Final Infographic Spotlights Dueling Food Brands on Colorado and Oregon Initiatives

For the third election cycle in a row, biotech corporations and large agribusinesses narrowly defeated statewide citizen initiatives that would have mandated the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. This time the electoral showdowns took place in Oregon, where it was narrowly defeated, and Colorado where the loss was decisive after labeling backers chose to focus their resources on Oregon.

Measure 92 Prop 105

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As in past campaigns in California (2012) and Washington (2013), the votes sparked a high-stakes bidding war pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar biotechnology interests and food industry giants.

Corporate opponents of labeling contributed unprecedented amounts of money in Oregon to narrowly push the No vote, ever so marginally, over the 50% mark.

The Cornucopia Institute has released an updated infographic that examines the final dollar totals spent on the state referendums.

Big Food interests and their allies in the biotech industry opposing the consumer’s “right-to-know” outspent the Yes side $32 million to $12 million in Colorado and Oregon.  Over the past three years, including the two previous, similar referendums in California and Washington, corporate interests have outspent the pro-labeling supporters $100 million to $29 million.

“This nonpartisan electoral contest clearly illustrates how corporate interests, with unlimited budgets, can manipulate popular sentiment at the ballot box,” lamented Mark A Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group.

Despite the seemingly “sufficient” cash deluge, the result in Oregon required a recount as the final tally resulted in a squeaker of just 800 votes separating the two sides out of 1.5 million cast.  Spending by both factions continued during the two-week recount with both sides lawyering-up to closely observe the review.  The electoral result was ultimately upheld.

Opposition to the state food labeling measures came from giant biotech companies (DuPont, Dow and Monsanto), that sell genetically engineered seeds, and consumer packaged food companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, and General Mills.  Once again millions of dollars were spent largely on television advertising.

The Cornucopia Institute’s new, post-election detailed infographic reveals which food companies supported or opposed the food labeling initiatives.  Many of the major manufacturers opposing passage own leading brands in the natural/organic marketplace — generally patronized by consumers that oppose genetic engineering.  The use of GMOs in organic food is prohibited under federal law.

“Many loyal customers will likely be surprised to learn that owners and management of some of their favorite organic and natural brands are fighting against their right to know what is in their food,” Kastel added.  “We are spotlighting these companies so that consumers can vote in the marketplace for manufacturers and brands that best reflect their personal values.”

Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food ingredients (commonly called GMOs — standing for genetically modified organisms) at the state level is viewed as a watershed event by many industry observers, given the prolonged inaction at the federal level.  In 2014 Vermont passed a law requiring GMO food ingredient labeling.  The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), a pair of industry trade-lobby groups representing the food industry and dairy marketers and manufacturers, respectively, are now suing Vermont over its legislatively authorized food labeling act.    The states of Connecticut and Maine have adopted similar legislation that will take effect when other neighboring states pass such legislation.

In 2013 a state GMO food labeling initiative was narrowly defeated in Washington by 51-49 percent.  Earlier in 2012, in California, a nearly identical labeling initiative lost by a similarly slim margin.  Biotech interests spent close to $50 million opposing the initiatives in California and Washington.

At the national level, Monsanto, its biotech allies, and the GMA in particular, have been credited for bottlenecking action on federal legislation although industry interests  are now rallying behind a new proposal that would outlaw state GMO food labeling laws while permitting “voluntary” labeling  genetically modified ingredients (although voluntary labeling is already allowed by the FDA).

More than 60 countries around the world require the labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients.  “Interestingly, in Europe where GMO labeling is required, consumers overwhelming choose to buy organic and non-GMO products,” said Kastel.  “The industrial food lobby is fully cognizant of the European experience and what’s at stake — that’s why they’re fighting like hell against these grassroots efforts in states like Colorado and Oregon.”

Among those throwing their financial weight behind the consumer’s right to know in the Oregon and Colorado state referendums were Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Consumer’s Fund, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Action, Mercola.com, Nature’s Path and Presence Marketing.

“Despite spending tens of millions of dollars to keep us in the dark,  Americans are waking up and demanding their right to know when our food has been genetically engineered by the pesticide industry to survive huge doses of the pesticides they sell,” observed David Bronner, the President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps.  “I am confident that the tide is moving in our direction.”

The biggest single donor to the No vote was biotech giant Monsanto, pouring more than $10 million into the two recent state campaigns.  DuPont donated $7.6 million, Pepsi donated $4 million and Coca Cola donated more than $2.5 million.   Other heavyweight opponents included General Mills, Kraft, Dow AgroSciences, J.M. Smucker, Land O’ Lakes and ConAgra.

“We doubt if loyal customers of Naked Juice (PepsiCo), Dagoba chocolate (Hershey’s) RW Knudsen or Santa Cruz juices (Smuckers) realize that their corporate parents are taking the profits from their patronage and stabbing them in the back by investing to defeat GMO labeling on food packages,” Cornucopia’s Kastel lamented.

“Consumers are increasingly interested in ‘voting with their forks,’ and many want to support companies that share their values,” added Jason Cole, a researcher for Cornucopia who compiled the data for the infographic.  “We hope the information we are providing on corporate involvement in influencing legislation and the electoral process will help consumers make informed choices in grocery store aisles.”

Data for the campaign contributions was gathered from appropriate state regulatory agencies.


[View the previous release of this infographic below]

The Cornucopia Institute releases shopper’s guide red-flagging pro/con food brands involved with Colorado and Oregon Initiatives

FINAL INFOGRAPHIC RELEASED: For the third election cycle in a row, biotech corporations and large agribusinesses defeated statewide citizen initiatives that would have mandated the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. The votes in Oregon and Colorado again sparked a high-stakes bidding war pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar biotechnology interests and food industry giants.

The final infographic details spending by Big Food interests along with Monsanto and its allies in the biotech industry opposing the “consumer’s right-to-know.” They outspent the Yes side $32 million to $12 million in Colorado and Washington. Conscious consumers who want to vote their values may be surprised to see numerous leading brands in the natural/organic marketplace who fought their right-to-know.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 11-5-14: Monsanto tops $10 million in spending with a new $1.8 million – this total is more than all the money donated to the YES vote in both Colorado and Oregon combined. Pepsi donates another $950K with Dow Agrisciences adding $847K to the NO side. The YES side gathered another $500K from Dr. Bronners with Friends of the Earth donating $100K.

With yesterday’s vote, the GMO food labeling initiative failed in Colorado by a 2-1 margin, and is still too close to call in Oregon, with the NO side leading by a percentage point. Final dollar totals will be recorded in early December with one more update to this poster.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-29-14: DuPont adds another $4.4 million to the NO side coffers, with Coca Cola pushing another $468K towards a NO vote and Kellogg pumping an additional $250K towards a vote opposing GMO food labeling.  The Big Food and Biotech forces have now spent nearly $33 million opposing the consumers’ right to know that is in their food.  The YES side has raised about $9 million, with significant new donations from the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety and Lemelson Vineyards.  Full details on corporate spending in the updated infographic below.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-23-14: New money for the NO side comes from Big Food and Biotech interests as DuPont/Pioneer throws in $3 million, Monsanto adds another $2.5 million and Coca Cola spends another $+1 million fighting the consumers right to know what is in their food.  New money supporting the YES vote comes from Clif Bar ($35K) and Hain Celestial ($35K).  The NO forces have raked in nearly $26 million while supporters of GMO food labeling have raised a little more than $8 million. Full details on corporate spending in the updated infographic below.

INFOGRAPHIC UPDATED 10-16-14: More new money from Big Food and Biotech interests flows into fight against GMO food labeling votes in Oregon and Colorado. Coca Cola drops $1.168 million, Pepsi puts up another $1 million, Kraft adds another $870K, with Land O’Lakes putting in an additional $900K. Supporting the consumer’s right to know, the Center for Food Safety adds $1 million, Dr. Bronner’s puts in another $285K, Presence Marketing adds $175K and the Organic Consumers Association spends another $100K. The NO vote forces are outspending supporters by more than 3 to 1. Full details on the updated infographic below.  

UPDATED AGAIN  10-8-14:  Kellogg drops $250K against GMO food labeling + other contribution updates to the YES and NO positions.

UPDATE 10-2-14:  Cornucopia’s GMO food labeling infographic has been updated and now includes the contributions made to the Oregon Right to Know committee, which was organized to help get Measure 92 on the ballot. (Information on contributions for petition gathering are listed separately by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office and were not previously included.)  This update also includes significant additional contributions reported over the last couple days to both the Vote Yes on Measure 92 committee in Oregon, and the Right to Know Colorado committee.  Stay tuned for additional revisions of this infographic based on campaign finance reporting deadlines in Oregon and Colorado!

Cornucopia, WI: Citizen initiatives on the November 4 ballots in both Colorado and Oregon would mandate clear labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. The pending votes have sparked a high-priced battleground pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar agribusiness corporations.

Opposition to the state food labeling measures is coming from giant biotech companies (DuPont, Dow and Monsanto), that sell genetically engineered crops, and the well-heeled Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a national business lobbying organization. Millions of dollars are being spent on the two campaigns with advertising blitzes underway.

Now The Cornucopia Institute has released a detailed infographic that reveals which food companies are supporting or opposing the food labeling initiatives (with many of the major manufacturers opposing passage owning leading brands in the natural/organic marketplace).

“Many consumers will likely be surprised to learn that owners and management of some of their favorite organic and natural brands are fighting against the right of consumers to know what is in their food,” says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group. “We want to spotlight this issue so that consumers can vote in the marketplace for manufacturers and brands that reflect their personal values.”

Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food ingredients (commonly called GMOs — standing for genetically modified organisms) at the state level is viewed as a watershed event by many industry observers, given the prolonged inaction at the federal level. Earlier this year Vermont passed a state law requiring GMO food ingredient labeling, and the states of Connecticut and Maine have adopted similar legislation that will take effect when other neighboring states pass such laws.

Last year a state GMO food labeling initiative was narrowly defeated in Washington by a 51-49 percent margin. In California in 2012, a GMO food labeling initiative lost by a similarly slim margin. Biotech interests spent close to $50 million opposing the initiatives in California and Washington. And the GMA and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), another trade-lobby group, are now suing Vermont over its legislatively adopted food labeling law.

At the national level, Monsanto, its biotech allies, and the GMA in particular, have been credited for bottlenecking action on a federal law although they have recently rallied behind a new proposal that would outlaw state GMO food labeling laws while permitting “voluntary” labeling by companies of such ingredients (voluntary labeling is already being allowed by the FDA).

More than 60 countries around the world require the labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients. “Interestingly, in Europe where GMO labeling is required, consumers overwhelming choose to buy organic and non-GMO products,” said Kastel. “The industrial food lobby is fully cognizant of the European experience and what’s at stake — that’s why they’re fighting like hell against these grassroots efforts in states like Colorado and Oregon.”

North America’s largest independent organic breakfast foods manufacturer, Nature’s Path, has been actively promoting and funding a “yes” vote. “Nature’s Path USA has supported citizens’ fundamental right to know if their food contains GMOs, with a simple label declaration. Then they can choose whether or not they want to buy it,” says Arran Stephens, the company’s CEO and cofounder.

“One of many great qualities of organic agriculture is in the superior taste and higher nutrient profile — the natural result of a farming system that emphasizes long term soil fertility, farm family security and non-toxic ecological balance,” Stephens added.

Other prominent commercial backers of state citizen initiatives, viewed as heroes in the organic movement, include Dr. Bronner’s and Bob’s Red Mill.

“As a lover of science and as an activist, it’s clear to me that labeling genetically engineered food just makes sense. Consumers have a right to know whether the food they’re eating has been genetically engineered to withstand huge amounts of pesticide that contaminates our food, wreaks havoc in the environment and ends up on our dinner plates,” says the company’s CEO David Bronner, describing why the company has donated $715,500 to the state initiative campaigns.

Additional organizations throwing their financial weight behind the consumer’s right to know include the Organic Consumer’s Fund, Food Democracy Action and Mercola.com and Presence Marketing.

The biggest single donor to the “NO” vote is biotech giant Monsanto, having poured more than $6.3 million into the state campaigns. Pepsi has donated $2 million and General Mills has donated more than $1.5 million. Other heavyweight opponents include Kraft, Dow AgroSciences, J.M. Smucker, Land O’ Lakes and ConAgra.

All told, opponents of the consumers’ right-to-know what is in their food have already raised more than $15.1 million, while supporters of the state initiatives have gathered nearly $3.3 million.

“We doubt if loyal customers of Naked Juice (PepsiCo), Dagoba chocolate (Hershey’s) RW Knudsen or Santa Cruz juices (Smuckers) realize that their corporate parents are taking the profits from their patronage and stabbing them in the back by investing to defeat GMO labeling on food packages,” the Cornucopia’s Kastel lamented.

“Consumers are increasingly interested in ‘voting with their forks,’ and many want to support companies that share their values,” notes Jason Cole, a researcher for Cornucopia who compiled the data for the infographic. “We hope the information we are providing on corporate involvement with the upcoming votes on food labeling will help consumers make informed choices in grocery store aisles.”

Supporters of Measure 92, the GMO food labeling initiative in Oregon, have raised $2.96 million with opponents of the initiative collecting $5.41 million according to state records.

In Colorado, supporters of Proposition 105, the GMO food labeling initiative, have raised $320,000 while opponents of the initiative have collected $9.7 million.

Data for the campaign contributions was gathered from appropriate state regulatory agencies.

The Cornucopia Institute’s board of directors has formally endorsed the Oregon state initiative (they have yet to meet and take action regarding the Colorado initiative).

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