National brand-name conglomerates are in a bind over California's Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act, a measure known as Proposition 37. Actually, it's a double bind.
First, these gigantic food companies are frantically scrambling to defeat this citizens initiative, which would establish a state right-to-know labeling requirement on any food made with genetically engineered ingredients.
Fearing that its consumers will reject products containing the newfangled stuff, Big Food wants to keep such contents a secret. Since the California market is huge, the state's adoption of a labeling law would have national ramifications. The $35 million corporate PR campaign against Prop. 37 should come as no surprise.
But many consumers did get a surprise. This media blitz accidentally revealed who actually runs those eco-friendly brands that green-minded consumers prefer. Many multinational companies have quietly bought up dozens of popular organic food firms in recent years without putting their names on the labels. That way, customers could easily be duped into thinking the organic brands are still scrappy independent businesses.
Now, though, the public is learning that those whole-grain Kashi cereals and crackers are made by a subsidiary of Kellogg, which is spending a ton to defeat Prop. 37. And that General Mills owns Muir Glen, a top producer of canned organic tomatoes. And Dean Foods, a huge "conventional" dairy company, owns Horizon organic milk.
General Mills and Dean Foods are joined in this spending spree to restrict consumer choice by such giant deceivers as Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Hershey, Hormel, NestlÃ©, Ocean Spray, PepsiCo, Campbell's Soup, and Sara Lee.
Perhaps the oddest wrinkle in this twisted plot is that some of these Big Food organic subsidiaries already tell consumers on their labels that they their make their products without any genetically modified ingredients.
To keep up with California's campaign for clearer food labeling, visit www.caRightToKnow.org.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker.