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Prop 37: A Battle Lost, A Movement Just Begun

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our California News page.

 Once a diversified industry comprising hundreds of independent producers, in less than 20 years, ownership of nearly 90% of the global agricultural seed industry has been consolidated into a handful of multinational chemical pesticide companies, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and DuPont.

These same names, the dominant forces in getting their genetically engineered crops into more than 80% of all processed foods, and in selling the pesticides that go along with their patented crops, are also familiar as the leading contributors to the No on 37 campaign, which poured nearly $50 million into killing Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Ballot Initiative to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, this past election day.

Outspending a grassroots Yes on 37 campaign by 6 to 1, biotech and multinational food corporations bankrolled $1.5 million a day during October to inundate the California voter with a deluge of deceptive television, radio, and direct mail advertising to defeat Prop 37. Monsanto alone sank more than $7.5 million into killing the initiative, nearly as much as was raised overall by the Yes on 37 campaign to label GMO foods.

The Prop 37 ballot measure was defeated in the statewide election by a margin of 53% vs. 47%, however, the campaign to label genetically modified foods accomplished a lot in going toe to toe with the chemical companies and multinationals who sought to suppress the consumer's right to know. Yet, the defeat of Prop 37 is a clear example of the power of corporate money to buy elections in the age of "Citizens United" and unlimited campaign contributions, despite a heroic grassroots effort by the Yes on 37 campaign.

With a coalition of more than 3,800 endorsers, including farm and labor groups, consumer, health and trade associations, organic and non-GMO food and nutritional supplement companies, physicians and healthcare advocates, and more than 10,000 volunteers, the Prop 37 campaign to pass the GMO labeling initiative was successful in raising more than $8 million, and in coordinating a massive awareness-building and get-out-the-vote campaign that has put GMO labeling squarely into the national conversation. Now, post election, the battle to label GMOs will continue via a ballot initiative in Washington State in 2013, and on the national front through, which will continue to pressure FDA and legislators in Washington, DC, for federal labeling of GMOs in food.