The GMO fight is headed to Hollywood. Los Angeles is petitioning to ban the growth, sale, and distribution of all genetically engineered seeds and plants within its borders. Have the stars gone to Hollywood's head, or is this the beginning of a national trend? Here's what you need to know.
Los Angeles city councilmen, Paul Koretz and Mitch O'Farrell, introduced a motion last Friday to keep genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, out of their backyard gardens. In an interview with the Huffington Post, O'Farrell noted: "We don't want to consume mystery food. Since there's currently no requirement, anyone could unwittingly purchase a genetically modified product and not know it. I think that's irresponsible ."
If successful, the move would make Los Angeles the largest area in the nation to be declared free of genetically modified organisms . It would follow in the footsteps of more than 60 countries that have imposed some restriction or ban on GMOs, including Australia, Japan, and all 28 members of the European Union .
Even as contributors to the motion admit to its status as a symbolic gesture more than a monumental change , there is precedent for such a motion. In November 2012, a California statewide bill, "Prop 37, " would have required all GM food in California to be clearly labeled. The proposition was defeated at the state level , but 52% of L.A. residents voted in favor of food labeling . And a similar proposal will head to Washington state voters in early November .
Is knowledge power?
But it may be no coincidence that past proposals have fallen flat. According to The Huffington Post, corporations with an interest in keeping GMO's on the down low financed a $46 million "No on Prop 37" campaign that (rightly or wrongly) likely influenced Californians' final opinion.
The campaign's budget, backed by companies such as Monsanto (NYSE:MON), Kraft Foods Group, (UNKNOWN:KRFT.DL), and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), vastly outweighed the $9.2 million slotted for supporting the proposition . Monsanto, the unwilling poster corporation for "factory food," has recently headed into more controversy for its collaboration with legislators on a "Monsanto Protection Act" to keep regulators from acting on GMO health concerns. According to the International Business Times , the company has stepped up its lobbying spending from $1.4 million in Q2 to more than $2.4 million in Q3 .
Hollywood's latest hit doesn't seem to be scaring any corporations away from lobbying efforts. With the November 5 date fast approaching for Washington state's own vote, PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP), Nestle, and Coca-Cola have each donated more than $1 million to defeat the labeling legislation .
Keeping it kosher
Los Angeles' proposal to keep GMOs outside its property may or may not pass – and it doesn't really matter. What Americans and investors alike need to note is the increasing unease with which consumers are treating the unknown. It may make short-term sense for corporations to put money behind anti-transparency campaigns, but giving the people what they want – whether it's genetically modified food, proper product labeling, or natural organic quinoa – is the ultimate way any company wins.