If Supermarkets Get Their Way, You Won't Know If GMOs Are in Your Food

California's Proposition 37—which demands labeling on genetically modified foods—has the food industry in a fit.

Want to know if GMOs are in your food? Supermarkets would prefer to keep you in the dark. (Ryan McVay/Getty Images)
Megan is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

It's not often that it feels possible to take Big Food to its knees in the fight for a transparent, ethical, and sustainable food system. But a recent meeting of food industry bigwigs has demonstrated there may be a chink in Big Food's armor. That chink is Prop 37, a genetically modified foods labeling proposal which recently earned a spot on the November ballot in California. 

Addressing the American Soybean Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) President Pamela Bailey said that defeating the initiative "is the single-highest priority for GMA this year."

Vaguely named, the GMA seems like it would have a loose stake, if any, in the Prop 37 debate. But the Association is comprised of heavy-hitting food makers like PepsiCo, Kellogg, General Mills, and Monsanto, who are prepared to fight tooth and nail against a measure that could legitimately threaten their bottom line. Bailey's comments highlight just how much industry executives don't want information in the hands of consumers. 

MORE: Supermarket Shame: 10 Secret Trans-Fat Offenders

So far, GMA has already spent $375,000 to oppose the measure. TreeHugger reports that GMA members have also added additional out-of-state lobbying power "in the tens of thousands of dollars."

All that money is going toward shutting down voices from the Right to Know Campaign, which garnered nearly a million signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. Backed by the Sierra Club, the American Public Health Association, United Farm Workers, the Center for Food Safety, and Food Democracy Now!, among others, the campaign has been a force to reckon with the last few months.

So what does the GMA have to lose?

Critics of Prop 37 say that adding a label would create unfounded fear among consumers about genetically modified foods. But recent polls suggest that Californians are craving that info: Ninety-one percent of Californians are in favor of GMO labeling. That same 91 percent could take their dollars elsewhere, and GMA—who has also fought for the right to market junk food to children—doesn't want that to happen.

"If California wins, you need to be worried the campaign will come to your state," Bailey warned the Soybean Association.

Her opponents agree wholeheartedly.

"If California succeeds, democracy will succeed—the vast majority of Californians and Americans want genetically engineered food to be labeled," Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the Right to Know Campaign, told TakePart. "If Prop 37 passes, I believe it will be just a matter of time before other states and the federal government follow, and give the people the right to know what's in their food."

Comments ()