Money Doesn't Talk, It Lies

Posted by Pete Shanks November 1, 2012
Biopolitical Times

California's Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically modified food, is being battered by a million dollars a day of deceptive commercials. The race is close to a tie, with one poll putting Prop. 37 behind and the Los Angeles Times having it ahead by a tight 44–42, down from huge leads a month earlier in both surveys.

What's behind this change is a lethal combination of money and lies, and up to a point the lies are working. Before the campaign started, labeling had about 91% support. Negative campaigning has driven that down below 50%.

The No on 37 campaign goes out of its way to avoid mentioning genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Instead, it presents a farrago of misleading, incomplete, irrelevant and confusing claims about "increased costs to consumers, arbitrary exemptions [and] shakedown lawsuits." The opponents have actually been forced to retract a couple of commercials for claiming or implying endorsements they don't have, and they may even be criminally liable for misrepresenting the FDA's position. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA)  has compiled a startling summary of "37 lies and dirty tricks brought to you by Monsanto and the No on 37 campaign."

If California were a swing state in presidential politics, the TV time to spread this misinformation might not be available. As it is, however, opponents of Prop. 37 have raised at least $44 million, and it's still coming in. DuPont kicked in another half-million yesterday. Monsanto now has over $8 million invested, according to OCA's useful list of major funders.

That's not the most spent on a measure this year: According to Reuters, Prop. 32, an anti-union measure, has attracted $128 million ($59m for, $69m against) and Governor Brown's tax plan, Prop. 30, almost as much ($62 for, $53m against). But it's by far the biggest discrepancy: Yes on 37 has raised a relatively modest $7 million.

The race, however, is still very much on. Endorsements of Proposition 37 keep growing, including by the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles City Council (and many others) and politicians at every level from U.S. Senator on down. The Yes campaign recently released its own TV ad, and is hoping for a final, grassroots effort to leaflet, demonstrate, and vote.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: