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Photo Credit: Peter Blanchard, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Those that know me well know that I am not a person who easily riles. I am contemplative and quiet most of the time. But, when I think an injustice has been committed, my blood boils. Monsanto, the biotech company, produces this effect in me time and time again.

There are so many reasons to despise Monsanto, and the latest campaign against Proposition 37, coupled with an article I encountered in the San Francisco Gate has once again reaffirmed for me that this corporation is willing to lie and bully to increase its bottom line.

Monsanto, the largest contributor to the No on 37 campaign, has a well documented history of bullying farmers, and it appears it is now moving onto doing the same with consumers. As stated on their website, the No on 37 campaign claims that:

Prop 37 forces farmers and food companies to implement costly new labeling, packaging, distribution, record keeping and other bureaucratic operations that will cost billions of dollars to implement. Or, companies will be forced to switch to higher-priced, non-GE ingredients, like organics, in order to sell food in California. Economic studies show this would increase food costs for the average family by hundreds of dollars per year – a hidden food tax that would especially hurt seniors and low-income families who can least afford it.

This claim has already been largely debunked. Leaders in Japan and European countries have publicly stated that labeling in their countries has not increased food prices. The No on 37 campaign released a study that concluded that labeling could increase a household’s food cost by as much as hundreds of dollars a year. However, as detailed in this article, the No campaign’s study was based on a defeated Oregon initiative, and explains that in all likelihood there will be no cost increase with labeling. The new study states that in the worst case scenario household’s would see an annual increase of $1.27.

All this business about labeling increasing the cost of food was an expected argument, and while I take issue with that, the deception becomes more apparent in the last line of that argument. The No on 37 campaign characterizes the increase in food cost due to labeling as a “hidden tax.” This is where it gets especially problematic.

Fed Government/Monsanto Overlap – Monsanto Overlap: Stephanie Herman, Geke.us

At the same time that this claim is being made, a USDA Advisory panel is convening to consider compensation for organic farmers whose crops have been contaminated with bioengineered material. The San Francisco Gate article states:

The draft report acknowledged the difficulty of preventing such material [GMOs] from accidentally entering the food supply and concerns that the purity of traditional seeds may be threatened.

The two sides at odds with each other are, of course, are organic farmers and the biotech industry. The article goes on to state that the biotech companies believe that the organic farmers should assume the burden of contaminated crops:

The biotech industry, which includes Monsanto, DuPont and other seed companies, argued that contamination is minimal. Organic growers, they said, get a premium for their crops and should “assume the economic risks associated” with certifying that their crops meet organic standards.

The biotech industry would like the organic farmers to accept the compensation from the government for contamination. The money used by the government to pay those organic farmers comes from none other than tax payers. Now, if that isn’t a hidden tax, then I don’t know what is. So, while Monsanto, by way of the No on 37 campaign, argues that labeling would create a “hidden food tax,” it is actively pursuing another kind of hidden food tax (on organic products) by asking tax payers to compensate organic farmers whose crops have been contaminated by their genetically altered material.

I am betting that California’s Proposition 37 will pass and hope that it brings more awareness of genetically modified foods and the doings of Monsanto and company.

Update: After writing this original draft of this post, the above mentioned advisory panel reached a “rough” consensus that:

refused to hold biotechnology companies that make genetically engineered seeds, including Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, responsible for contamination.

Instead, the panel will vote by Nov. 8 on a recommendation to use taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance to encourage farmers to corral the genes and compensate organic farmers whose crops are contaminated by drifting pollen, accidental mixing or other gene “leaks.”

Click here for the full San Francisco Gate article. The San Francisco Gate seems to be the only media outlet covering this story.

Click here to learn more about Proposition 37, California’s labeling initiative.