Monsanto Wins Again: Voters Reject Washington GMO Labeling Initiative
By Mike Ludwig, Truthout
Thursday, 07 November 2013 13:27
Voters in Washington on Tuesday rejected Initiative 522, a ballot measure to label groceries containing genetically engineered ingredients that was leading in the polls for weeks before big biotech and processed food companies injected millions of dollars into the campaign, including more than $7 million in allegedly illegal donations from a trade group that concealed its corporate donors.
Some mail-in votes still need to be counted, and the Yes on 522 group had yet to concede as of Thursday morning, but Washington state officials reported that 54 percent of voters opposed Initiative 522 and 45.9 percent supported labeling. The No on 522 campaign had already claimed victory.
The campaign was the most expensive in the state’s history, drawing national attention and millions of dollars in out-of-state campaign cash. The No on 522 campaign raised an unprecedented $22 million, largely from big biotech firms and junk food companies. The Yes on 522 raised almost $8 million from GMO opponents and natural foods and products companies.
The Grocery Manufacturers of America donated $11 million from its member companies to No on 522 and was sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in October for concealing donors. The trade group then voluntarily revealed that members such as Pepsico ($2.4 million), Coca-Cola ($1.5 million) and Nestle ($1.5 million) gave hefty donations to defeat the labeling initiative.
The trade group began planning for the campaign about a year ago after it joined Monsanto and other labeling opponents in raising a whopping $46 million to defeat a similar GMO labeling initiative in California last year. At the time, the Grocery Manufacturers Association directed its employees to “scope out a funding mechanism to address the GMO issue . . . while better shielding individual companies from attack for providing funding,” according to evidence cited in the attorney general’s complaint.
With its record-breaking war chest, the No on 522 campaign beat back labeling proponents in the polls with flashy mailers and ad blitzes on radio and television. Labeling, opponents argued, would raise food prices, confuse consumers and hurt farmers. The campaign looked a lot like the “no” campaign in California and shared many of the same corporate donors, including biotech companies such as Monsanto, which spent $8 million in California and more than $5 million in Washington.
Despite victories for labeling opponents in Washington and California, a number of polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support GMO labeling. Most recently, a New York Times poll in July showed that 93 percent of American voters support labeling food with GMO ingredients.
Monsanto Calls Out the Dogs in St. Louis: New Anger, Old Crimes Point to Reparations
By Don Fitz, Barbara Chicherio and William Smith, Truthout
Thursday, 07 November 2013 09:03
The days of Monsanto greeting protesters at its World Headquarters (MWH) with balloons and pitchers of water are over. When 500 to 700 showed up for the October 12, 2013, March Against Monsanto (MAM), scores of police from half a dozen municipalities were there, several with dogs.
Also gone were police attempts to micromanage demonstrators. During a previous demonstration, police told picketers to stand on the pavement and not on Monsanto’s grass. At the next event, cops said that the pavement was too close to traffic and ordered people to stand on the grass. October 12 was noticeable by the absence of police commands concerning where to stand. At first, they seemed to have given up on controlling the increasingly large crowd.
In some ways, the protest at the MWH was similar to others involving 2 million people around the world. Food was the big issue of the day. People were outraged at Monsanto’s reckless pursuit of putting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into food with unknown effects for consumers, especially children. They unleashed their anger at the company’s attempts to manipulate the world food supply. At its attacks on farmers. At the havoc that GMOs wreak on wildlife. And at the company’s complicity with land grabs for planting GMO monocultures in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
But the St. Louis event differed from other actions around the world. Because Monsanto originated in St. Louis, many nearby areas continue to be contaminated from its chemical past. These include East St. Louis, Illinois; Carter Carburetor in north St. Louis; and the Times Beach incinerator site, which burned dioxin (and probably Monsanto’s PCBs) in the 1990s.
St. Louis is not waiting with baited breath for Monsanto to do the right thing. Exactly the opposite occurred in its official response to actions of October 12: “While we respect that people can have different points of view, we hope that St. Louisans know Monsanto people for their role in the community and know the Monsanto company for its commitment to St. Louis.” This weak response highlights that Monsanto has a crumbling global image because its lies of ending world poverty, selling safe products and using environmentally sound practices are no longer believed.
Cries for reparations will not bring joy to Monsanto. As opposition expands beyond objecting to its crimes and includes demands for compensation to all of its victims, demonstrators may see fewer Monsanto balloons with happy faces and more police dogs.