On Nov. 6, California voters will have the opportunity to vote on historic Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of genetically-engineered foods. At a time when it's hard to get a large percentage of Americans to agree on almost anything, polls show that as many as 90 percent of us want genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) labeled. More than 40 other nations, including the entire European Union, already require disclosure. But Monsanto and its allies are dedicated to keeping consumers in the dark and are pouring tens of millions of dollars into a disinformation campaign intended to defeat Prop 37.
You might expect the biotech industry to try to block a measure that would require foods that contain GMOs to say so on their packages. After all, a growing body of scientific research is indicating that GMOs might be far more dangerous than was previously imagined. But Monsanto's allies in the effort to defeat Prop 37 include some unexpected culprits. It can be shocking to realize that some of the most trusted names in the natural food world are in bed with Monsanto.
Naked Juice is owned by PepsiCo, which has donated $1.7 million to Monsanto's efforts. Honest Tea, Odwalla and Simply Orange are owned by Coca-Cola, which has donated another million dollars. Alexia and Lightlife are owned by ConAgra, which has put in more than $1 million.
You won't find this mentioned anywhere on the Kashi product packaging, but Kashi, as well as Gardenburger and Morningstar Farms, is owned by Kellogg, which has already coughed up more than $600,000 to defeat Prop 37.
Kashi has already been in plenty of trouble on the GMO front this year. A few months ago, a number of natural foods stores stopped carrying Kashi cereals when it came to their attention that the "soy used in most Kashi products is genetically modified, and that when the USDA tested the grains used there were found to be pesticides that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors."
In an attempt to defend itself, Kashi released a YouTube video that announced that:
"While it's likely that some of our foods contain GMOs, the main reason for that is because in North America, well over 80 percent of many crops, including soybeans are grown using GMOs ... Factors outside our control such as pollen drift from nearby crops ... have led to an environment where GMOs are not sufficiently controlled."
This seemingly reasonable defense -- that the only reason GMOs are found in Kashi products is because GMOs are widespread in the environment -- might be valid if the problem was only trace GMOs, which lead to a product being less than 1 percent genetically engineered. But when the Cornucopia Institute tested Kashi's Go Lean cereal, which gets its protein from soy, they found that the soy was 100 percent genetically engineered.
There are other natural foods heroes whose profits are being used to try to keep us in the dark. Silk soy milk carries the "Non-GMO Project Verified" seal on its package. But Silk is owned by Dean Foods, which has donated more than a quarter million dollars to Monsanto's efforts to defeat Prop 37.
The list of sell-outs who masquerade as bastions of organics is disappointingly long. R. W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organics are owned by Smucker, which has donated $388,000 to killing Prop 37. Cascadian Farm, Larabar and Muir Glen are owned by General Mills, which has put more than half a million dollars into the effort.
The good news is that even with large agribusiness companies purchasing natural and organic brands and then betraying consumers by funding the attack on GMO labeling, Prop 37 still stands an excellent chance of passing.
And not everyone has sold out, not by a long shot. There are still some authentic heroes in the natural food industry. Nature's Path, Dr. Bronner's, Nutiva and Lundberg Rice stand out among the companies that are contributing to the effort to pass Prop 37 and ensure your right to know what's in your food. Organic Valley, Amy's and Eden Foods are also standing up for your right to know. And the owner of a natural health website, Joseph Mercola (mercola.com), has donated nearly a million dollars to the good fight.
If you want to know more, the Cornucopia Institute has released a shopper"s guide to the companies that are donating on both sides of Prop 37.
At present, it's not easy to know whether there are GMOs in your food. The Non-GMO Shopping Guide put out by the Institute for Responsible Technology is a great support. But the most important thing you can do is to help pass Proposition 37.
If Californians pass Prop 37 in November, it will have enormous implications to the food system throughout North America.
Ignorance, in some cases, may be bliss. But in the case of GMOs, the ignorance of not knowing what is in your food is not bliss, it's subservience to Monsanto and its allies. And it could mean a lifetime of devastating health problems for you and your children.
It's going to be a battle. Let's win this one for ourselves, for the earth, and for all future generations.
John Robbins is cofounder of the Food Revolution Network, which provides information and inspiration to help you heal your body, and you world... with food. He is author of many bestsellers including The Food Revolution; No Happy Cows: Dispatches From The Frontlines of The Food Revolution; and Diet For A New America. He is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award, and Green America's Lifetime Achievement Award. To learn more about his work, visit JohnRobbins.info.