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Big Bucks & Brands Backing Ballot Busting

November 8, 2013

Here’s what I learned in advertising. If you tell people something enough, they will start to internalize it. And the way you get a message in front of the public over and over again is to spend a lot of money on a media campaign.

It’s all about target rating points and how those split into reach and frequency. There are some folks who are obsessed with maximizing reach. But it’s all about the frequency.

The opponents to the recent GMO labeling initiative in Washington spent over $30 per no vote. That took a lot of money. Grist reports the total was $22 million. Where did all of that come from? Well, thanks to the consolidation of the natural and organic foods business, the profits from a lot of brands one might think would support GMO labeling find themselves on the wrong side of the issue.

Let’s take a look at them.

For me, the biggest heartbreak is Cascadian Farm Organic. All of the money I spend on their organic granola, granola bars for the kids lunches, cereal for the breakfast, and the occasional bag of frozen fruits or vegetables goes to line the pockets of General Mills. It’s General Mills that then gives a bunch of those profits to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, so that GMA can donate a whopping $11 million to defeat the proposition in Washington.

It makes Monsanto’s $5 million contribution to the anti-labeling cause seem moderate.

When I think of the natural foods industry, brands like R.W. Knudsen epitomize it. I remember seeing their small glass bottles of juice in roadside produce stands and in health food stores when I was a kid. They tended to be a little bit strange, but were always a special treat. Except now (along with Santa Cruz Organic) they are a part of J.M. Smucker which pays money into the GMA.

Think Green & Black’s organic chocolate is above the fray? Well, it’s not. Their parent company doesn’t want to have to put a GMO label on chocolate made with soy lecithin as an emulsifier, or potentially using sugar that comes from GMO sugar beets.

Honest Tea, Odwalla, and Simply Orange are all owned by Coca Cola. It’s no surprise that a company that pushes corn syrup in mass to the world is opposed to GMO labeling. However, if you are buying the lightly sweetened Honest Tea or Odwalla’s Strawberry C Monster (which is probably the most delicious way to fight off a cold), it’s unlikely you stop to think that a portion of that purchase is supporting an anti-labeling movement.

The full list of those on both sides of the issue who donated money in Washington can be found here.

Thankfully, there is some good news. Not all of the natural food brands I love have completely sold their soul. While Dr. Bronner might be a little batty, he put his money where his mouth was and the soap company lost a small fortune fighting for GMO labeling in Washington. It must have been devastating.

You know what, I’m going to buy an extra bottle of his peppermint soap. That’s some amazing stuff. So refreshing.

And I’m totally going to cut back on my Cascadian Farm purchases. I’ll be keeping my eye out for some other soft organic granola bars for kids. Annie’s and Amy’s both supported this ballot measure, so perhaps I can give their products another go.

It’s time to vote with your wallet. Although there is a compelling argument circling around that GMOs aren’t the problem, they are merely the symptom. The author of that article makes a good point. But if those passionate about improving the food system in the U.S. can’t grab this low-hanging fruit, how can we ever expect to get more meaningful change?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. docsconz permalink
    November 8, 2013 12:12 pm

    Shows hoe complex the world is. Nice work, Daniel.

  2. November 8, 2013 12:15 pm

    Did you ever seen Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox? It’s on Netflix Instant. Sure the family is a little batty, but they’re all about making connections with people and I just love that. And yes, that peppermint soap is amazing. My dog crashed into a glass of red wine that drenched the white shirt I was wearing. I soaked it overnight in cold water and Dr. Bronner’s peppermint and the stain totally disappeared. It’s all I use for hand-washed clothes now.

  3. November 8, 2013 10:26 pm

    “And the way you get a message in front of the public over and over again is to spend a lot of money on a media campaign.” There are also these things called copywriters who focus on delivering a message that the public will absorbed because it is presented with words that reflect their interests and concerns.

    One of the biggest failings of liberal causes (in which, unfairly but correctly, healthy food is generally bucketed) is that the practitioners get overly emotional. They are so focused on being heard that they don’t realize the audience isn’t listening. Meanwhile, the other side moves in for the kill using tested, logical arguments.

  4. Rosemarie permalink
    November 10, 2013 9:38 pm

    Thank you for this blog topic. I will use the information to buy from the companies that support GMO labeling, as much as possible.

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