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Organic Consumers Association

Unmasking the No on Prop 37 Lies and Dirty Tricks

  • By Alexis Baden-Mayer
    Organic Consumers Association, October 31, 2012


The Monsanto-Pepsi gang can't change the fact that 9 out of 10 people want to know if they're eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs). What they can do is try to trick California voters into believing that a simple label on their food is actually a nefarious plot to make consumers pay more for their food and make trial lawyers rich.

The corporations desperate to keep you in the dark about GMOS have tried nearly every trick in the book. Fake voter guides. Phony "scientists." Lies about newspaper endorsements. Illegal hijacking of government logos.

Here are 37 lies and dirty tricks brought to you by Monsanto and the No on 37 campaign:

#1 Fake Voter Guides - TRICK: It looks like a Democratic Party voter guide, with President Obama's photo on the front. But inside is an appeal to vote "No on 37." TRUTH: "The Ballot Guide" is a sham. The California Democratic Party has endorsed Prop 37!
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#2 Illegal Use of the FDA Logo - TRICK: A No on 37 mailer contains the official seal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with what appears to be a quote from the FDA opposing Prop 37. TRUTH: "The FDA has not made such statements with respect to Prop 37," FDA spokeswoman Morgan Liscinsky told KPBS. "We cannot speculate on Prop 37 and have no comments at this time."
Source:
'No On 37' Campaign Mailers 'Criminal'

#3 Use of Profits from Organic Brands to Fight your Right to Know - TRICK: Organic and natural brands appear to share your values, promoting family farms, sustainable agriculture and healthy and nutritious food. TRUTH: Many of your favorite organic and natural brands are owned by big food companies donating their profits to the No on 37 campaign, including Kraft, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Mills.
Source: Brands Attack Consumers Right to GMO Labeling

#4 Scientists for Hire - TRICK: University of California at Davis professors oppose labeling GMOs because they understand the science of genetic engineering, they know its benefits, and they're confident that GMOs are safe. TRUTH: UC Davis professors oppose labeling because they are financial beneficiaries of the same pesticide companies that are funding the No on 37 campaign.
Source: "Experts" are Shills for Big Biotech

#5 Scientists as Sock Puppets - TRICK: An anti-Prop 37 op-ed is authored by Kent J. Bradford, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, and the director of the Seed Biotechnology Center. TRUTH: The words Bradford uses to describe Prop 37 are taken verbatim from the No on 37 website. The Daily Democrat and The Reporter (Vacaville) published Monsanto's talking points disguised as legitimate opinion from a university professor of plant biology.
Source: Did Monsanto Write This Op-Ed?

#6 Scientists with Hidden Strings - TRICK: Martina Newell-McGloughlin, D.Sc., is the director of the International Biotechnology Program and an Adjunct Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis. When she acts as a proponent for genetic engineering, as she did recently on the Dr. Oz Show, she presents herself as an independent academic scientist. TRUTH: Martina Newell-McGloughlin's work is funded by the same pesticide company that backs the No on 37 campaign, but the strings that attach her to Monsanto are rarely reported along with her pro-GMO views.
Source: Seeds of Doubt

#7 Lies about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - TRICK: The "Argument Against Proposition 37" in California's Official Voter Information Guide states that the Academy "has concluded that biotech foods are safe." TRUTH: That statement is false. "We are concerned that California's voters are being misled to believe the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals is against Proposition 37, when in fact, the Academy does not have a position on the issue," said registered dietitian Ethan A. Bergman, president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Voters need accurate information in order to make an informed choice."
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

#8 Lies about Newspaper Endorsements - TRICK: In an anti-Prop-37 TV ad, the San Francisco Examiner is featured prominently as having editorialized against Prop 37. TRUTH: The San Francisco Examiner has endorsed Prop 37.
Source: No on 37 Ad Yanked

#9 Lies about Stanford University Affiliation - TRICK: A No on 37 TV ad features an academic, identified on screen as "Dr. Henry I. Miller M.D., Standford University." TRUTH: Miller is not a Stanford professor, but rather a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank housed on the Stanford campus.
Source: TV Ad Is Pulled

#10 Lies about Farmer Support - TRICK: No on 37 spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks claims the "entire agricultural community of California" is opposing Prop 37. TRUTH: More than 2,000 farmers, including some GMO farmers, as well as the California Grange, the Central Coast Agricultural Network, the United Farm Workers, California Labor Federation and United Food and Commercial Workers western region all support Prop 37.
Source: No On 37 Lies Again

#11 Fake Yes on 37 Supporters Spreading No on 37 Lies - TRICK: The California Right to Know Facebook page often gets posts from people who "Like" it that begin with a statement of support for Prop 37 but end with lies straight from the No on 37 disinformation handbook. TRUTH: Employees of the pesticide and junk food companies fighting our right to know,  including Frito Lay, are trolling our pages. (No on 37 has to hang out on our page because California Right to Know has literally 100,000 more Likes than they do!)
Source: https://www.facebook.com/carighttoknow

#12 Lies about GMOs' Safety - TRICK: GMO's are "perfectly safe." TRUTH: No one's vouching for the safety of genetically engineered foods. This summer, the American Medical Association passed a new resolution calling for mandatory pre-market safety testing of GMOs. The GMO foods that are currently being consumed in the US not only aren't labeled, they have never been safety tested by independent parties.
Source: GMOs Should Be Safety Tested Says AMA

#13 Lies about the National Academy of Science - TRICK: The National Academy of Sciences says GMOs are safe and there's no reason to label them. TRUTH: The NAS study referenced by the Monsanto-Pepsi gang is the 1987 report, Introduction of Recombinant DNA-Engineered Organisms into the Environment. The 1987 NAS report doesn't address the issue of GMO labels and doesn't claim to present evidence that GMOs are safe for human consumption. GMO foods didn't exist in 1987, so they couldn't have been safety tested then. The NAS only argued that GMOs shouldn't be treated differently from normal organisms. The fact that government regulators followed the NAS approach and failed to treat GMO foods with any more precaution than normal foods is not evidence that they are safe or shouldn't be labeled.
Source: Introduction of Recombinant DNA-Engineered Organisms into the Environment

#14 Lies about the World Health Organization - TRICK: The World Health Organization says GMOs are safe and there's no reason to label them. TRUTH: WHO recognizes "the need to examine the potential negative effects on human health of the consumption of food produced through genetic modification" and that "consumer concerns have triggered a discussion on the desirability of labeling GM foods, allowing an informed choice."
Source: The World Health Organization

#15 Lies About Pesticides - TRICK: Genetically engineered crops reduce pesticide use. TRUTH: Genetically engineered crops have actually increased pesticide use, especially the use of Monsanto's herbicide RoundUp. 527 million additional pounds of RoundUp were used on genetically engineered crops between 1996 and 2011.
Source: Modified Crops Increase Herbicide Use

#16 Lies about Disease Resistance - TRICK: Genetically engineered crops are more resistant to disease. TRUTH: Recently, scientists have identified new outbreaks of blight, rust, and other fungal infections in Monsanto's genetically engineered RoundUp Ready crops.
Source: Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food

#17 Lies about a Ban on GMOs - TRICK: Prop 37 bans genetically engineered foods unless they're specially re-labeled or remade with higher-cost ingredients. TRUTH: Prop 37 wouldn't ban anything, it would just let us know what we're eating and allow us to make an informed choice about GMOs. Prop 37 doesn't confer any regulatory authority that could be used to ban GMOs under any circumstances.
Source:
A Label, Not a Ban

#18 Lies about Zero Tolerance - TRICK: Prop 37 has a zero-tolerance for accidental GMO content in foods that aren't labeled as containing GMOs. Such a policy would force producers of essentially non-GMO products to use the label "may contain GMOs," simply out of fear of litigation. TRUTH: Prop 37 exempts foods that do not intentionally contain GMOs.
Source:
Incorrect Reports

#19 Lies about Frozen Pizza vs. Delivery Pizza - TRICK: Why would a frozen pizza from the grocery store with genetically engineered ingredients be labeled GMO, while a pizza with the same ingredients delivered from a restaurant wouldn't? TRUTH: Frozen pizza from the grocery store has an ingredients label on it. Pizza delivered from a restaurant does not. Prop 37 can add GMOs to a label, but it can't add a label to food that doesn't already have one.
Source: Opponents Have Holes in their Loopholes

#20 Lies about Fruit Juice vs. Alcohol - TRICK: Why would fruit juice with genetically engineered ingredients be labeled GMO, while alcohol with the same ingredients wouldn't? TRUTH: Fruit juice has an ingredients label, alcohol doesn't. Prop 37 is just about adding GMOs to the label, not adding labels to products that don't already have them.
Source: Opponents Have Holes in their Loopholes

#21 Lies about Soy Milk vs. Cow's Milk - TRICK: Dairy products, eggs, meat and poultry are all exempt. TRUTH: No, they're not. All dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish, for that matter, will be labeled under Prop 37, if and when genetically engineered animals are sold for human consumption.
Source: The Truth About Exemptions

#22 Lies about Dog Food vs. Steak - TRICK: Dog food with beef would be labeled, but beef wouldn't. TRUTH: Cows haven't been genetically engineered yet. If and when they are, GMO beef and dairy will be labeled under Prop 37. "Dog food with beef" contains other ingredients (vegetable oils, for instance) that might be genetically engineered and therefore might be labeled.
Source:
Vote Yes on Prop 37

#23 Lies About Animals Fed GMOs - TRICK: I'd support Prop 37's labels on GMO fruits, vegetables, animals and ingredients  -  if it covered animals raised on genetically engineered feed. TRUTH: The Monsanto-Pepsi gang isn't opposed to Prop 37 because it doesn't go far enough. The fact is, no labeling law in the world covers animals raised on genetically engineered feed. Prop 37 is designed to be compatible with the laws of our 61 trading partners who already label genetically engineered food, because most US farmers and food processors are already aware of and complying with those laws abroad.
Source:
Opponents Have Holes in their Loopholes

#24 Lies about Special Interest Exemptions - TRICK: Prop 37 is funded by the organic industry and it looks like they've exempted themselves from the law. Why would organic be exempt, while producers of conventional food have to label GMOs? TRUTH: Organic food is verified by a USDA accredited certifier to be made without the use of genetic engineering. The organic law is actually much stricter than Prop 37 because it requires third-party certification.
Source: The Truth About Exemptions

#25 Lies about Costs to Consumers - TRICK: GMO labels will result in increased food costs for needy families. An average family's annual grocery bill would increase by $400. TRUTH: 61 other countries label genetically engineered food and there isn't a single real-world example of increased food costs. Likewise, food prices didn't go up in the US when information about allergens  - or any other piece of information - was added to labels. What makes the Monsanto-Pepsi gang's grocery bill trick so dirty is that the $400 figure they cite is actually their estimate of the cost of companies switching from GMO to organic to avoid labels,  not the cost of GMO labels themselves.
Source:
Anti-Prop 37 Ad Misleads

#26 Lies about Costs to Farmers and Processors - TRICK: UC Davis Professors of agricultural economics released a report that showed Proposition 37 would increase costs for California farmers and food processors by $1.2 billion. TRUTH: The No campaign paid the authors of this study, Julian Alston and Daniel Sumner, at least $30,000. The study assumes that farmers and food producers will respond to Proposition 37 by switching from genetically engineering to organic to avoid the labeling. The authors don't devote much attention to the possibility that producers will respond to the labeling mandate by simply relabeling.
Source: Perils of the Initiative Process

#27 Lies about Costs to Taxpayers - TRICK: Prop. 37 "would cost California taxpayers millions for more bureaucracy and red tape." TRUTH: This nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office's estimates the annual cost of enforcement as "a few hundred thousand dollars to $1 million."
Source: The Truth About Cost

#28 Lies about "Natural" Claims - TRICK: Based on an analysis by Peggy Lemaux, part of the Monsanto-Pepsi gang, NPR's Eliza Barclay wrote an article claiming Prop 37 would stop producers of any processed food from using the term "natural." TRUTH: Only processed food containing GMOs will be blocked from carrying "natural" claims under Prop 37. The Center for Environmental Health pointed this out to Barclay and she corrected her report.
Source:
GMO Food Labeling Lies

#29 Lies about Prop 65 - TRICK: Prop 37 is just like Prop 65. TRUTH: Proposition 65 granted private attorneys a share of fines and penalties exacted from violators, making it more of a bounty system. Proposition 37 doesn't do that. Private attorneys can sue only to obtain injunctions, not penalties.
Source:
Perils of the Initiative Process

#30 Lies about Damages - TRICK: The independent, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst says that Proposition 37 would allow trial lawyers "to sue without needing to demonstrate that any specific damage occurred as a result of the alleged violation." TRUTH: Say you buy a box of cereal whose main ingredient is corn. It's not labeled GMO, but you get it tested and find that it has levels of GMO above what could result from unintentional contamination. You bring a lawsuit under Prop 37. You might be right that the processor intentionally used genetically engineered ingredients without labeling them, but what's your "damage"? If you suffered no harm, there aren't any damages that can be recognized under the law, except maybe what you paid for the cereal. If Prop 37 required a demonstration of damages before a violation of the law could be rectified, GMO labels couldn't be enforced. The advantage to this system is that the only incentive to sue will be to enforce the law, not to win money damages.
Source: The Truth About Lawsuits

#31 Lies about Trial Lawyers - TRICK: Prop 37 was written by trial lawyers for trial lawyers. TRUTH: The California Right to Know campaign began with the efforts of Pamm Larry, a former midwife, farmer and longtime Chico resident. In 2011, Pamm started organizing mothers and volunteers across the state toward a 2012 ballot drive with only one goal in mind: to let California consumers know if the food they are eating is genetically engineered. With the help of thousands of volunteers, the Right to Know campaign gathered nearly one million signatures from California voters within a 10 week period.
Source: The Truth About Lawsuits

#32 Lies about Grocers - TRICK: Prop 37 is "a nightmare scenario for grocers" and retailers because they have to obtain and keep "reams of paperwork." TRUTH: Retailers would only have to label the few raw commodities (sweet corn, papaya, squash) that are genetically engineered - if they were buying them directly from farmers, as opposed to a packer who would have responsibility for labeling. They can either stick a simple label on the bin or, if they wish, they can ask their farmer supplier for a sworn statement that the crop is not genetically engineered.
Source: The Truth About Lawsuits

#33 Lies about Lawsuits - TRICK: Prop 37 will lead to a bonanza of lawsuits. TRUTH: Lawsuits are expressly forbidden unless the potential defendant is given a chance to put the labels on. If the defendant labels the product, no lawsuit. Second, the law protects anyone for whom a claimed violation was not intentional or resulted from an error.
Source: The Truth About Lawsuits

#34 Lies about Lawsuits Against Farmers - TRICK: Farmers will get sued. TRUTH: If they're selling direct to customers, farmers need to label their genetically engineered produce. If they're selling into the supply chain, all farmers have to do is provide sworn statements as to whether or not their crops are genetically engineered (if the crops are typically GMO). Genetically engineered seeds are patented, they can only be used under contract and must be purchased each year, so farmers definitely know whether they're growing GMOs. Monsanto's the only one suing farmers.
Source:
The Truth About Lawsuits

#35 Lies about a Corporate Agenda - TRICK: In California, there is nothing on the ballot that doesn't serve some corporate agenda. TRUTH: Look at the list of donors for and against Prop 37. Will you stand with the natural health advocates and organic consumers, farmers and retailers who support your right to know, or the biggest pesticide and junk food companies in the world who want to hide the GMOs you're eating?
Source: Prop 37 Funders

#36 Lies about Foreign Corporations - TRICK: Foods imported from foreign countries are exempt if sellers simply declare that their products are "GE-free." TRUTH: There are no special provisions related to imported food.
Source: Read the Initiative

#37 Lies about Consumer Choice - TRICK: Mandatory GMO labels are unnecessary because food that is certified organic or non-GMO verified is labeled for consumers who choose to avoid GMOs. TRUTH: Only a small fraction of the public is aware of GMOs in their food. In fact 74% of the public is ignorant of the fact that they're already eating GMOs. It isn't fair to keep consumers in the dark. We deserve the right to know what we're eating! California, vote Yes on 37!
Source:
Public Sentiment About GM Food 

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