Organic Consumers Association

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Prop 37: Iconic Organic Industry Giants Missing in Action

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

Sacramento, CA - Major players in the organic food market have been conspicuously silent in what has become the food fight of the decade.  This November, voters in California will have the opportunity to approve a ballot initiative (Proposition 37) that would require the labeling of all food products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, commonly called GMOs.

Major agribusiness and biotechnology corporations, like Monsanto, and food manufacturers, like Pepsico and General Mills, are spending tens of millions of dollars in their effort to deny the consumer's right-to-know what they are eating.

Numerous smaller companies and organizations involved in organic food production - which, by law, is prohibited from using GE ingredients - have responded with their own campaign in support of the right-to-know initiative, raising over $3 million.  However, this amount is dwarfed by the $23.5 million raised by the agribusiness and biotechnology corporations.  (A September 13 New York Times story provides more detail on this dynamic.)

But many organic industry observers are most puzzled by the failure of some of the giants of the organic industry to throw their support behind the initiative, which reflects the values held by their most dedicated customers.

"Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield, Hain-Celestial and Trader Joe's are among the biggest manufacturers and retailers of organic food in the country, yet they have been AWOL during this epic food fight," says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm and food policy research group.  "These companies should be proud to stand with their health and food conscious customers and join their efforts for the right-to-know what we are putting in our mouths and feeding our children," Kastel added.

The Hain Celestial Group has annual sales exceeding $1 billion from more than a dozen brands that are popular with organic consumers, including Earth's Best, Arrowhead Mills, Garden of Eatin' and Soy Dream.

Information reported by the California Secretary of State has helped illuminate the corporate players fighting the Proposition 37 ballot initiative.  Monsanto and the giant food lobby group Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) have been joined in the effort to defeat the initiative by multi-billion-dollar, multi-national companies including General Mills, Dean Foods, Kellogg and Pepsico.  Monsanto alone has donated $4.2 million, while food giants Pepsico and Coca-Cola have each donated more than $1 million. 
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