No GM-labelling for America... yet

November 2012
Right2Know march by MillionsAgainstMonsanto on Flickr
Earlier this month, California's attempt to vote in a law which would have required labelling of GM foods in the State failed by a very narrow margin (43% for, 57% against).

Given the enormous support it had up until the beginning of October (3:1 in favour), this might come as a surprise. The reason for the sudden swing, however, is clear: the proposed law simply “got crushed under fat stacks of cash” (Philpott). The opposition comprised the biotech/agrichemical giants, including Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and German firms Bayer and BASF (who obviously don't want the same thing happening in the US as has in their home market). It also comprised all the leading food-processing industries (including Kraft, NestlĂ©, and Coca Cola). They combined forces to throw $45.6 million into a campaign to persuade Californians that they don't really want to know what's in their food. Supporters of the bill raised a staggering $8.7 million, but were outspent by five dollars to one.

And “What do you get for $45.6 million?” asked Philpott. “You get a slick, relentless, truth-challenged campaign” (crafted by master of misleading initiative, Thomas Hiltachk, a full-time political and election lawyer since 1998, whose skills were honed protecting the interests of big tobacco).

This “lunge at the king” may have been deflected, but the problems which led up to it are now out in the open, and they won't go away (Philpott).

The attention of folk in the US has now been drawn to important issues, like their human rights, fairness, the lack of testing of GM foods, the unlikelihood of anyone noticing if things go wrong, the lack of transparency now clouding the American ideals of capitalism, competition, and a free market, and simple common-sense.

Above all, Americans are now questioning the control (or lack of control) of the technologies being used to produce their food. “Once scientists have told the truth, warts and all (and genetic engineering has its share of warts”, society as a whole must decide how to use and control the technology based on that science. Controlling technology as Nobel laureate in physics, Richard Feynman, said 'is something not so scientific and is not something that the scientists knows so much about” (Martineau).

All this information is now slipping steadily into the American awareness.

In fact, activists are already gathering signatures to push another labelling initiative in the State of Washington in 2013. Advocates are working on GMO labelling bills they hope to introduce into the legislature of Vermont and Connecticut, and are eying up Maine, Oregon, New Mexico and others for the next tries.

Also steadily slip-sliding into the US consciousness is the extent of cynical, fraudulent public manipulation surrounding ballots on GM issues. These include professional water-muddiers like Thomas Hiltechk described above, front groups, fabricated quotes from respected individuals and institutions (even the Food and Drug Administration!), and unsupported assertions (such as GM labelling will raise food prices).

Added to these scandals is some fascinating information from investigative reporter, Jon Rappoport (see box), about the California GM labelling vote. Apparently, not all votes have been returned for counting and there is no requirement to do so. Rappaport found that in four counties alone (there are 54 other counties in California) the uncounted votes totalled some 1.6 million: this is roughly three times as many uncounted votes as the margin of defeat of the labelling bill.

Note on Jon Rappaport

The evidence on the vast numbers of uncounted votes apparently floating around in California would seem a bit too outrageous to be true, were it not for the author.

Rappaport is an investigative journalist with 30 years experience, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. He was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California, and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Rappaport has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic and creative power to audiences around the world.

His website is


How easy would it be for votes from an area known to have a high proportion of ardent pro-labelling voters to be 'disappeared' by administrators with greased palms? We'll never know, but not bothering to count the votes seems a strange way to run a 'democracy'.

If the biotech industry and food-processing companies have to fork out $45.6 million dollars in every U.S. State which dares suggest it wants to know what it's eating, that's a heck of a lot of money just to avoid adding three or four extra words of small-print on food labels. Proof if anyone still needs it that there's something about GM food they don't want us to know.

Since it's the biotech industry and food processing companies who provide a substantial amount of our food, the financial and health costs of concealing its true nature will ultimately fall on the consumers. In other words, the current desperate moves to avoid GM labelling will cost U.S. citizens dear.

While all attention was focused on California, elsewhere in the US, precedents were quietly being set which could make life very difficult for big biotech and big food. Citizens are taking legislative action into their own hands: that means out of the control of the regulators which Monsanto et al. seem to have in their pockets. Colorado and Washington States passed citizen-led initiatives to legalise marijuana, and one County in Washington State has pushed through a bill making it unlawful to propagate or grow GM plants or animals, and includes provisions for penalties and for the destruction of such organisms. The beginning of a sea change?

The next installment of this story will be as exciting as it is inevitable.

  • Tom Philpott, Did California Voters Defeat the Food Movement Along with Prop.37?, Mother Jones, 7.11.12
  • Belinda Martineau, A scientist says yes on Prop 37 to label genetically engineered food, Mercury News, 29.10.12
  • Richard J. Jackson, What's in Your Food? People Have a Right to Know, California Progress Report, 30.10.12
  • German giants join GM food fight in California, Deutsche Welle, 16.10.12
  • Food activists look to other states after failed California measure, CapitolAlert, 7.11.12
  • Stacy Malkan, Documented Deceptions of No on 37 Campaign, Yes On 37, 2.11.12
  • Alexis Baden-Mayer, Congratulations GMO-Free San Juan County, Washington!
  • Jon Rappoport, Did Prop 37 really lose or was it vote fraud?, 8.11.12
  • Matthew Fleischer, Thomas Hiltachk, Master of Deception,, 17.10.12

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