Depending on your point of view, last week's election was either a massive victory or an epic failure. For anti-GMO groups, it was the latter. California's Proposition 37--the bill that pushed for the mandatory labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms in food--failed to pass the state legislature.
The bill was defeated by a landslide (53% to 47%), which comes as a bit of a surprise due to polling earlier on in the election cycle. According to polls, Prop 37 started off with a two to one lead.
The opposition outspent the anti-GMO groups five to one in the campaign--about $40 million. Ads blasted the airwaves warning voters about confusing exemptions in the bill and increased food costs. Ultimately, that message worked.
However, anti-GMO groups across the country are forging ahead--speaking to Senators and working to continue raising consumer awareness.
We spoke to Food & Water Watch's
local representative, Alyse Opatowksi, about the failure of Prop. 37 and overall efforts to pass mandatory labeling. "It was difficult to run a ballot initiative and educate people at the same time. Now, we're trying to run strong groundwork to educate people so they know the truth about genetically engineered food. We don't call them genetically modified organisms, because that is a soft term used by the companies which produce them. Really, these foods are engineered in a lab. Prop. 37 supporters were outspent $40 million and they still got 47% of the vote despite that. We really need to think about why these companies spent so much money," she says.
On Tuesday, Opatowski and other local anti-GMO groups including GMO-Free Florida met with Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel in an attempt to get her to champion a bill for the next legislative session--spring 2013. According to Opatowski, "Senator Sobel said she would be willing to look at a sample bill, but we need to make sure there is enough public support to back her up. She really listened to what we had to say and she really wants to help, but we still need to educate people."
To create more awareness, Food & Water Watch is sponsoring a GE-Free Cook-off at Marando Farms
this Sunday from 2 to 4 pm. Participants are asked to bring a GE-free dish, which will be evaluated by judges and the public. The best dish will be awarded a trophy.
"Since we started, we've had double the amount of people at each event. We've been contacted by different organization and people who have been educated about this issue. The movement is growing," says Opatowski. She urges interested individuals to join the groups at their campaign action meetings, which take place every Tuesday at BM Organics (2960 North Federal Hwy. in Fort Lauderdale) at 6:45 pm.
For those interested, but unable to attend, Food & Water Watch has an online petition here