California says 'no' but GM labeling campaign to continue

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California says 'no' but GM labeling campaign to continue

California's Proposition 37 bill aimed at requiring labeling on genetically modified (GM) foods was defeated this week, but those behind the campaign claim the underswell is strong and will not be going away any time soon.

Right to Know spokesperson Stacy Malken told there were four states with similar procedures set to take place.

"Americans are going to fight until we have the same rights that people in 61 other countries have, and people are really fired up after this Californian initiative, looking forward to it in other states," she said.

"It looks like there is a ballot that will go forward in Washington State in November 2013,  and possibly in the spring of 2013 for other state legislative efforts in Vermont and Connecticut."

She added that pressure would continue to mount on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action, as well as on president Barack Obama who promised GM labeling would be enforced "immediately" when on the campaign trail in 2007.

"We'll see whether a second Obama administration might be, but he wasn’t willing to do it in the first term."

She said it was "incredible" that people in the U.S. had to fight so hard for a simple label, and came up against a US$45 million campaign of alleged "lies, deceptions, tricks, and outright fraud on Californian voters", led by pesticide and junk food companies.

The 'Yes' campaign raised US$8 million in the end, with key supporters such as, natural food groups, organic groups and the Center for Food Safety.

The biggest backers of the 'No' campaign were Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsico, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, BASF Plant Science, Bayer Cropscience, Dow Agrosciences and Syngenta Corporation. Contributors from the produce industry included Del Monte Food Company, Dole Packaged Foods and Ocean Spray Cranberries.

Malken alleged the anti-labeling campaign distributed phony slate cards on behalf of front groups to persuade voters to choose 'No' on the proposition.

"In one instance they used the logo of the Food and Drug Administration on their campaign propaganda, which is actually against the law, and we’ve reported them to the Federal Government over that."

She said the 'No' campaign was 'desperate' to keep U.S. citizens from finding out about genetically engineered foods.

"Why is that? Because there haven’t been many problems in other countries, except that consumers have largely rejected genetically engineered food.

"People don’t really want to eat these foods, so they’re afraid that if the American public is given a choice, they will not want to eat genetically engineered foods."

On the issue of allegations GM labeling is misleading for consumers, Malken's response is that it is only "accurate".

No on Prop 37 representatives did not respond to interview requests.

A group called Just Label It lists several common crops that can be genetically modified but are not labeled as such, including corn, soybeans, Hawaiian papayas, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, alfalfa, sugar beets, cotton and canola.

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