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Proposition 37 Targeted by “Misleading” Ad Campaigns

A ten-day ad blitz courtesy of companies like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta has swayed many voters against a ballot initiative to label foods containing genetically modified organisms. Yet supporters still expect the initiative to pass.

Right2KnowMarch by MillionsAgainstMonsanto-555.jpg

Supporters of labeling GMO food conclude their march from New York City to Washington, DC. Photo by Millions Against Monsanto.

You can do a lot with $34 million.

Buy airtime for misleading television and radio ads, for one. Opponents of California’s Proposition 37, which aims to require labeling for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), have flooded the airwaves in recent weeks, urging Californians to vote No on 37. 

It sounds like many are listening: California voters have shown a marked decrease in support for the food-labeling initiative in the past ten days. In early September, the Yes on 37 campaign enjoyed a 2 to 1 polling advantage. Now, a recent poll from Pepperdine University shows 48.3 percent in favor to 40.2 percent against.

The ads claim that food costs will go up $350 to $400 a year for California families but neglect to mention that these numbers come from a study conducted by the No on 37 team.

“Ten days of incessant pounding lies have taken their effect, but in the end Californians will not be fooled by these tactics,” stated Yes on 37 spokesperson Stacy Malkan in an October 11 press release.

What exactly have the ads been saying? They claim that food costs will go up $350 to $400 a year for California families. The ads neglect to mention that these numbers come from a study conducted by the No on 37 team. The ads inflate the bureaucratic costs for oversight of the labeling program from a few hundred thousand dollars to one million. 

Major newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle have called the ads misleading. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics accused the No on 37 campaign of misrepresenting its position. And the No on 37 campaign was forced to pull one TV ad off the air because Stanford University objected to being misrepresented.

Since polling began, a study from the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University has shown that increased use of pesticides is a direct result of GMO agriculture. GMO crops, it should be noted, were supposed to reduce the use of pesticides, and their attendant health risks.

The impact of this study, it appears, has been blunted by the massive spending of the No on 37.

Yet supporters remain hopeful that with the election less than a month away, the measure will win approval.

“We're confident that California voters will want to know what's in their food and will vote yes on Proposition 37,” said Malkan.


Corey Hill wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. He is the Membership and Outreach Coordinator at Global Exchange. Follow Corey on Twitter at @Newschill.

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