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Poll: California’s GMO food labeling initiative a dead heat

With a poll showing that California’s Proposition 37, the statewide ballot measure to label genetically engineered foods, is in a dead heat for “yes” or “no” votes, organic food producers and distributors held a news conference today to promote the measure and the entire Los Angeles City Council endorsed it this week.

A University of Southern California/Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science /Los Angeles Times poll released today showed 44 percent of surveyed voters backing the initiative and 42 percent opposing it, the Times reported.

A substantial slice of the electorate, 14 percent, remains undecided or unwilling to take a position, the Times noted. The telephone survey of 1,504 registered voters around the state was conducted October 15 to October 21. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Over the last month, support for the initiative dropped 17 percentage points and opposition grew by the same amount, the Times said. A previous USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll taken September 17 to 23 had 61 percent in favor, 25 percent opposed and 14 percent undecided.

Analysts credited television advertisements against Proposition 37 for the change in poll results. The opposition campaign includes Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Nestle USA and has raised $41 million, the Times said. The anti-Prop 37 spots have focused on alleged non-scientific scare tactics, confusing exemptions of certain foods and potentially driving up grocery costs, the Times added.

Dan Schnur

Dan Schnur
The opposition advertising is paying off, Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and former Republican political strategist, told the Times.

“The challenge for the opposition is to convince voters there are economic consequences involved here,” Schnur said.

It appears they are in the process of doing that.”

Steven Hoffman

Steven Hoffman
The “Just Label It” campaign has raised $6.7 million, the Times said.

Steven Hoffman, a managing partner at Compass Natural Marketing, said in a call to reporters today that the campaign is still hoping to raise another $2 million and that more advertising time can be bought because the presidential candidates are not advertising in California.

Environmental Working Group President President Ken Cook, who organized today’s call with heads of organic food companies, said “Everyone on this call is convinced we can win.”

David Lannon

David Lannon
On the call, David Lannon, executive vice president for operations of Whole Foods Market, which has 65 stores in California, said his company strongly supports Prop 37.

“Customers have the right to know and right now they don’t know if there are GMO ingredients in their products,” Lannon said. He added that he hopes the passage of a California law would eventually lead to a national labeling law just as California’s organic law led to the passage of national organic labeling.

Andy Berliner, CEO of Amy’s Kitchen of Petaluma, Calif., disputed the anti-Prop 37 campaign’s claim that the labeling law would raise every California family’s annual food bill by $400. He also said the GMO labeling law would be no harder to implement than the organic labeling law.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting Prop 37 on Wednesday.
Paul Koretz

Paul Koretz
“It's not often that the L.A. City Council votes unanimously to support a measure, but Prop 37 was a no-brainer. We have the right to know what's in the food we're eating and feeding our families,” said councilmember Paul Koretz, the resolution's author said in a news release distributed by the pro-Prop 37 campaign.

“I'm proud to be a part of this true grassroots campaign in our struggle against the biggest pesticide and junk food companies in the world,” Koretz added.