How Stupid Do the “No on Prop 37″ People Think Californians Are?

October 11, 2012

In yesterday’s mail, we got a glossy flier instructing us on the evils of California’s Proposition 37 which would require food companies to label packages of processed food that contain ingredients that have been genetically modified. 

I don’t think they meant for it to be funny, but I found the flyer to be hilarious. The front of the flyer shows a woman reading a label. We women, you know, are concerned about our food supply. But the woman in the picture, apparently, doesn’t want to know if her food has been genetically modified (by inserting DNA from another species).

Follow the Money

The back of the flyer shows a picture of Joseph Mercola, MD with the dire warning that Dr. Mercola “and other organic food companies would profit enormously at the expense of consumers, which is why Mercola has already ‘invested’ $1.1 million in the campaign.”

Let’s start with figuring out if Mercola’s contributions are something to worry about. Mercola’s company is, indeed, listed as the top contributor to the Yes on 37 campaign. His company has, to date, given approximately 1.1 million dollars. That is slightly more money that ConAgra donated against Prop 37 ($1.07 million), but less than contributions against Prop 37 that were given by Coca-Cola (1.16 million), Nestle ($1.17 million), Pepsi ($1.72 million), Dow Agrosciences ($2 million), Bayer Cropscience ($2 million), BASF Plant Science ($2 million), DuPont ($4.9 million), and Monsanto, the elephant in the room weighing in at a contribution of $7,100,500.00.

So Dr. Mercola’s company is the heavy hitter in the Yes on Prop 37 campaign and the No on 37 folks say it’s bad that he contributed since he sells health supplements and food products online “that are exempt under Prop 37.”

Two issues here: First, does he stand to make money if Prop 37 passes? Possibly. He, and other food companies could benefit (so could small family farms). But saying he should not contribute is somewhat hypocritical when we have Monsanto weighing in at over $7 million and they are the major seed producer for GMO crops. They absolutely gain every time a consumer eats a GMO food and every time a farmer can no longer even find a seed supply that is non-GMO.

The second issue sounds like a huge conflict of interest–Mercola’s products would be exempt from labeling. Why? BECAUSE HE DOES NOT SELL GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS. The entire shoe industry will be exempt as well, since nobody eats shoes, but what does that have to do with anything?

Who Is Misleading?

The No on Prop 37 campaign says that “confusing red-tape requirements for food labeling” do not exist in any other state or country in the world. Actually, fifty countries either require labeling or they outright ban GMO foods. Why is the US lagging behind?

The No on Prop 37 flier also says that the labeling requirements “don’t make sense,” and so they offer a pictorial “explanation” of what they consider to be confusing. They also point out that many people who support Prop 37 sell foods that are exempt from labeling. They make it sound so dirty instead of acknowledging that those foods don’t need labeling because they are not genetically modified. 

Take a Closer Look

Looking closer, here are the foods they tell us are confusing:

Fruit Juice vs. Beer, Wine and Liquor–Fruit juice would need a label only if the juice (or additives to the juice) had been produced from genetically modified fruits (or additives). Remember, there is a lot of “juice” out there that contains corn syrup (from GM corn) and beet sugar (from GM beets) and a host of other ingredients. As for the beer, wine, liquor, the law is simply deferring to the regulations in place by another government agency. Since I’m not giving any of those beverages to my kids, I think I can read any labels for myself and make my choices as necessary.

Frozen Pizza vs. Delivery Pizza–Both may contain GMOs. In the proposed law, all restaurant food would be exempt. Consumers would be on their own to navigate the restaurant maze. Frozen pizza would be labeled ONLY if it contained GM ingredients such as soy, corn, etc.

Soy Milk vs. Cow’s Milk–This is an easy one since over 90 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified. The trick is finding any soy that is not GM. Cow’s milk would not be labeled because cows are not genetically modified. They can be injected with rBST  (a synthetic hormone to increase milk supply), but dairies that produce milk without the use of rBST are allowed to label their products to show that they didn’t use rBST–giving consumers the right to make an informed choice about which dairy products to purchase. As an aside, it should be noted that commercial dairies that are not certified organic certainly feed their cows GM corn and soy feed. If the No on Prop 37 folks want to tell us that cows eating GM feed makes the cow a GMO, then they have to follow the logical argument to include a concession that humans eating GM foods are then GMOs themselves.

Dog Food Made From Beef vs. Beef–Dog food would be labeled if it contained GM ingredients. Read the labels, and you will find that many pet foods contain soy and corn fillers. So the labeling applies to the GM fillers and not to the beef itself. Pure beef dog food would not need a label because it is not GM. Beef is exempt because scientists don’t (yet) genetically modify beef. Again, if eating GM feed modifies the cow…..well, it modifies the human, too. The No on 37 folks are afraid of just that issue, which is why we support labeling!

Tofu Made From Soy Beans vs. Meat For Human Consumption–Again, do they even want to go here? With over 90 percent of soy beans genetically modified, tofu made from those GM beans would, indeed be labeled. As for the meat, animals are not (yet) genetically modified, thus, the meat would not be labeled. Buy organic meat and you’ll know your animal ate non-GMO feed. And if eating meat from an animal fed GM feed scares you, then eating GM foods yourself should scare you even more!

Noodles Made in the US vs. Noodles Made in China–Ok, I’ll admit. This one stumps me. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased noodles made in China. I do buy pasta that is made from wheat flour. So far, there is no commercially available GM wheat grown in the US. China requires GM labeling for foods in China.

Soup From the Grocery Store vs. Same Soup at a Restaurant–Restaurant food is not labeled under this law. It isn’t a matter of GM vs. non GM on this one. I would say that if you are eating at a restaurant that simply heats up soup from the store, that is really pathetic, and you should choose a higher class of restaurant. Trust me, heating up soup is not exactly a culinary challenge. Soup in the store would be labeled only if it contained GM ingredients. You can be sure that the big food companies snuck some soy and other GM ingredients into a whole bunch of soups. Did you know that some zucchini is GM?

One they didn’t add–tuna fish in a can. So far, I’ve only found one brand of tuna that doesn’t include soy as part of the “vegetable” broth. Soy/tuna would need a label. Good.

A couple points not noted in the flyer: “Medical food” would be exempt from labeling. So if you go to the hospital, pack a lunch (always good advice in my opinion).

The law also would preclude companies from using the word “natural” and variations of the term if a food has GM ingredients.

The full text of Prop 37 is here. Read it for yourself. See who is spending the big bucks to prevent labeling. Then read the French study that linked tumors in rats to eating a GM diet. Don’t let Monsanto–or anyone else–define your vote.

As Brian always says, “Investigate, educate, and think for yourself.”


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18 Responses to How Stupid Do the “No on Prop 37″ People Think Californians Are?

  1. October 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I got the same propaganda in the mail yesterday. I seriously hope people look at who pays for ad: Kraft & Bayer….like they really CARE about customers having to pay more?

    I got some another anti-37 stuff today, on the same page with who to vote for local city council. Anyone who appears on the same page of “no on 37″ won’t get my vote by default.

  2. Mike Haley
    October 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I am a bit confused about your argument about cows milk from cows not injected with rBST and the fact that farmers who sell that milk can label it that way so its not an issue. Using this logic why do we need a forced label for GMO’s since some farmers who raise non GMO crops choose to market their products at a premium using the non GMO label just as the dairy farmers who don’t use rBST do?

  3. admin
    October 15, 2012 at 4:25 am

    It was a big fight for those farmers to be allowed to label their milk as being rBST/rBGH free, and the labels are also legally supposed to include a notation that the milk from cows who have been injected with synthetic hormones with wording from the FDA, something like this: “no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows.”

    There is an organization that is certifying foods as non-GMO, and many will still seek that label.

  4. October 15, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I’m trying to get everyone I know to vote and promote Yes on Prop 37…for our children. I already have incurable cancer and don’t want my 4 children to get anything from the food they eat (which is why we now have them on organic foods). The commercials against prop 37 are so lame, I laugh at them…comparing dog food to meat, is that really the best they can do!!

  5. admin
    October 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Given the quality of some factory-farmed meat, maybe that meat to dog food comparison is valid in their eyes!

  6. Sean Mosler
    October 15, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Why don’t farmers voluntarily declare their food is GM free? Seems excessive to require retailers to take 70%+ of food the food on the shelves down to be repackaged, shipped out of state or disposed. Prop 37 does not require plaintiff to demonstrate damages, which helps an attorney who would sue a gas station that neglected to label a bag of doritos. Wonder how many organic farmers inside and outside the US have documentation establishing that their food is GM free.

    About restaurants: food eaten inside the restaurant, but take-out food would have to be labeled.

    I predict attorneys will abuse this bill and make it an example for other states not to follow. Beneficiaries will be farmers markets who benefit from increased costs and the stigma associated with store food, as well as the new form of “bean counter” GM certification agencies. Losers will be people who shop at grocery stores, especially those on a tight budget.

  7. admin
    October 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Nobody is asking stores to “take down 70%+ of food” for repackaging. There is a period of time for implementation and food currently on shelves will be gone by then (although, with the amount of preservatives in the food, it may still look pristine).

    The flyer I got (from the No on 37 crowd) shows all restaurant food, take out and eat in, as exempt.

    Many other states have similar movements, and I predict that when California passes Prop 37, several other states will be close behind.

  8. Robert Kartley
    October 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Already voted yes for prop 37,

  9. Jules B.
    October 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Nothing has to be repackaged. I’ve done plenty of merchandising jobs where we went into the store and put a sticker on a package, because the label was missing some information.
    A one or two inch sticker saying GMO or genetically modified could easily be placed on the packages, while they are on the shelf, for minimal cost. No need for a massive recall and relabeling project like they want us to believe.

  10. admin
    October 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Oh, but Jules, you are ruining all the FUN of complaining about how difficult it would be!

  11. Sean Mosler
    October 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Don’t trust any flyers, read the text of prop 37. It exempts restaurant food “intended for immediate human consumption,” takeout food is not intended for immediate consumption, so it will be prudent for restaurant owners without supply chain documentation to label their food as GM, just in case. The label will be all over the place so Californians will become as numb to the GM label like we ignore the signs on every building that say, “this facility contains materials known by the State of CA to cause cancer.”

    70% of food on the shelves is GM. According to the bill each package must be labeled on the front or the back. Can’t just put a $50 sign in front of the store or on each shelf. Its hard to argue that consumers will benefit from knowing everything every twinkie piece of candy sold in a convenience store contains GM ingredients.

    Admin, its not difficult for you because you won’t have to ensure the label is on every package in the store.

    I am pretty sure Prop 37 will pass. Supporters will blame the drought for higher prices, but in some sense the nation will share the cost of complying with CA’s labeling rules. Just passing on these comments as a warning to those on the fence and an I-told-you-so to Prop 37 supporters.

    In my view the resources expended complying with Prop 37 would be better spent preventing food borne illnesses.

  12. Troll Patrol
    October 21, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Sean Mosler, you are not the first I’ve seen in comment streams, trying so hard to persuade folks that they really don’t need to bother with knowing what’s in their food, and trying to instill fear of higher prices or employing some other tactic to manipulate people. It won’t work. We are smarter than you and the opposition calculated. It’s not going to be that easy for you.

    Each and every time I shop, I take the time to read and understand the contents of my food, looking to see if I recognize any ingredients that may have been derived from genetically engineered crops. Yes, it does take time, but mostly when I am looking at processed foods, which, for the most part, I avoid. However, if Prop 37 passes, my grocery shopping trips will be much more efficient, if I can skip the analysis and just read “May Contain Genetically Engineered Ingredients” on the label. We shoppers will not become numb to the label, but we will become much more productive with our time.

    Try again. Your arguments don’t make any sense to me.

  13. sean m
    October 21, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    “Sean Mosler, you are not the first I’ve seen in comment streams, trying so hard to persuade folks that they really don’t need to bother with knowing what’s in their food,”

    Nobody I know has posted anything anti prop 37. ;-) My concern are cost/benefit related. TrollPatrol knows that Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods are GM free but wants every retailer to put a sticker on the front or back of every food package they sell. I am skeptical this Prop 37 result is a win for Californians.

    Don’t take my word for it,read prop 37 and skip to the brief Exception and Enforcement sections towards the end.

    Thank you for airing my personal perspective.

  14. admin
    October 22, 2012 at 5:16 am

    And yet, so many of us are willing to take the chance that Prop 37 is better than no labeling at all.

  15. Troll Patrol
    October 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    “TrollPatrol knows that Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods are GM free…”

    Sean Mosler, you are completely and utterly misinformed on this point. Both are FULL of GMOs. I am truly sorry to hear you did not research it further than to accept their innuendos and propaganda. So many are being deceived about those two stores being safe havens, when, in truth, they are far from it. It’s always all about the money, isn’t it? Charging you for the same GMO-laden crap food that can be gotten so much cheaper just down the street at your local grocer.

    Here is a video you might want to watch, if you would just OPEN YOUR EYES:

    Organic Spies — Operation Whole Foods: Hidden Camera GMO Sting – Bait Organic, Switch to GMO:

  16. Troll Patrol
    October 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Furthermore, those exemptions are due to restrictions placed on the initiative process here in California. If those of us who want to see labeling could get it across the board, we certainly would have pursued that. However, only one area at a time is allowed to be addressed by an initiative. “First generation” ingredients — such as soy milk from genetically engineered soy — will be labeled, whereas cow’s milk from cows who may EAT GM ingredients but are not themselves genetically engineered, is considered “Second Generation,” thus cannot be included, lest we risk disqualifying the initiative. Does that make sense? It’s not special interests making the exemptions, its THE LAW that insists upon it.

  17. Troll Patrol
    October 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    We’re forced to take the “camel’s nose under the tent” approach, but anything is better than the status quo, which offers us no disclosure at all. Prop 37 is only a start of things to come.

  18. Sean Mosler
    October 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Troll patrol, just curious, have you read the Prop 37? It seems like I am one of the only one who quotes it.

    I agree its about the money, ie: costs. I am fine with people choosing to buy food from sources they know are GM free. I am not okay with initiatives that make everyone pay more for the same thing.

    I didn’t realize until I did a google search that there was skepticism about Trader Joe’s claim that they do not use GM ingredients, but your innuendo helps prove my point: even if a business like Trader Joe’s is GM free, it will still be cheaper to affix a GM label on the front or back of every box than to pay for the statistical sampling and supply chain accounting system to counter their skeptics. If its true that 70% of US food contains GM ingredients, I predict 90% of the food will have the label.

    I almost never watch activist videos from any viewpoint because they tend to be deceptive. Organic food is a different subject than GM, but it is worth noting that certified organic foods are not necessarily GM free, so its a bit puzzling to me why organic food is exempt from prop 37. I imagine that is a controversial subject.

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