As we’re sure you’ve heard by now, Proposition 37 failed on Tuesday with 53 percent of voters (or 4.8 million people) voting it down, largely due to a 46 million dollar ad push by food and agribusiness corporations like PepsiCo, Hershey, and Monsanto. In just a month’s time, the initiative to require labels on all food that contains GMOs went from polling at more than 65 percent yes, to a majority no, probably because voters were convinced by these ads that the law would raise prices in the grocery store, which isn’t the case. Grub Street reached out to Berkeley’s own Michael Pollan for his thoughts on the matter, and where California and the rest of the country might go from here. He admits, “This was a disappointing result,” but he says, “In the face of $46 million of advertising, probably not surprising.”
Furthermore, he says, “Monsanto and its allies prevailed on the ballot question, but they didn’t win the argument — that is, build any support for GM food, since it went went unmentioned in their advertising. It was a holding action, in other words, like the various victories so far on soda taxes. But Big Food is playing whac-a-mole with these initiatives all over the country, and it will continue and get very expensive.”
So, this is a PR war above all else, and as he said in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks back, “The fight is about the power of Big Food,” and about forcing them to be transparent about GMOs, if nothing else. And after this year’s pink slime debacle, Big Food is “feeling beleaguered by its increasingly skeptical and skittish consumers.”
He also points us to the county-by-county results on the initiative, which show that the state’s most populous (and liberal) counties all voted in favor of 37, despite all that advertising, so this is likely a losing battle for Big Food in the end.