Anti-GMO forces undaunted by defeat in California
'Label it Yourself' campaign will continue efforts
By STEVE BROWN
Though a majority of California voters rejected Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, the issue is far from settled.
Efforts to require labeling continue from the halls of the U.S. Capitol to neighborhood grocery aisles.
The anti-GMO "Label It Yourself" campaign has been operating for several months, but the failed California initiative has brought added attention to it. The campaign, which calls itself a "decentralized, autonomous, grassroots" organization, has a website but no listed staff or spokesmen.
The website offers downloadable labels that it encourages consumers to print out, take to grocery shelves and stick onto various processed and non-organic foods that may contain GMOs.
Another campaign is "GMO Inside," which was launched by Green America two days after the election.
"We wanted to take advantage of the momentum and assert that that was just one vote," Green America policy director Fran Teplitz said. "GMO Inside is one initiative to reach a broad swath of the public about GMO foods and give people understanding about putting GMOs on their plates."
The campaign will have its own website soon, with the focus on public education.
"The GMO Inside campaign will make it possible for all Americans to find GMOs in the food products in their homes and communities, label them and switch to non-GMO foods instead," Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America, said. "The campaign will show corporations that people will not complacently serve as lab rats for the testing of genetically engineered foods."
Working at the federal and state levels is the Center for Food Safety.
"We filed the petition with the FDA last year, outlining the reasons they should label," West Coast director Rebecca Spector said. "We think it's their job."
The center is also working to introduce legislation in Congress and in state legislatures in the coming cycle.
"It's definitely a long-term campaign," Spector said. "It's very hard to get legislation passed. None of the more than 20 bills introduced at the state level last year passed."
The Center for Food Safety is a partner in the "Just Label It" campaign, but is not affiliated with "Label It Yourself."
"We only support labels that are certified and authorized," she said. California's Proposition 37 failed because of the overwhelming weight of advertising against it, Spector said.
"The issue was polling 60 percent in favor, but once the advertising started, it dropped quickly," she said. "The constant messages were confusing voters, giving misinformation. Supporters were outfunded $46 million to $8.5 million."
She said the complicated "legalese" of the initiative also didn't help. "It wasn't more complicated than other measures, but there's room for improvement."
Teplitz, at Green America, agreed the wording of the proposition was confusing and not in layman's terms. "There are lots of messages flying around, so you go to trusted sources who take into account the concerns you have," she said.
Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of the Center for Food Safety, listed the states that introduced GMO labeling legislation in 2011-12:
* New Hampshire
* New York
* North Carolina
* Rhode Island
* West Virginia