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.

24 responses

  1. Well, I’m getting my boycott list ready. Just like I continue to boycott the companies that supported Prop. 8 (Bolthouse Farms, El Pollo Loco, etc.), I an going to boycott the companies that put millions into defeating Prop. 37. Silk, Odwalla, and Kashi, you are permanently off my grocery list!

  2. I’ve been boycotting pretty much all of those companies since I went Paleo about six months ago, just by virtue of the fact that I no longer buy processed foods…..

  3. Yes on 37! You-betcha I plan to boycott the companies that supported the No side! They must have something to hide if they’re fighting so hard to avoid letting us know what’s in our food. Thanks for the list but there are farmers out there that supported the YES side and I plan to get a list of them and make sure to support them. It’s not all the small farmers opposing it, mainly big corporations that don’t want us to know.

    I’m not as worried about GMO’s in processed foods since I’m trying to avoid eating them. Did you know they came out this summer with Fresh GMO Bt Sweet Corn to your produce aisles? Not processed but ready to eat corn on the cob (NO GMO labels on them)! The GMO seed is injected with a pesticide so when it grows pesticide is in each corn kernel. When a bugs eat that fresh corn while it’s growing the bug get its stomach blown out so they die. WHAT IS THAT GOING TO DO TO US? I’m not waiting around to find out and gave up eating fresh corn on the cob this summer (now I’m reading it’s going to be in canned and frozen corn packages so unless it’s labeled organic I’m not going to be buying that either unless there is a label to let me know it isn’t GMO corn). There are 12 other varieties of GMO Foods coming out (I’ll need to keep researching to keep up-to-date if no labels are coming to my produce aisle so I can avoid them, too). Looks like I’ll need to eat less so I can afford organic foods if they don’t label my food.

  4. Honestly, this “dark side” talk is kind of silly. There are many issues with GMOs and giant food corps, but they are mostly that the patent system on seeds is a major shake-up for farmers and some farmers object. Claiming there is a health risk to eating GMOs (unless related to the pesticides they put on them) shows a total lack of understanding of science. Don’t get me wrong, I still support prop 37, but not because GMOs are a scary “dark side”.

    1. Cotter, do you realize NOT just that they put pesticides ON them, Monsanto is putting BOTH the herbicide Roundup AND a resistant gene or gene sequence or something like that INTO the plants themselves? IF it were simply putting a chicken gene into corn, I’d be less concerned, but putting/building pesticides INTO our food… that IS scary, and IS the “dark side” I understande science and this shit is scary.

      1. No, they’re not putting pesticides “into” the crop. They are making the crop roundup resistant.

        That wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that weeds have evolved now to be roundup resistant, thus resulting in more pesticides being used (apparently) – this negates much of the GMO benefit.

  5. I hate to rain on the parade here, but honestly, prop 37’s only big winners will be lawyers.

    Think about it: if you want to avoid GMOs you can already do it. Just buy organic. Done.

    The average frosted-flakes-eating American really doesn’t give a damn about GMOs and isnt’ going to think twice about a GMO label. But, millions and millions are going to be spent on law firms who will decide what does and what does not get labels. Those guys are all going to retire on this.

    Granted the money will be spent by big ag, which might slightly increase the price of said Frosted-Flakes, which could be a good thing if people are price sensitive enough to react, but I kind of doubt it.

        1. Your statement is false, RW, and I think you know it!

          Nice try; but you fail.

          And do I really have to explain to you that there are great scientists, there are good scientists, and there are fake “scientists” and corporate technicians? (You would do well to particularly cogitate on the latter category). Do I really have to explain to you that even the very greatest scientists make mistakes? Do I have to explain to you that scientists are human beings who entertain false hopes (especially in the worship of the latest technology) like everyone else? Do I have to tell you that science and technology necessarily make errors (and sometimes significant errors) in the quest for truth and excellence? Do I have to reiterate the ancient truism that technology is a two-edged sword? Do I have to tell you that American science, American scientists, and American universities have been significantly compromised by corporate corruption?

          Where have you been all these years, RW?

          Must we keep repeating the question: Where are all those long-term, peer-reviewed. human health studies for each and very GMO such that will assure the American People that each and every GMO is as safe or safer than “real food?” Show us those ever so elusive studies, RW!

          You can’t.

          Must we keep reminding the innumerable GMO shills that the biotech cartel keeps patents on corporate products, patents which make authentic, unfettered science all but impossible?

          You want real science? NASA has some real scientists and real engineers. If we can get GMO engineering up to that level, perhaps we wouldn’t need to be skeptical about this highly flawed and dated 20th-century technology.

          Sorry, but we don’t buy the derivative corporate propaganda, RW.

  6. I’ve already been voting with my wallet for a while now.

    I try to only purchase my organics from small, sustainable companies, rather than the behemoths. I think it’s better for the organic movement, and I suspect the food I’m buying from small, family-owned companies is better…

  7. Do not let them railroad us. Please read this and send it to your friends in California. It is from a book being published next year. This section deals with GMOs. bipolarodyssey.com/Chapter%205%20GMO%20section.pdf …

  8. There are MANY companies OFF my grocery list. I’m a LOUD and familiar w/ graphic design and plan on really pouncing on this if prop 37 does not pass. I see many ‘food’ based companies going down over the next 5 years if prop 37 falls. But then they’ve been off my personal list for …I guess 5-6 years now.

  9. We must not only boycott not only the companies that use GMOs–when this is possible, but also the California newspapers and other cartels that have supported this deadly technology.

  10. Why are all breeding methods not part of the prop ? Most other types of
    breeding (ie ionizing radiation or chemical mutagenesis) cause far
    more DNA disruption than GM breeding. Why not have labels for the
    thousands of food products (including organic food) with radiation
    mutagenesis labels?
    If the prop was really about right to know then all breeding methods should be included on all food, no exceptions

    1. Because you can’t patent the crops (as far as I know) using those methods.

      Prop 37 is really about stopping big ag from controlling the food supply. The GMO stuff is just a way to get people to support it. I’m all for it, frankly.

  11. I’m not sure why the No dorks keep bringing up their junk science as some kind of proof of anything. If I had a gazillion dollars, I could buy off whatever scientist and newspaper I wanted to, too. This is a battle between human rights and corporate control. Boycott all of ’em!

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