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article imageOp-Ed: Ca Right to Know calls for criminal investigation of 'No on 37'

By Anne Sewell     Oct 18, 2012 in Food
Washington - In the latest in a line of misrepresentations and possible fraud, California Right to Know is calling for a criminal investigation of "No on 37" for misuse of the FDA Seal and a fabricated FDA quote, all in opposition to the labeling of GMOs.
Proposition 37 would require labeling of genetically engineered food in California. The opposition to Prop 37 is spending a whopping $35 million to discredit it. And they are doing this using misrepresentations and possibly even fraud.
Letters were sent to the US Department of Justice on Thursday by the California Right to Know "Yes on 37" campaign, requesting a criminal investigation into the "No on 37" campaign. The reason for this? "No on 37" affixed the FDA's seal to one of the campaign's mailers.
Misrepresentation of FDA on mailer.
Misrepresentation of FDA on mailer.
Screen capture
Section 506 of the US Criminal Code states: “Whoever… knowingly uses, affixes, or impresses any such fraudulently made, forged, counterfeited, mutilated, or altered seal or facsimile thereof to or upon any certificate, instrument, commission, document, or paper of any description… shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”
Gary Ruskin, campaign manager of California Right to Know Yes on 37, said, “The Justice Department should investigate this fraudulent dirty trick perpetrated by the No on 37 campaign.”
“They are running a campaign of lies, deceit and trickery, and some of it may be criminal.”
The letter sent to the US Department of Justice also gives evidence that the "No on 37" campaign falsely attributed a direct quote by the FDA in the campaign mailer. Alongside the FDA seal, text in quotes says "The US Food and Drug Administration says a labeling policy like Prop 37 would be 'inherently misleading.'
This quote is completely false and fabricated. The FDA has never made such a statement and does not take a position on Proposition 37 - in fact, it would be unlawful for the agency to do so, in the general election.
The letter, quoted below, was sent by California Right to Know to the following:
- Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General of the USDOJ Criminal Division;
- Laurel Rimon, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California;
- Vincent Tolino, Director of the Ethics and Integrity staff at the FDA.
Dear Mr. Breuer, Ms. Rimon, and Mr. Tolino:
I am writing on behalf of our client, Yes on 37 for the Right to Know If Your Food Has Been Genetically Engineered (“Yes on 37 Committee”), a California ballot committee advocating for passage of Proposition 37 in the upcoming general election. Proposition 37 would require labeling of certain foods made with genetic engineering.
It has come to the attention of the Yes on 37 Committee, first, that the California political committee formed to oppose Proposition 37, the No On 37 Committee, has paid for and disseminated a direct mail piece stating that the Food and Drug Administration “says a labeling policy like Prop. 37 would be ‘inherently misleading,’” with the name and official seal of FDA appearing under that statement. A copy of that mailing is attached.
Of course, the FDA has never taken a position on Proposition 37; it would be unlawful for the agency to do so, in the general election; and the quoted statement from FDA was made in an unrelated context more than twenty years ago. In these circumstances, it appears that use of the agency’s seal on this mail piece is clearly fraudulent and the misuse of the seal in this way is a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 506 and 1017 as well as applicable agency regulations.
Second, under California law, the California Secretary of State prepares an official guide for voters, including certain materials on ballot propositions. Those materials include arguments submitted by proponents of each proposition and arguments opposed, and rebuttals to each. These arguments must be submitted by registered California voters, who submit a form certifying that they are the authors of the argument or rebuttal.
The three identified authors of the “Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 37” include a Dr. Henry I. Miller, who is identified solely as “Founding Director, Office of Biotechnology of the Food & Drug Administration.” The Rebuttal appears on page 56 of the official Voter Information Guide, a copy of which is attached.
Dr. Miller in fact, does not currently work for the FDA in any capacity. The use of a false official federal title to make it appear that a high-ranking FDA official opposes the ballot proposition would seem to be a blatant violation of 18 U.S.C. §912, making it a federal offense to “assume or pretend to be an office or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer, thereof, and acts as such, …..”
We urge you to take steps immediately to put a stop to the misuse of the agency’s seal and official authority for these improper political purposes.
If you have any questions or need further information concerning the above, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Sincerely yours,
Joseph E. Sandler
The misrepresentation is just the latest in a stream of deceptions by the "No on 37" campaign, the top six funders of which are the world's six largest pesticide companies.
"No on 37" has repeatedly misrepresented the university affiliation of their lead scientific spokesperson, Dr. Henry I. Miller, in campaign ads, both in mailer form and on TV, totally violating the policy of Stanford University.
"No on 37" has been accused of making false statements in the official California Voter's Guide, misrepresenting the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation's largest professional association for nutritionists and dieticians, on the subject of GMO labeling.
Academy President Ethan Bergman said in a press release, “We are concerned that California voters are being misled."
"Voters need accurate information in order to make an informed choice."
Ca Right to Know
On top of all this, the "No on 37" campaign ads which are blanketing California have been described as misleading by the San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, and San Francisco Chronicle.
For more information about the California Right to Know campaign, visit
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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