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RIP, Food Transparency and Proposition 37

Leon Kaye | Wednesday November 7th, 2012 | 1 Comment
proposition 37, prop 37, GMOS, food transparency, transparency, California, farming, food manufacturers, Leon Kaye

San Joaquin Valley

Election 2012 was full of surprises. At press time, we watched a president give his re-election speech far earlier than most observers had believed it would occur. In southern California, longtime public transportation foe Henry Waxman, who long fought an underground subway in L.A. before he was for it, is currently losing to an independent. And Proposition 37 is heading to defeat after scoring an approval rating of over 60 percent two months ago.

The death of Proposition 37 should not be surprising. The blame game surely will begin with Wednesday morning quarterbacking, starting with the fact that the measure faced unrelenting opposition from leading out-of-state corporations. The fact that Monsanto et al spent money at a pace that left Proposition 37 supporters scrambling was another factor. Californians have a history, however, of spurning attempts to buy elections, so the onslaught of corporate money is not the only factor in Proposition 37’s demise.

And unlike Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 ground game to get out the vote, similar to the one led by George W. Bush during his re-election campaign in 2004, Proposition 37’s supporters and outreach were often relegated to local farmers’ markets, where they often preached to the choir about the perceived threats that come from GMOs. Of course you are going to find concerns over GMOs at a venue where heirloom vegetables and locally made cheese are the norm. What is harder is convincing people in farm country or in poorer communities about why they would benefit from more transparent labels on most of their food products.

So what is a consumer to do about an absurd world where many American companies are compliant about labeling their foods if they contain GMOs before they are distributed abroad, only to fight such an initiative tooth and nail if they are approved in California? Perhaps a more lucidly worded initiative on the ballot in a few years would perform the trick –many “no” votes cast on various initiatives are generally done so out of confusion over what the measures’ purposes mean.

Consumers can still work on pressuring companies involved with GMOs, of any sector and at any stage, by engaging those firms. Applying pressure to food manufacturers to disclose their products’ chemical make up is another small step towards food transparency. But above all, consumers have to show that they are keen on buying food products that have no GMOs–and in the long run such scale can encourage more local and organic produce as well as other foods available for local markets. Prop 37 may have sunk to a crushing defeat, but to its supporters, if it succeeded in raising awareness about food supply safety issues, then it was in its own way a long-term success.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable BusinessInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter.

Image credit: Amadscientist, Wikipedia.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Wager/1523554676 Robert Wager

    If prop 37 was about the right to know how food was produced in the first place then every breeding method on every food would have been the prop. this prop was designed to generate fear and benefit people who opposed this safe type of food breeding, nothing more and exactly why it was defeated.