Whatever your opinion is on Proposition 37
, the attempt at requiring companies operating in California to provide labels if their foods contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms), one issue is clear: California’s ballot initiative process is in desperate need of reform.
The role of outside money
in the fight against Proposition 37 is best described in one word: vile
. Monsanto alone has almost outspent all Yes-on-37 contributors; other companies including DuPont, PepsiCo, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, BASF, Kraft and Coca-Cola have also outspent the top pro-37 contributor, Mercola.com. Proposition 37 would offer consumers transparency and address the concerns over a few corporations controlling access to seeds and therefore, our food supply; but listen to the commercials on radio and TV and the aforementioned companies have demagogued Prop 37 to a very likely defeat. What is most maddening that Monsanto was actually supportive of GMO
labeling . . . before it was against it here in California and the U.S. The tidal wave of out-of-state contributions has overwhelmed the efforts of small local companies such as Straus Family Dairy
. Meanwhile other companies, including Whole Foods, have spoken out in support of the initiative but have not backed up the effort with money.
California’s ridiculous ballot initiative process took root over a century ago when much of the state’s government was riddled with corruption. But as is the case with many political reform movements, what worked back then is seriously flawed now.
First, it is absurd that Californians, no matter how bright or educated, should vote on complicated legislation. That is why we have a legislature to do the job for us; if we disagree with the decisions made in Sacramento, we have a solution: elections. Despite gerrymandering, Californians have shown that they will throw the rascals out if necessary. Let the legislators hash out what is best for the state--and let them lose their jobs if they make the wrong decisions.
Next, the fact that out-of-state money can have an impact on our local elections is criminal. Little can be done on this front because of the Citizens United impact; nonetheless we have to find a way to limit the influence of companies whose operations are based outside of California.
Finally, in fairness, there should be equal time in the media for both sides of the issue. Listen to the airwaves here; the destruction of the facts behind 37, from the costs of labeling to harm to farmers, is full of mendacity. The manipulation of facts by the no-on-37 forces has been borderline criminal with their massaging of the facts and stretches of the truth.
Proposition 37 has its flaws, but is a starting point to strengthen our food supply and guarantee its safety for the long term. The decision should be made by debate and analysis of the facts; not a $45.6 million effort
generated to buy an electoral outcome.
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A similar version of this article posted on Triple Pundit
on November 6, 2012.
Image of the San Joaquin Valley courtesy Leon Kaye