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“Big 6” Pesticide Corporations Top the List of Food Labeling Opponents

Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network

October 11, 2012

 “Big 6” Pesticide Corporations Top the List of Food Labeling Opponents

World’s six largest pesticide manufacturers and genetically engineered seed corporations donate more than $20 million to oppose Prop 37 labeling measure

Sacramento, CA — According to filings released by the California Secretary of State this week, the world’s six largest pesticide corporations, or “Big 6”, are now the six largest funders of opposition to Proposition 37. Collectively they have contributed more than $20 million to oppose the measure that would label genetically engineered food, including an intensive advertising campaign over the past two weeks.

“Pesticide corporations like Monsanto continue to enjoy unfettered and unlabeled access to the market, while consumers are left largely in the dark,” said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Despite the best efforts of the Big 6 to confuse and distort the issue, Californians have a right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown.”

Monsanto and five other corporations — BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta, collectively known as the “Big 6” — dominate the world’s seed and pesticide markets and actively oppose the measure. In filings released this week, each of the Big 6 made contributions of at least $2 million, with Monsanto’s contribution alone totaling more than $7 million. To date, the opposition to Proposition 37 has raised more than $35 million, spending about $19 million with Sacramento public relations consultants, aggressive television advertising, and paid mailings.

A comprehensive study released last week provides insights into the Big 6 interest in defeating Proposition 37, highlighting the fact that genetically engineered crops drive up the use of pesticides and open markets for these corporations’ products. The study, conducted by Dr. Charles Benbrook and based on federal government data, shows that genetically engineered crops have increased pesticide use by over 400 million pounds in the United States over the past fifteen years. Increased pesticide use has led to greater and greater weed resistance. In turn, this has let to more applications of pesticides — as well as use of more hazardous pesticides — in agricultural fields, putting rural communities and farmworkers at the greatest risk of harm due to pesticide exposure.  

The control of both seeds, and the ever-increasing use of pesticides, has benefited giant corporations at the expense of consumers. "The Big 6 chemical and seed companies are working diligently to monopolize the food system at the expense of consumers, farmers and smaller seed companies," said Philip H. Howard, an associate professor at Michigan State University and an expert on industry consolidation. Monsanto alone controls 23% of the world’s seed market, and Bayer controls 20% of the global pesticide market.

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