Proposition 37, the California initiative to label genetically modified food, was defeated Nov. 6 with a 53 percent vote against the proposed labeling law.
But just because this battle was lost, those behind the Yes on 37 campaign say the war is far from over. The group is focusing on the 4.3 million Californians who voted for the proposition, as well as the grassroots movement the campaign built, with more than 10,000 volunteers and more than $2 million raised online. All that momentum won't just go away. “There's a huge amount of energy to go forward and win this fight,” says Stacy Malkan, media director for the pro-labeling group California Right to Know.
Her sentiment is echoed on the statement the group posted on its website the morning after the election: “Yesterday, we showed that there is a food movement in the United States, and it is strong, vibrant and too powerful to stop. … We will keep fighting for consumer choice, fairness and transparency in our food system. And we will prevail.”
It's too early to say what might be next for California, but there are rumblings of a GM food labeling law in Washington state as volunteers gather signatures for Measure I-522, to be put on the ballot in 2013. There are also legislative efforts in Maine and Vermont, a petition to the Food and Drug Administration with more than 1 million signatures gathered by the group Just Label It, and many are asking whether President Obama will use his second term to make good on his 2007 campaign promise to label GM foods.
Most of all, the proposition brought genetically modified foods and products into the national spotlight. I knew embarrassingly little about GM foods before I started writing about Prop. 37, and since have had dozens of conversations with friends and others in the food community about the issue. The amount of media attention paid to the ballot measure in California, including think pieces from national food writers like Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, and Marion Nestle, ensures that the GM food conversation will continue long after the memory of Prop. 37 fades.