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article imageOp-Ed: Inside Monsanto's tactics to avoid the labeling issue

By Anne Sewell     Jun 3, 2012 in Food
Monsanto has no end of tactics in play to avoid the labeling of its GMOs. As we can always ask, if your products are so great, why not advertise them? Now a P.R. guy is in place to fight back.
Digital Journal reported on June 1 that the American Medical Association is considering the labeling of genetically modified foods.
Even the New York Times has been reporting on the issue of labeling recently. Apparently it made front page news at the time.
Now, with the AMA set to consider the labeling of GMOs, so that doctors can more readily find the source of illness, a negative campaign is on the loose.
On Monsanto's side, we have the "Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling" (CACFLP), an anti-labeling group. Catchy name.
The name of the initiative gives the impression that they are concerned about protecting consumers' money. However, the website lists only one consumer group in its coalition - "Consumers Coalition of California". A search on the site turns up no information on this group, however, the Torrance, Calif. based coalition describes itself as “Research and oriented community education studies and info for residential and small businesses advocating on issues affecting major legislation.” There is no website for the group, and no other national or California-based consumer groups are listed on the CACFLP website.
Who is behind it all?
The P.R. guy behind this initiative is Tom Hiltachk, a partner at the Sacramento-based lobbying firm Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk. In the past, Hiltachk was involved in helping Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds in the "Californians for Smokers' Rights" group, which aimed to fight anti-smoking initiatives in the 1980's and 1990's.
He was also involved in "Californians for Fair Business Policy", which was a so-called "grassroots" organization. However, this group was merely a front to mobilize business opposition to the anti-smoking initiatives. The organization was apparently funded by an "academic" front group - the Claremont Institute, which was in turn, of course, funded by tobacco companies.
This P.R. giant also has ties to Big Oil and was involved with California's Proposition 23, a conservative-backed ballot initiative which was launched, and defeated, in 2010. This initiative, naturally supported by Big Oil, would have repealed California's clean energy and climate laws. Initially he was an ally of Ted Costa, who is a veteran right-wing activist behind many conservative initiatives, including Proposition 23 and was head of the group "People's Advocate." However say that when Costa realized what Hiltachk's main motiviation was, i.e. to funnel the $50 million he hoped to raise from oil companies and the Chamber and Commerce to himself and his friends, the relationship soured somewhat.
Impeccable credentials, you say? Yeah sure.
So now Hiltachk and friends are organizing a massive advertising and P.R. campaign to run in California, aiming to scare voters into rejecting the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.
Californians are set to vote in November on a law to require mandatory labeling of all GMO ingredients in processed foods and to also ban the routine industry practice of mislabeling foods containing GMO ingredients as "natural".
As reported by Digital Journal recently, so far, polls show that almost 90% of California's voters plan to vote "yes".
However, the opposition is planning to spend around $60 million - $100 million to change their minds. They want to make voters believe that imposed labeling would make food more expensive, that it will cause hundreds of lawsuits against small farmers and business, and that it will contribute to world hunger. All of which is completely untrue.
What is true is that the opposition is going all out with industry-funded front groups (masquerading as "grassroots" organizations) to help promote their anti-labeling campaign.
People have the absolute right to know what is in their food. It is to be hoped that Californians will see sense once this propaganda machine starts spinning its wheels.
In the meantime, you can help by signing this petition to urge Dr. Roger Brown, Director of Office of AMA House of Delegate Affairs, on behalf of the American Medical Association, to support the labeling of GMOs.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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