Four years ago, California had a chance to be the first state to vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage. We blew it.
Two years ago, California had a chance to be the first state to legalize weed. We blew it.
And last week, California had a chance to be the first state to label GMOs. This time, we finally stood up for ourselves. Oh, wait …
Despite the many progressive victories on Election Day, the failure of Proposition 37 has been a small but very irritating thorn in my side. I supported 37 in part because I was fed up with watching big businesses successfully slander good propositions. Two years ago, big alcohol (not wanting to have to compete with marijuana for your intoxication) funded all those commercials trashing the integrity of hardworking California physicians like my dad by suggesting that they’d come to work stoned if Prop 19 passed. Last June, big tobacco was responsible for steamrolling to death Prop 29 (the tax on cigarettes for cancer research, if you’ll remember) with confusing and misleading propaganda. The sociopathic behemoths of tobacco who make their fortunes poisoning people thought we would be stupid enough to listen to them.
Only we were. And although I had higher hopes for Prop 37, it seems the people of California were once again duped into voting against their best interest. Only a month before the election, Prop 37 was leading in a landslide. Before the propaganda storm began, California voters knew that it was a good measure. Nobody was trying to ban GMOs. We only wanted the same labeling standards that Europe and China demand of their corporations. But once multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto started up the propaganda machine, people began to change their minds, and Prop 37 was narrowly defeated by voters on Election Day.
They had to go out on a limb to destroy this one, though. Prop 37 was as near-perfect as legislation can be, and the extreme silliness of the ‘No’ campaign proves it. Although they made an issue of “exemptions,” food in restaurants is never labeled. (If 37 had required labeling of GM restaurant foods, you can bet the ‘No’ campaign would have been whining instead about inconsistency.) And the assertion that Prop 37 would cost consumers four hundred dollars a year was an outright lie, originating with the anti-recycling firm Northbridge Consulting. An independent economic analysis done by Joanna Shepherd-Bailey, Ph.D. of the Emory University School of Law found that there would have been no costs to consumers.
So, are GMOs actually dangerous? I’d say the jury’s still out. Good information on the safety of GMOs is hard to find, in part because much of the info available has been corrupted by corporate money. (Conveniently, labeling GMOs would have made studying their effects on humans much easier.) According to the FDA, the deputy commissioner of which is a former Monsanto lawyer, GMOs are safe. Sounds perfectly legit to me.
It should be clear to us all by now that the only “badly worded” part of Prop 37 involved the words “right to know.” No law with those words will ever pass the Monsanto acid test.
Some would argue that the general public is too gullible and easily frightened by talk of “Frankenfoods” to be trusted with hefty decisions about what to put in our own bodies. But with GMOs shrouded in secrecy, what else should one expect? Maybe if corporations were straightforward and honest with the public for a change, we might be a little less suspicious. Don’t expect us to implicitly trust you, Monsanto, not after you and your cohorts just spent 50 million dollars to keep us in the dark. Prove yourselves. Don’t hide if you have nothing to fear.
On Nov. 6, California chose to relinquish its choice. A sinister and litigious corporation succeeded in convincing us of our own stupidity and incompetence. In the process, a great blow was struck against the free market. Consumers must be able to make real, informed choices for the “invisible hand” to work properly. If Prop 37 had passed, we all would have been able to walk into grocery stores, look at the labels on food packages and know for sure what we were eating. It would have been empowering. We had our chance, and we opted for powerlessness.
California, you blew it again. Enjoy your GMOs. If you can find them.
Jason Garshfield is a first-year theater major.