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Talking Turkey

Right-to-Know campaign goes to Washington

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It's commonplace for cause-related groups to issue talking points before Thanksgiving, so when people confront their backwards-thinking Uncle Bill or uninformed Aunt Jennifer over dinner, they can have pertinent facts at hand with which to pitch their cause.

I typically advise against political discussions with relatives who don't share your values; best to keep the peace in families. However, I make a small exception this year on behalf of a nonpartisan issue: the defeat of Proposition 37 via a huge corporate misinformation campaign.

Proposition 37 sought to require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. In the effort to give citizens the right to know what is in their food, those advocating on behalf of the populace raised $9.2 million (full disclosure: I helped others raise some of that money) and many spent uncounted hours volunteering.

Those threatened by Proposition 37 didn't need to go out and raise the money—they simply wrote checks totaling $46 million and bought a lot of television time. Monsanto handed over $8 million to block our right to know. Dupont, Dow, Pepsi, Coke and Kraft all gave $2 million or more each. The list was exclusively corporate donations. The Grocery Manufacturers Association gave over $2 million; their members include ConAgra, Coca Cola, Starbucks, Target and hundreds of manufacturers.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) also includes the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, so when you talk to your relatives about how important it is to know what's in your food, let them know that the misinformation commercials were paid for in part by a prison system several states away. To the other relatives, mention that on the GMA membership roll is a North Bay business called the Perfect Puree of Napa Valley.

Locally based food companies that do not belong to the GMA supported Proposition 37, including Amy's Kitchen, located in Petaluma. Donors supporting the right-to-know campaign included individuals—thank you Kent Whealy ($1 million), Ali Partovi ($289,000) and Mark Squire ($258,000). Donors also included Dr. Bronner's and Lundberg Farms.

Most funding that supported our right to know came from California; most funding to defeat it came from out of state. Help your relatives understand that to follow the money is to discover the motives for a campaign. It is naive to think that fair information is going to come from the corporation whose engineered foods would have to be labeled.

Corporations profiting from GE ingredients did not want you to vote for Proposition 37. But it's not over.

You can sign the Right-to-Know petition to the FDA seeking a federal labeling law. Go to justlabelit.org, and take a stand for the will of the people over giant corporate money.

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