Monsanto & Co. Win Again

Last week, one of the most closely watched results from nationwide voting didn't involve political office. Instead, it focused on whether or not voters in the state of Washington were going to require all food companies to disclose the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their products.

The result of the vote could have wide-reaching ramifications for the future of GMO products and their labeling.

Big Money Spending
One of the most surprising aspects of the vote was how much money the industry's major players spent. The Grocery Manufacturers of America gave $11 million to fight the initiative, with Pepsi (NYSE: PEP  ) and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) both providing over $1.5 million in funding. Other major funders paying for ads to fight mandatory labeling were GMO seed manufacturers Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) and DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) .  

In total, those opposing GMO labeling raised over $21 million -- which is more than three times the $6.3 million brought in by those in favor the measure. That funding gap was important, as early polls found that 66 percent of state residents supported mandatory labeling of GMOs. With the extra ad time, big agribusiness was able to convince a sizable portion of the populace that the GMOs were safe, and that their labeling would lead to higher grocery prices.

Because Washington votes via absentee ballots, the count has yet to be finished. But with 95.5% of the votes tallied, the "No" votes outnumber the "Yes" votes 52% to 48%. If the "Yes" votes were to win, they would need 93% of the remaining ballots to fall in their favor -- which is highly unlikely.

What This Means for Consumers
Instead of simply claiming that this was a case of Big Money buying an election, it's worth looking into what some of the leading voices in the state had to say about the vote. Most notably, the Seattle Times editorial board said:

[The initiative] is a clumsy, emotion-based campaign to require labeling of selective food products containing genetically modified organisms. The issue for proponents of I-522 seems to be less about outcomes -- the products themselves -- but rather finding the modern processes offensive... Liberal spending by Monsanto to protect its business niche is not a compelling rationale to back labeling... The instincts behind GMO labeling need to focus on arguments that convince those in the agricultural, scientific and medical communities. 

The paper's editorial board also cited studies from the FDA and American Medical Association saying that there were no "material differences" between traditionally grown crops, and those containing GMOs.

For the time being, this is a huge victory for GMO seed producers and those that use their by products in foodstuffs. As I've said before, I believe that eventually the public needs to be educated about what they are eating.

It is looking more and more likely that -- instead of requiring GMO labeling -- products that do not have GMOs in them will be labeled as such. This is in much the same way that Kosher and organic products, as well as Fair Trade foods, are labeled. There's usually negligible difference in the nutritional value, but a big difference in how the product makes it into the consumer's belly.

For some people, that matters; for others, it doesn't.

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Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 10:19 AM, Domeyrock wrote:

    And yet ANOTHER reason not to invest in KO, Brian. Why so much fear in letting consumers know what they're consuming?? Because they know they're selling crap? This is pathetic.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 5:26 PM, SJDsgirl wrote:

    Consumers are screwed once again.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 9:21 PM, stevor86 wrote:

    If you don't like this, three of the big financiers to defeat the bill were Coke, Pepsi & Nestle (in case you want to BOYCOTT them!)

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 8:18 AM, Thefarmgeek wrote:

    Anybody that thinks this is not important needs to do some research we have dairy farms in our area that two to three years after swiching to GMO crops for feedstuffs are having horrible conseption rates in their cows. Now don't tell me it does't work the same in humans.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 10:16 AM, jdmeth123 wrote:

    Label GMOs and every cancer and birth defect will be blamed on them. The lawsuits will bring the economy to a crawl. Let's go ahead and combine that with Obamacare and see if we can get 25% unemployment.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 10:25 AM, falconjack wrote:

    I guess theres no relationship between ex vp of Monsanto MichaelTaylor and his appointment to the head of the FDA and it's posistion. An Obama disservice to the people since he stated publicaly about transparency in the food industry and then appoints this guy. And this is not just about health, if everyother ingredient has to be labeled, why is this such a big deal. If theres nothing wrong with it, put it out there and let the consumer decide. Its also about the seeds. Monsanto controls most of the soybean and corn seed and claim patent rights on them and if a farmer uses seeds from crops, Monsanto makes you stop. They want seeds to be purchased from them only. Do some research.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 11:27 AM, ardoucette wrote:

    That's pretty funny.

    Michael Taylor left Monsanto about 13 years ago, and one of the reasons was he wanted Monsanto to support labeling.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 11:29 AM, ardoucette wrote:

    The lies told by the Fear Mongers about GMO are really pretty funny.

    The fact that they think rational people believe them, is funnier still.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 4:39 PM, tigella35 wrote:

    so its one more win for increased government control.. Monsanto is covered by our concerned for its people government.. ! Which means if down the road all this GMO mess has been found to cause medical issues etc.. there is not a darn thing one can do about it.. !.. congrats US Government.. you win.. we the public lose AGAIN!

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 8:05 PM, klausmager wrote:

    My 27 year old daughter just came down with cancer. 1 in 4 Americans will develop cancer. The food we eat looks like food, but does not have the nutrition we need. Now that these companies cheated themselves through one more election, let's talk about the claims they are making. Let's have that conversation and see who will win next time. Or next time. This is not going away, we will screw this thing tighter until these companies discover a conscience. Apparently a Lon way to go

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