GroundTruth Blog

Prop 37 defeated, but the movement is strong

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by Pesticide Action Network

Fight for GE labelsWhat a ride! While many of us found good news in presidential, federal and local races — including things like funding for California schools — the loss of Prop 37 was especially disappointing. No doubt the next few days will be filled with reflection about what we have done and where we are headed.

Here are a few thoughts to put in the mix:

The good news

Over 4.2 million Californians stood strong against the barrage of misleading paid advertisements from industry, and were bolstered by 2,000 farmers, dozens of Hollywood celebrities, 1,300 chefs and thousands of volunteers — especially mothers. We staged numerous educational events, called hundreds of thousands of Californians and canvassed scores of public places — all in efforts to shine a light on our right to know what's in our food and how it's grown.

And we succeeded in raising the profile of the issue, who's behind it, and what's at stake in our food system. We all deserve congratulations for that! As we move forward, we know that — along with our partners at Californians for Pesticide Reform, Communities for a New California and Green Corps — a majority of Californians and Americans stand with us.

Money still runs California's initiative process

From fees on tobacco, to labeling genetically engineered food, it's clear that big corporations and their money still run the initiative process. We knew that the "Big 6" GE seed and pesticide companies would spend tens of millions of dollars to beat back Prop 37, and that they would do everything in their power to mislead us. They were successful in confusing a majority of the electorate, despite majority support for the labeling concept.

Forward...

After we take a few days to lick our wounds, let's redirect our energy to the many fights at hand. After all, this was just a battle in the long-standing fight against Monsanto and Co. As Tom Philpott of Mother Jones says, "Prop 37 is only part of the food movement."

Because we are a movement of people, we will surely consider different approaches as we move forward:

  • Some will choose to take labeling to the California legislature, with hopes that elected officials will be less swayed by pesticide industry influence.
  • Some will choose to draw attention to the new wave of pesticide-resistant genetically engineered crops awaiting USDA approval in the coming weeks.
  • Others will take on new food fights. For example, Californians for Pesticide Reform is gearing up for the next battle to keep the California's strawberry fields safe.
  • And still others will choose to take the labeling fight to the federal level with hopes that FDA will listen to millions of Americans who continue to demand labeling. 

Whatever path you choose, we look forward to working together. That's what a movement is all about!

Pesticide Action Network's blog

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vera15 wrote:

I'd like PANNA to address criticisms of Prop 37 which ?may be valid..  The Contra Costa Times: "Proposition 37 purports to be a simple law that requires proper labeling to identify so-called genetically modified food. If that was all it did, we would be for it. Unfortunately, it does much more, and we think voters should send it back to its creators for some modification."[22]

The Los Angeles Times: "Unfortunately, the initiative to require labeling of those ingredients is sloppily written. It contains language that, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, could be construed by the courts to imply that processed foods could not be labeled as 'natural' even if they weren't genetically engineered. Most of the burden for ensuring that foods are properly labeled would fall not on producers but on retailers, which would have to get written statements from their suppliers verifying that there were no bioengineered ingredients — a paperwork mandate that could make it hard for mom-and-pop groceries to stay in business. Enforcement would largely occur through lawsuits brought by members of the public who suspect grocers of selling unlabeled food, a messy and potentially expensive way to bring about compliance."[27]
The Orange County Register: "Voters should be concerned that Prop. 37 would likely spawn waves of lawsuits, with the litigation and enforcement costs passed on to grocers and the consumers. The initiative's language invites abuse."[30]
The Redding Record Searchlight: "But as written, Proposition 37 would create a fertile new field of litigation. Retailers would be mainly responsible for ensuring the proper labeling of the products they sell, overseen by the state Department of Public Health, but private lawyers and activists would have the power to sue over alleged violations and collect their costs and fees — even if nobody's suffered any damages. More work for creative plaintiff's lawyers and more hassles for businesses? That is not what California needs."[32]
The San Bernardino Sun: "The most concerning aspect of Prop. 37 is its method of 'enforcement.' It allows every member of the public to become an enforcer, dropping lawsuits if they only suspect noncompliance but have no evidence...What a nightmare scenario for grocers small and large who, under the terms of the initiative, would have to keep reams of paperwork certifying that all the food they sell is properly labeled as to which might contain genetically modified organisms or not."[34]

The Santa Cruz Sentinel: "Citizens would be empowered to sue grocers they believe to be selling unlabeled GE foods, without needing to prove any damages. Clearly, this provision would create even more lawsuits. And who would this benefit? Lawyers."[38]
 
Should the bill have been written differently?
 
Thank you for all informed responses.
 
Vera

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