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Anti-GMO Prop 37 Appears to Fail in California

Measure that would have required labeling of genetically modified content in foods is heading for defeat according to latest numbers.

Published on: Nov 7, 2012

As the dust settles on the 2012 elections, voters in California have apparently defeated a measure that would have required the labeling of biotech content in packaged foods. The measure, which had wide support from a number of groups was also called flawed because of some of the exclusions in the law.

With nearly 90% of precincts reporting in, the measure was failing by more than 6 percentage points with the 'No' votes at 53.1% and the 'Yes' votes at 46.9%.

Spending from opponents of the measure topped $44 million while those in favor ponied up $7 million to support the effort. Groups arguing for the measure focused on the consumer's right to know what is in their food. And the measure would have tagged packaged goods that used any biotech-derived products. Corn was a widely targeted crop in since nearly 90% of the U.S. corn crop contains genetically modified - GM - content and corn is included in some form in many packaged foods.

PROP 37 FAILS: California voters defeated the measure that would have required labeling foods that contain GMO content.
PROP 37 FAILS: California voters defeated the measure that would have required labeling foods that contain GMO content.

Major companies opposed to the measure included not only biotech developers and marketers such as Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer, BASF, Dow and Syngenta, but also major food processors who opposed the measure, like Hormel Foods and Nestle.

Opponents of the measure focused on the proposition itself, noting a number of exclusions that they said made for bad policy. In a story reported earlier here, Jamie Johannson, second vice president, California Farm Bureau Federation had pointed out that the proposition was "full of absurd special interest exemptions that make absolutely no sense."

CITY VOTE FOCUS: The blue areas are yes votes, not the urban-rural split on the Prop 37 measure. Consumers in metro areas are calling for labeling. (Map from California Secy of State website)
CITY VOTE FOCUS: The blue areas are 'yes' votes, not the urban-rural split on the Prop 37 measure. Consumers in metro areas are calling for labeling. (Map from California Sec'y of State website)

Loopholes in the measure exempting a wide range of foods, including dairy products and those served at restaurants (no labels for fast food for example), were a concern to opponents.

Proponents of the measure "conceded the race" Wednesday, but maintained that Americans and Californians still have a right to know what's in their food.

Jean Halloran, director of Consumer Reports' public policy arm Consumer Union, said, "Unfortunately, Proposition 37 was defeated by a wildly deceptive smear campaign financed by Monsanto, DuPont, and other industry opponents of the public’s right to know.  In the end, opponents of Proposition 37 didn’t want Californians to be able to make informed decisions about whether to buy food that had been genetically engineered."

The Consumer Union press statement said also that "genetically engineered food has not been proven to be safe, and definitive long-term health studies have not been conducted" and "various environmental problems associated with genetic engineering have been documented."

While a California proposition, a lot of groups were watching this vote. The idea of labeling GMO content in food came up during Senate debate of the 2012 Farm Bill (still awaiting passage) calling for similar language to be included. That amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was defeated. But it also shows there is a sentiment in the marketplace for some kind of labeling.

Down but not out

Even though the California proposition failed, it's important to note where the Yes votes were versus the No votes. As the map on this page shows, the preponderance of No votes were not in major metropolitan areas. This is a consumer movement that won't die because of a single failure at the polls.

Farmers, ranchers and those in commercial agriculture will be dealing with this issue in the future. Next week, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance will tackle biotech questions during one of three panels as part of the next in its Food Dialogues series. Slated to appear in Mid-Town Manhattan, the event will also cover consumer perceptions of food and the use of antibiotics in agriculture.

Check out these links on Prop 37 and consumer attitudes:

Prop 37 Blazes Way for GMO Labeling

Campaign Funding to Defeat California Prop 37 Tops $44M

Survey Says: Transparency Matters to Consumers

GMO Measure Defeated in California (Feedstuffs)

Add Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    It is a moral and corporate crime that biotech and food companies don't want people to know that GMO's are in our food. Infants and children are being bombarded with these dangerous organisms.

  2. Sustainable Farmer says:

    GMO crops are in most all our foods now that contain any corn or soy. Don’t panic… eat organic. Organic foods are not GMO. Yet anyway…There are some that would like them to be. If something is not labeled organic, then you can pretty much be guaranteed it contains GMO ingredients. Makes me wonder why the opposition spent so much!

  3. Anonymous says:

    We must keep fighting! I appreciate all the hard work that went into prop 37 and praying for a victory in the very near future!

  4. Anonymous says:

    There is no way, consumers voted against this bill. I smell fraud from a million miles away. We are the ONLY indrustrialized nation in the world not to impose proper labeling of gm food. Hideous!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I'm disappointed that biotech and food processing companies needed to spend $44 million to defeat this ballot measure. Mainstream chemical agriculture continually espouses the benefits of GMO crops for comsumers, the farmers, and the environment. If these products are such superfoods, then why don't these companies embrace labeling as a way to promote their great products? Seed bags and literature are rife with GMO labels which tell the farmer how great of a product they have purchased. Shouldn't this same tactic be used with consumers in order to generate more demand for a quality product? I'm leery of companies that expend so much effort to keep consumers uninformed about a product which is supposed to be great.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Goes to show what $44 million can buy in lies and deceit. This is not over. Our day will come.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The No on 37 scam artists did a great job of convincing people to vote against their own interests. This will continue to have a hugely damaging effect on the world's ecology and agriculture. Congratulations on an absolutely shameless, greed-driven campaign, scum!

  8. Anonymous says:

    What idiots!

    • Willie Vogt of says:

      Not sure if the measure failed because of anti-labeling sentiment, or that the measure itself was flawed. Labeling argument is far from over.