Which ‘organic’ companies want to keep GMO labeling in the dark?

Our writer breaks down a who’s who of Proposition 37

Horizon’s parent company, Dean Foods is one of dozens who have given money to fight labeling genetically modified organisms on food products.

Horizon’s parent company, Dean Foods is one of dozens who have given money to fight labeling genetically modified organisms on food products.

photo illustration by priscilla garcia

Those who want to eat organic and natural need to beware.

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization dedicated to “Promoting Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming,” as its motto puts it, recently came out with a detailed report that reveals which corporations have joined biotech giant Monsanto and industry leaders in fighting California’s Proposition 37, which would mandate labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, on food and other products.

The report reveals that Horizon, Silk, Kashi, Cascadian Farm, R.W. Knudsen Family and others are working to defeat the ballot measure.

“Consumers might be surprised to find out that brands hiding under ‘natural’ facades are in fact owned by multibillion-dollar corporations,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, Cornucopia’s director of farm and food policy, “[and] are contributing bushel baskets of cash to defeating Proposition 37.”

As the report pointed out, “mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food in California is viewed as a watershed event by many industry observers.” But companies are balking at the prospect of labeling GMOs, mostly because, as the report states, “many companies will find it logistically or economically difficult to produce foods with labels identifying GE for California while producing a different product line of foods for the rest of the country.”

It will cut into their bottom line, their profits, in other words.

Activists suggest that consumers cut into these sly companies’ profits now by not purchasing their products.

Of the $23.5 million donated so far to fight Prop. 37, here is the breakdown, by brand/corporation, according to the Cornucopia Institute:

Monsanto has doled out $4,208,000; PepsiCo (parent company of Izze Beverage Company and Naked Juice Company), $1,716,300; Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla, Simply Orange Juice Company), $1,164,400; ConAgra (Alexia, Lightlife), $1,076,300; Kellogg Company (Kashi, MorningStar Farms, Gardenburger, Bear Naked), $632,500; General Mills (Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, Lärabar), $520,000; Smucker’s (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic), $387,000; and Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk), $253,000.

Additionally, the Council for Biotechnology Information—which is made up of agricultural-pesticide giants Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, Bayer CropScience and BASF Plant Science—and the Grocery Manufacturers Association each have donated $375,000. And the Biotechnology Industry Organization has put in $250,000 toward trying to make sure Californians do not have access to accurate labeling of the food they buy, as far as GMO content goes.

Meanwhile, there are high-profile natural and organic brands who’ve given to Yes on 37, including Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps All One! soaps, Nature’s Path Organic cereals, Richvale-based Lundberg Family Farms rice, Nutiva coconut and hemp oils, Organic Valley milk, Amy’s Kitchen frozen meals, Eden Foods, Baby’s Only Organic baby formula, Straus Family Creamery dairy and Uncle Matt’s Organic juices.

Collectively, along with Illinois physician Dr. Joseph Mercola, Organic Consumers Association and Michael Funk, CEO of United Natural Foods Inc., they have donated $2.6 million toward the support of Prop. 37. But it’s a far cry from the big money donated by big corporations such as Monsanto, PepsiCo and Kellogg.

Meanwhile, certain companies that activist say probably should support Prop. 37 have yet to donate to the campaign, according to the Cornucopia Institute. These companies include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and Stonyfield Farm.

Interested parties can visit www.cornucopia.org to sign a petition that tells anti-Prop. 37 corporations that you won’t give them your business. The petition also thanks pro-37 companies and asks noncommittal companies, such as Trader Joe’s, to provide financial support.