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Monsanto Was For GMO Food Labeling Before It Was Against It

Leon Kaye | Tuesday September 11th, 2012 | 3 Comments
Monsanto, Proposition 37, United Kingdom, GMOs, genetically modified, European Union, Leon Kaye, GMO labeling, anti prop 37

Monsanto supported GMO food labeling in the United Kingdom

Now that Labor Day is past us, the election season will heat up and the advertising barrage is underway. One such battle will be over Proposition 37, which will require companies selling food products in California to disclose GMO ingredients on their packaging. So far Monsanto has led the anti-Prop 37 gauntlet, with over $4.3 million in checks written to defeat the initiative.

But despite Monsanto’s determination to sink Proposition 37, which so far scores about a 65 percent “yes” vote in the polls, Monsanto has not always taken such a strident position against GMO food labeling. In fact, to play on a quote that helped sink a presidential campaign back in 2004, Monsanto was for GMO labeling before the company was against it.

During the last 1990s, Monsanto ran advertisements throughout the United Kingdom that actually supported GMO labeling. Since 1997 the European Union has required the labeling of food products that “contain or consist of” GMOs, and in fact, products that did not technically contain GMOs, but still had proteins or DNAs resulting from any past genetic modification, also earned such a badge on food packaging. The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has had its own mandates that cover food labeling and hence spell out to consumers what must be labeled and what otherwise passes muster.

And Monsanto’s UK marketing crew rolled with the regulations. Ads wtih a caring tone stated that “you may want to know whether it’s the product of food biotechnology.” Assuring consumers that the company had the upmost confidence it its soy, potato and corn seeds, Monsanto insisted that it supported food retailers in the rollout of the then-new labels and gushed that the company believed consumers “should be aware of all the facts before making a purchase.” The ads smacked of solid, communicative corporate social responsibility lingo. Finally, consumers could pick up leaflets at stores or call the company’s toll free number with any concerns. True, Monsanto ran the advertisements after the GMO labeling issue was already settled throughout Europe. Nevertheless the company looks like a hypocritical flip-flopper.

Here in the United States, Monsanto is taking a much different tone, and insists that Proposition 37 would “undermine both our labeling laws and consumer confidence.” Instead, Monsanto is preaching the tired old opt-in, opt-out argument, and states that consumers can buy products that are sourced from organic or non-GMO ingredients.

The unfortunate result is that Monsanto has become the Cruella de Vil of the food industry. The millions the company has spent to defeat a bill that so far is popular among Californians and prevents a fair debate over the bill based on its merits and faults. For a company that is quick to crow about its sustainability and corporate responsibility work, its relentless anti-37 campaign will win more enemies than friends. And incidentally, the millions of Missouri money spent here in California could be better spent on Monsanto’s corporate giving programs that are almost 50 years old.

Monsanto has succeeded on one front, however: watch for grass roots organizations to fight even harder to ensure that Proposition 37 passes with at the minimum a 50 percent plus one vote.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and covers sustainable architecture and design for Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/janet.noll.9 Janet Noll

    I would not eat any GM food and would avoid them at all costs. I no longer eat corn products or wheat because most are GM in the U.S. Look into Egypts newest studies on rats who showed shrinkage of liver, kidneys and spleen, malignancies, internal bleeding and decreased brain function. Weight size of new born were decreased in GM fed rats. Unbelievable. America has been sold out by the very people put in place to protect them.

  • Maria Concilio

    We have the right to know, CA vote YES on November 6 Proposition 37.

  • david webster

    monsanto contaiminated my nongmo soybeans sold to over
    seas markets instead they went to crusher for $15,000 less money i asked mosanto to send a rep to check the feield at harvest they refused appox one plant in 100 had 1 bean in 1 pod that was different i am 77 years old they take no resposiblty for their seed and the costs to others brussels ont canada 5198879299