California voters decisively rejected the mislabeled Proposition 37 “right to know” food labeling initiative by a huge margin.
It was an amazing come-from-behind victory. At one time the polls showed the proposition passing by a 3-to-1 margin. The margin of victory was 53.1 percent no; 46.9 percent yes, a cavernous spread. More than 9 million votes were cast.
The team that put together the well-structured, tasteful, fact-filled campaign against the proposition deserves kudos all around. I emphasize “tasteful.” In past commentaries, I suggested a junkyard approach. I was wrong. The anti-Proposition 37 effort did it right.
The failure of Proposition 37 ranks as one of the top three modern-day California agricultural political victories.
It’s right up there with the 1976 defeat of Proposition 14, a UFW-spawned initiative which would have trampled the property right of farmers and the legislative repeal of the tractor tax in 2001.
However, it is far more than an agricultural triumph. It is a resounding setback for the floundering national initiative for mandatory food labeling. This has languished in Congress for several years. The radicals had hoped a Proposition 37 victory would give it legs to move. It is now politically legless.
Defeat of Prop 37 was a behind-the-woodshed whooping of the fanatical anti-GMO movement.
The campaign also gave California agriculture added credibility. The discerning campaign had people listening to agriculture’s point of view.
The proposition’s defeat could also be called an organic food referendum. Proposition 37 opponents did not make it an organic versus conventional issue. Organic advocates did it by openly supporting the initiative, and there could be a backlash. The Stanford University study that came out during the campaign that said there is no nutritional differences between organic and conventional fruits and vegetables partly spawned that recoil. One thing for sure is 37 spread the word that organic does not mean no pesticides.
To turn back the anti-GMO movement in the biggest battle to date was costly. Something to the right of $35 million was needlessly spent to whack the whackos. It was a ludicrous proposition waste of money that could have been well-spent elsewhere.
The other disturbing part of the 37 campaign was the lack of support from some agricultural groups who shied away from taking a stand because they did not have a dog in the fight. However, as part of agriculture, they did. The same people who palmed off Proposition 37 will likely come after agriculture again, and it could be your dog next time.
And there were those like Frey Vineyards in Mendocino County and Lundberg Family Farms in the Sacramento Valley, both commercial organic producers, who actively supported Prop 37.
Both the Lundbergs and the Freys are long-standing California farming families. Their support of Prop 37 was bewildering. Why did they support a group that attacked many of the tools they can use and likely have used to farm?
The anti-GMO crowd constantly attacks the “Bt toxins” in insect resistant crops. Bt is an organic pesticide, and the Freys and Lundbergs know that.
And there is the charge radicals continue to bring up that GMO crops are “lab grown.” All plants are crossed initially in labs, and the Frey and Lundberg families know that, too.
And thirdly, the DNA technology that came from the development of GMO technology is used today in conventional breeding of rice, grapevines and all other crops to advance the selection process of non-GMO crops.