Will Consumers Punish Prop 37’s Antagonists with Boycotts?

California’s Right to Know GMO Labeling law (Prop. 37) appears to be in a dead heat heading into Tuesday’s election. It’s a dramatic reversal from polls earlier in the year, which had Prop 37 cruising to an easy victory. And with good reason…90 percent of Americans, regardless of political stripes, believe genetically modified foods should be labeled as such.

The reversal can be attributed almost entirely to the goliath sums of money being poured into the No on 37 coffers and the resulting deluge of advertisements designed to scare people into voting no. Money and politics are no strangers, but Prop 37 is on its way to becoming the proposition with the greatest sum of money ever spent, and the lopsided distribution of that spending has turned a shoo-in into a nailbiter.

But here’s the really crazy part. If I gave you the following list and said, “Which side do you think this company gave money to?”, I think you’d be very hard pressed to answer.

  • Monsanto (OK….just getting you warmed up. If you said “No on 37″, you’d be correct.)*
  • Heinz (another easy one…a global giant with tons of GMO foods for sale)
  • Welch’s (check)
  • Smuckers (check)

*as a quick aside, Monsanto by itself was outspending the entire Yes on 37 coalition by more than a 2:1 margin as of August, and is over $8 Million in contributions currently. 

OK, OK, how about some more difficult ones? Half of the below gave money to “Yes on 37,” and half gave money to “No on 37.” Can you guess which is which?

  • Cascadian Farms Organic
  • Larabar
  • Horizon
  • Silk
  • Santa Cruz Organics
  • Kashi
  • Clif Bar
  • Earthbound Farms
  • Organic Valley
  • Annie’s Naturals
  • Nutiva
  • Earth Balance

Not so easy, right? As it turns out, big organic brands are part of the problem, spending liberally on the No on 37 campaign, which hurts organics. At the bottom of this article, I’ve posted a handy reference guide. Jen Kaplan at Eat Drink Better directly asked the companies about their parent companies’ support for the No on 37 campaign and  got responses from Honest Tea and Silk. Silk’s was particularly lame, but Honest Tea’s was slightly more compelling.

The question I have for you is, now that you know some organic brands (basically the ones that have been swallowed whole by giant multinational processed food companies) have joined the dark side, are you prepared to pull your money away from them? I know that personally, I’ve stopped buying Horizon and Silk, and will never again buy Kashi or Odwalla. I don’t fault the founders of those companies for selling out to Dean’s Foods, Kellogg and Coca-Cola (respectively), but that doesn’t mean I don’t have choices and won’t pull my money out of those brands and put them into the companies who put my money to good use supporting Prop 37.

What about you?

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Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.