A Movement Grows Around GMO Labeling From Iowa to California: Will Obama Keep His Promise in a Second Term?
By Mel Fabrikant Thursday, November 01, 2012, 06:44 PM EDT
In a recent interview, journalist and best-selling author Michael Pollan argued that then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama “pre-endorsed” Proposition 37 in 2007.
While locked in a dead heat during the Iowa caucus then-Senator Barack Obama made a promise to label genetically modified foods in front ofIowa farmers and received a round of applause. Obama’s promise to farmers in the Midwestern corn state was seen as a progressive stance on the issue since farmers in that state grow more genetically engineered crops than any otherstate in the nation, including 91 percent of the corn and 97 percent of soybeans planted In Iowa.
Last year Food Democracy Now! released an exclusive video of the now famous pledge that has helped spur a national movement for labeling genetically engineered foods.
“He kind of pre-endorsed Proposition 37. (But) since he’s come in [to the presidency], most of his decisions have taken the side of Monsanto,” said Pollan, citing the video in an interview with Amy Goodman.
Pollan cited President Obama’s 2007 comments captured in this video.
In the clip, Senator Obama says, “Here’s what I’ll do as president. I’ll immediately implement country-of-origin labeling, because Americans should know where their food comes from. We’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they’re buying.”
“If [Proposition 37] passes—and let us assume that Obama is re-elected—he will see there are votes in reforming the food supply. That’s why this is not just a California issue. This is a national issue,” said Pollan. “This is the first time for the food movement to pass from that moment of voting with your fork to voting with your votes for a different kind of food system.”
Pollan argued that the passage of Proposition 37 would create the climate needed for President Obama to follow up on this2007 campaign promise.
“The food industry is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, industries in Washington,” Pollan argued. “Obama made a calculation early on that he did not have enough support behind him to move against this system and try to reform it…I think Obama simply judged the politics were not ripe yet. Well, this will ripen them dramatically, should [Proposition 37] pass.”
Dave Murphy, co-chair of the California Right to Know campaign and founder of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots food and farm policy advocacy organization based in Iowa, organized and filmed the event where Obama madethis promise to a room of 400 Iowa farmers.
“Obama’s support for GMO labeling in Iowa in November 2007 helped distinguish him as a candidate from his opponents in the state that produces the most genetically engineered crops in the U.S. Today a nationalmovement has put that issue on the political map in California,’ said Murphy.
Proposition 37, to be voted on in California would require labeling of genetically engineered foods. California would join 61 countries that already require this label.
“Americans have a basic right to know what’s in their food” said Murphy “And no amount of corporate contributions from giant pesticide and junk food companies can hide that fact from the American people. On November 6th, California will lead the way.”
As supporters of Prop 37 head into the final days before theelection, they face stiff opposition from a powerful coalition of the world’s leading pesticide and junk food manufacturers who have raised more than $44million to defeat this grassroots initiative, including more than $8.1 million from Monsanto, the world’s largest manufacturer of biotech seeds and pesticides.
“The pesticide and junk food companies that haveencouraged President Obama to stay silent since 2007 on labeling are the same companies spending nearly $1 million a day lying to voters about Prop 37,” said Murphy. “Next Tuesday, when California voters pass Proposition 37, they will embolden President Obama to fight once again for the right to know what’s in our food.
“Winning in California will lead to a federal GMO labeling law, something that Americans have been denied for two decades,” said Murphy, who organized farmers for the Obama campaign during the 2008 Iowa caucus and general election.”