Vote YES on Prop 37

D. R. Hildebrand writes this week about one of the most crucial votes that Californians have been faced with. One that we won’t be able to watch politicians debate on television. When it comes to labeling genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, most of us are in the dark – and that’s intentional. I urge everyone in California to vote YES on Prop. 37. That YES means you are in favor of truth, clarity, and the ability to make your own decision concerning what you put in your body.

Editor, Joshua Katcher

Vote Yes on Proposition 37

by D. R. Hildebrand

Well beneath the hundreds of billions of dollars in endless presidential campaigning this election there is an equally decisive battle underway in California, which has the potential to reshape one of our most basic and prevalent industries: food.  As the eighth largest economy in the world and a chronic trend-setter for the U.S. as a whole, California’s upcoming vote on Proposition 37 asks whether or not GMOs—genetically modified organisms—should be labeled on food packages.  Ever since the initiative earned a place on the November 6th ballot, a select group of companies have been doing everything in their power to assure that Californians vote against such a plan: essentially, that they vote in favor of their own ignorance.

A genetically modified organism is any organism that has had its genetic composition adjusted by either adding to or subtracting from its original, innate DNA.  GMOs are used in anything from medical research to agriculture, with their purpose in the latter being to speed growth, increase resistance to pathogens, enhance nutrients, or any other supposed benefit.  The first food that was genetically modified and sold commercially was a delayed-ripening tomato, in 1994.  As Michael Pollan points out in a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, “Big Food” and the corporations that engineer GMOs—Monsanto, DuPont, BASF—do not trust consumers to buy their products if and when they are labeled accordingly.

This distrust is evident.  Big Food has spent $35 million in television ads attempting to persuade Californians to vote against a measure the majority support.  The Organic Consumer Association lists dozens of contributors to this campaign with Monsanto ($7 million), DuPont ($3 million), Bayer ($2 million), and Dow ($2 million) leading the charge.  Companies that own “organic” brands are fighting the labeling initiative as well.  As of August, they include:

  • •Coca-Cola, owner of Odwalla and Honest Tea, has given $1,164,400 to defeat Prop 37
  • •ConAgra, owner of Hunt’s Organic, Alexia Food, and Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, has given $1,076,700
  • •Dean Foods, owner of Silk, White Wave, and Horizon, has given $253,000
  • •General Mills, owner of Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen, has given $520,000
  • •Grocery Manufacturers Association has given $375,000
  • •Kellogg’s, owner of Kashi, Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, and Morningstar Farms, has given $632,000
  • •PepsiCo, owner of Naked Juice and Tostito’s Organic, has given $1,716,300
  • •Smucker Co., owner of R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic, has given $388,000

Vanity Fair, in 2008, published the investigation “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear,” which exposes the company’s brutal intimidation of farmers and the nonstop legal actions it takes against them.  It also details Monsanto’s history of environmental disasters, contributions to chemical warfare, manufacturing of carcinogens and artificial hormones, ties to the government (its attorneys and board members have served on the F.D.A., the E.P.A., and the Supreme Court), hypocrisies, lies, and recent revision of its image as a selfless, worldwide agricultural savior with no other agenda but to feed the starving.  Its website is as kind and earthy as they come.


Neither Monsanto’s, nor any other company’s, tampering with nature has ever been proven safe.  The F.D.A. performs no independent testing of GMOs and the biotech firms prevent researchers from conducting their own tests, claiming a legal right to “protect” their patented technologies.  Meanwhile, more than 75% of processed foods in the United States contain unlabeled GMOs, including most corn and soy, much of which is fed to animals raised for human consumption, and sugar beets, which are placed in sweeteners and additives.

The right to know if one’s food has been genetically altered is as fundamental as free speech and the pursuit of happiness.  Yet nineteen states have tried, and failed, to create GMO labeling laws.  If Californians vote yes next month on Prop 37, the sheer weight of the state’s economy has led food manufacturers to agree—and dread—that it might as well be a national law.

Written by D. R. Hildebrand

David, who models under his middle name, Raphael, is represented by New York Models. His first book, Walking Marina, is an exposé of the male modeling industry, and is a commentary on beauty. David’s websiteFollow David on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Stef

    It always comes down to money! Companies like Monsanto create GMO Foods because they want the use of patents. Patents are rights to an INVENTION. By inventing crops that have NO nutritional value but are highly resistant, they have monopolized the farming industry! We are left with a poisoned food supply, deficient land, and toxic bodies. What does it say about the effects of GMOs when they are BANNED from being served in these same companies’ cafeterias? Vote Yes on 37 but also research the foods you eat and the companies you support through your purchases. Eat organic, Eat local.

  • Vegan Chicago


    Thanks for your concerns about GMO. A few years ago Vegan Chicago had Dr. Kevin Folta speak to our group about the subject and it was quite enlightening. The recording of that event can be found here:
    Vegan Chicago Podcasts

    Here are a few other vegans who benefitted from our efforts to inform vegans on GMO:

    Vegans Who Support GMO’s (Say What?) | Native Foods Blog

    Schooled! | Bizarro Blog!

  • Dylan

    I like the blog but I think ‘The right to know if one’s food has been genetically altered is as fundamental as free speech and the pursuit of happiness.’ is some lazy writing. I feel the “right to know” is a manipulative way to avoid the issue of what producers are obligated to tell their customers.

    • D. R. Hildebrand

      So your health is not as fundamental to you as your right to free speech? Who’s manipulating whom?

  • Emily

    Great article!

  • Rosemarie

    Great article with important information that must be shared with all Americans!

  • troy

    There are a lot of unsubstantiated claims in here, and the article seems to fall prey to a lot of fear mongering about GM. I’m not saying there are not real issues, but I will listen to the scientists on this one.

    Adam Merberg has a more pragmatic view of the issues here:

    Some other reading that is helpful:
    (in fact many good articles at

    • D. R. Hildebrand

      Troy, thank you for your comments, though it seems the only thing that’s
      unsubstantiated in this debate is the safety of genetic engineering.
      Food modification has existed commercially for less than twenty years.
      Exactly how–by what mode of science–are we to know its long-term
      effects on our bodies?

      The debate, however, isn’t even about
      science. No one is asking for research. We’re asking for labels. All
      this proposition seeks is transparency. No one “should assume,” as one
      of the author’s you sited suggests, that their food has been modified
      unless stated otherwise. What other nature-opposing realities should I
      also assume?

      Regarding your suggested reading, the first article
      is teeming with inaccuracies, the second was written by a man who is
      part of the GMO industry, and the third links to a blank page…

    • Ran

      I find the Merberg article totally speculative and unconvincing. His analogy to the right to bear arms makes no sense–the maintained right to NOT bear arms is like the right to choose to eat GMO food even if they are labeled as such, and Prop 37 would not affect that. And people aren’t just going to buy tons of meat and no vegetables all of a sudden because labels are in place.