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"Big 6" pesticide firms funding effort to stop GMO labelingqrcode

Aug. 6, 2012

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Aug. 6, 2012
With the California general election less than four months away, pesticide manufacturers gave more than $750,000 [Update: this number has increased to $1.71 million as of 8/1/2012] to efforts to stop labeling of genetically engineered food, according to filings released by the state's Secretary of State late today.

"Much of the rest of the world — including Japan, Australia, the European Union and China — already requires genetically engineered foods to be clearly labeled. But in the U.S., pesticide corporations like Monsanto continue to enjoy unfettered and unlabeled access to the market, and a consumer population that is left largely in the dark,” said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network.

The measure at stake is Proposition 37 or the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” which would require food sold in retail outlets, such as supermarkets, to be labeled if they contain genetically engineered ingredients. Monsanto and five other corporations - BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta, also known as the “Big Six” - dominate the world’s seed, pesticide and biotech markets and actively oppose the measure.

In filings released, pesticide makers have made substantial contributions through Washington, DC–based front-groups the Council for Biotechnology Information and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

In total, the opposition effort has raised more than $1 million, largely paid to Sacramento public relations consultants as well as an already aggressive campaign of mailed advertisements and direct lobbying of political officials.

"The Big Six chemical & seed companies are working diligently to monopolize the food system at the expense of consumers, farmers and smaller seed companies," said Philip H. Howard, an associate professor at Michigan State University and an expert on industry consolidation. "Polls consistently show that the public wants much more transparency in food production, yet the chemical/seed industry wants to suppress this information."

Today, over half of the corn and cotton in California is genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide or withstand increasing amounts of weedkillers. In turn, this has led to increased use of pesticides in agricultural fields, putting rural communities and farmworkers at the greatest risk of harm due to pesticide exposure.

"After over 15 years of commercialization, and millions of dollars in publicly funded research, Big Ag has yet to deliver on the benefits it has long promised farmers and consumers. Their costly seeds are designed to require more pesticide use, not less,” added Dr. Ishii-Eiteman.

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