Prop 37 Countdown: The Other Debate This Week
Breaking News:The No on 37 Campaign, financed by Monsanto, Dow, Coke, and the like, was forced to yank their TV ad that featured their “top scientist” who misrepresented himself as being affiliated with Stanford University. Click here to learn more.
By Adam Hofbauer
This past Wednesday, while most of America was focused on the scuffle taking place between the presidential candidates, there was another debate raging in San Francisco. This debate focused on California Proposition 37, which would require California to label all of its genetically engineered food products. Hosted by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), the debate featured Stacey Malkan of the California Right to Know Campaign arguing for the proposition against “No on 37” spokesperson Brandon Castillo. The event demonstrated how multinational corporations have been able to take sound legislation with majority support and engineer around it an artificial debate based on junk science and disinformation.
“No on 37” has already spent millions of dollars to fund a massive smear campaign, and Castillo made his case through a fusillade of sound bites and slick corporate quips. Castillo’s main point was that this is not an issue of whether to label GE food but an issue of whether or not to pass Proposition 37. Insisting that he, and many others behind his campaign, are in support of labeling, he repeatedly indicated that, “even good ideas make bad laws,” stressing the inconsistencies of the bill over the question of food labeling as an issue.
Malkan drew on the bill’s history as a piece of populist legislation, insisting on the local origin of its sponsors and reassuring the crowd that it would entail no cost to food producers or retailers. She too returned repeatedly to a main talking point, this being her campaign’s eponymous assertion that, “the people have a right to know,” which Proposition 37 allows. She drew on the findings of a recent study on the harmful effects of long-term exposure to the chemicals and pesticides associated with GE crops. She described the chemical companies’ tactics as a “pesticide treadmill” that leave consumers sick in their wake.
Backing this bill is a coalition of farmers, scientists, consumer groups like Food & Water Watch, labor unions and over a million Californian citizens who signed the petition to get Prop 37 on the ballot. The opposition is made up of corporations, many based outside of California, that have consistently resisted GE labeling because it will threaten their profits. Castillo’s insistence that he is in support of labeling, just not this law, is a devious example of the tactics employed by the pesticide and industrial food corporations that oppose Prop 37. It allows them to appear on the side of overwhelming public opinion, while still avoiding the very laws that they in fact oppose. No labeling law of any true value could be created that the industrial lobby would support, as it goes against their ability to continue to deceive the public and traffic in harmful chemicals and highly processed foods.
Though this debate will likely not have any effect on the November ballot, it still served as a stark reminder of the tactics of the opposition and why it is more necessary than ever to stand up to the unrelenting and deceptive force of corporate influence.
Food & Water Watch Volunteer Adam Hofbauer is a blogger and writer based in San Francisco. He is a recent graduate of the San Francisco State University Masters program in creative writing. His current writing on environmentalism and other issues can be found at www.theoverpicture.com.