GMO Labeling: The Vote Californians Wish They Could Take Back

The defeat last November of California’s Proposition 37, which would have required food producers to label products made with genetically modified ingredients, struck a devastating blow to the sustainable food movement. But a new poll, conducted in early December by an independent polling firm, found that 67 percent of voters support labeling genetically modified or engineered foods.

At the polls in November, Californians narrowly rejected the proposed bill, 51 percent to 49 percent, a result widely thought to have been influenced by food companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, PepsiCo and Kraft pumping more than $35 million into the No on 37 campaign. The cash fueled a late advertising blitz that told voters, among other things, that food prices would increase if the initiative passed. Support for the measure dwindled to a mere 39 percent by October 30, just days before the election.

“Disinformation won the day, but it did not change the facts about what California voters think of GE food labeling,” said Rebecca Spector, west coast director at Center for Food Safety, in a statement

Commissioned by the Center for Food Safety Action Fund and conducted between December 1-4 by the independent polling firm Lake Research, the poll also found that every major demographic group except Republican men supports mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (click here for a summary of poll results).

Furthermore, the study found that Prop. 37's defeat was cemented by early absentee voters who, responding to “attack advertising” from the food companies, rejected the measure by a spread of 46 percent to 54 percent. The bill won the Election Day vote 51 percent to 49 percent, however, indicating that counter-attacks by GMO labeling supporters were effective.

“This poll shows that the more the truth about Prop. 37 was received by voters, the more they voted for it,” Spector said. “It’s a certainty that once the money-induced cloud of doubt was lifted, many Californians viewed labeling of GE foods as the smart choice.”

What do you think? Should GMO labeling be mandatory?

Related stories on TakePart:

GMO Labeling Isn't Dead: See Which States Are Leading the Fight

Are You Ready for GMO Surf-and-Turf?

Op-Ed: Well-Funded Opposition Wasn't the Only Reason Prop 37 Lost

Steve’s story about healthy fast food was anthologized in Best Food Writing 2011. His food and general interest stories regularly appear in Edible Boston, Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, and other places. Email Steve | @thebostonwriter