California has a long history of setting national trends through its ballot proposition system. California was first to require smog checks for clean air, pass anti-tobacco initiatives and bike helmet laws. Now similar rules exist throughout the country.
This November California voters will cast votes on another health debate that could have dramatic repercussions throughout the country. If it passes, Proposition 37 would mandate the labeling of all food products that are from, or use ingredients from, genetically modified sources.
The financial stakes for November’s referendum vote are huge. California is not just America’s leading agricultural state, but also the most populous state in the nation. Passage of Prop 37 is likely to – some think it is certain to – produce a de facto national standard. GMO ingredients are so widely used in processed foods (70% of packaged foods sold in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients), it is anticipated that producing and maintaining separate packaging inventories (labelled for California and non-labeled for the rest of the US) and separate distribution systems would prove too costly and difficult to manage — making GMO-identifying packaging the default.
This is one of the few issues in America today that enjoys broad bipartisan support: 89% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats want genetically altered foods to be labeled, as they already are in 40 nations in Europe, Brazil, and China. In 2007, then candidate Obama latched onto the issue saying that he would push for labeling – a promise the President has yet to keep.
Despite this grassroots support, the Yes on 37 people have their work cut out for them. The ballot initiative will face fierce opposition from the food and biotech industries, which are expected to spend an estimated $60-100m on an advertising blitz to convince Californians that labeling is unnecessary, will hurt farmers, increase their food prices, and even contribute to world hunger.
Campaign contributions as of August 15, 2012 are shown below. Visit MapLight for updates and information on Proposition 37 fundraising contributions.
- Bradley Fitzhenry, Brand Manager MJR Creative Group