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No on 37

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This article is part of the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. Find out more here.

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The No on 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme (No on 37), formerly known as Californians Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition (CACFLP), is an advocacy group that opposes California's Proposition 37 of 2012 (Prop 37), the 2012 ballot initiative to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. The group calls itself “a coalition of family farmers, grocers, small businesses, and food producers.”[1] But its membership list includes no individually named farmers, grocers, small business, or food producers It is, instead, a list primarily of trade groups for big corporate agriculture and food companies, as well as other front groups, local chambers of commerce, etc.[2] An enormous percent of the group's money comes from the "Big 6" Biotech Corporations (Monsanto, Dow Chemical Company, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont, and BASF) and biotechnology industry lobby groups. This handful of corporations dominates the world’s seed, pesticide and biotech industries[3][4] and therefore demonstrably has a vested interest in preventing the labeling of GMOs, which could affect consumer perception and therefore profitability.

No on 37's Positions and Statements

In June 2012 the No on 37 released an article, titled "Freakonomics, How California's GMO Labeling Law Could Limit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor" in an attempt to persuade voters that labeling food would cause, "food prices [to] rise and consumer choice [to] be diminished."[5]

According to a report by the Center for Food Safety on big food's PR front groups, No on 37’s most effective tactic was scaremongering about higher food costs, despite the lack of data to support such a claim other than one paid-for, non-peer reviewed report. Another scare tactic was making wild predictions about lawsuits and red tape. The No on 37 campaign also deployed shooting the messenger (plus scaremongering) by claiming Prop 37 was “written by a trial lawyer for trial lawyers,” which the report claims is untrue. No on 37 also hired several medical and scientific experts as spokespeople, in an effort to hide its economic interests. The idea, according to the report, was that voters are more likely to follow the advice of a doctor dressed in a white coat than the CEO of Monsanto.[6]

PR Gunslinger Behind the No on 37 Campaign

Tom Hiltachk is one lobbyist that corporations in the No on 37 campaign have hired to make the anti-labeling case. Hiltachk is no stranger to front groups. With a little help from his friends at Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, he helped organize the Californians for Smokers' Rights group to fight anti-smoking initiatives in the 1980s and 1990s. He also helped form the Californians for Fair Business Policy –- a so-called "grassroots" organization, but actually a front group to mobilize business opposition to anti-smoking initiatives. Hitachk also has ties to Big Oil, including a colorful history with California’s Proposition 23, a conservative-backed ballot initiative launched –- and defeated -– in 2010. The initiative, supported by Big Oil, would have repealed California’s clean energy and climate laws.[7]

Major Funders

The group's largest funders, which together contributed nearly $27 million by September 2012, were biotechnology and food corporations and industry lobby groups. As of September 6, 2012, major funders to the group included:[8]

Over $1 million:

$500,000 to $999,999:

$250,000 to $499,999:

$100,000 to $249,999:

$50,000 to $99,999:

$10,000 to $49,999:

$1000 to $9999:

Contact Details

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. Californians Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition, In Case You Missed It: Nov. 2012 Ballot Measure To Label Genetically Modified Foods: 'Unmodified, Unmitigated and Unadulterated Turkey', organizational press release, February 21, 2012
  2. CACFLP, Who We Are, organizational member list, accessed July 2012
  3. Pesticide Action Network of North America, Chemical Cartel, organizational website, accessed July 2012
  4. ETC Group, Who Owns Nature? Corporate Power and the Final Frontier in the Commodification of Life, international civil society organizational report, November 2008, accessed July 2012
  5. Steve Sexton, How California's GMO Labeling Law Could LImit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor, Stop Costly Food Labeling, June 22, 2012
  6. Michele Simon, The Best Public Relations That Money Can Buy, Center for Food Safety report, May 2013.
  7. Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins, Meet the Corporate Front Groups Fighting to Make Sure You Can't Know What's in Your Food, Alternet, May 31, 2012.
  8. California Secretary of State, Accessed September 6, 2012.
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