just a 501(c)(6) organization whose board represents the top six or so donors on that giving list. It's possible that between now and the next effort to try and get disclosure on food labels, that organization will have a companion organization that's a 501(c)(4) -- civic interest organization -- through which all opposition dollars flow into California.

As it was, money given to defeat Proposition 37 found its way to candidates, the California Republican Party, organizations with names like the Coalition for Senior Citizen Security, Continuing the Republican Revolution, and the Council of Concerned Women Voters, ostensibly to pay to include the "No" recommendation on their slate mailings. Really, it was just a way use targeted mailing lists to remind voters that good Republicans oppose food labeling because Wall Street and their corporate masters would prefer not to spend the miniscule amount necessary to make sure consumers know what they're buying.

And so you have it. Prop 37 went down in flames and with it, common sense, along with the simple idea of actually knowing what we're eating before we eat it.


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