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Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 12:53 am

Organic subsidiaries out parent conglomerates

One of the most important elections being held on Nov. 6 doesn’t even have a Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian or other partisan candidate on the ballot. Imagine!

Yet, this statewide contest in California will likely have a huge impact on national policy and on grassroots efforts to rein in the arrogance of corporate power that’s running roughshod over Americans. That’s why those powerful interests are going all-out to win in California, bulldozing as much as $50 million into this one election – more than they’re putting into some of the big-money battles for U.S. Senate seats.

What’s the name of this popular populist candidate who’s spooking CEOs of national corporations right out of their Guccis? Mr. Right-To-Know.

He’s on the November ballot as Proposition 37, a citizens initiative to require food conglomerates to label products containing genetically manipulated organisms. These GMOs, developed in the engineering labs of such biotech giants as Monsanto and DuPont, contain unnaturally altered DNA and are quietly slipped into hundreds of processed foods with no word to consumers about the adulteration. Also, adequate scientific studies have not been conducted on the long-term impacts these manufactured organisms could have on human health, the environment and small farmers.

So, a broad coalition of “people’s interests” came up with Prop 37 – not to ban GMOs, but simply to say that We The People have a right to know if food and biotech profiteers have added these highly questionable organisms to the products we put on our dinner tables. The people’s proposal is a straightforward, easy way to empower every consumer in the marketplace to make their own choice. And, wow, the corporate powers really hate that.

The giants fear that consumers (damn them!) will reject products containing risky GMOs, so they want to keep such contents a secret. Since the California market is huge, passage of a labeling law there would effectively become a national provision. Thus, the corporations are mounting their massive public relations campaign.

Despite that, however, a July poll shows that 65 percent of likely voters are inclined to vote “yes” on the proposal, so its national brand-name opponents fear they’ll come a cropper over Prop 37. If so, it will actually be a double cropper.

This is because, ironically, their media blitz is revealing way more about their conglomerated empires than they want people to know. Another of their carefully constructed consumer frauds is that many multinationals have quietly bought up dozens of popular organic food firms – but they’ve kept their conglomerate names off the labels hoping customers will think the organic brands are still scrappy independent businesses.

Now, the public is learning that Kashi organics, for example, is a subsidiary of Kellogg’s, which is spending a ton to defeat Prop 37. Other megabuck donors to the anti-consumer campaign include General Mills (owner of Muir Glen and Cascadian Farm organic brands), Dean Foods (owner of Horizon organic milk and Silk organic soy milk) and such giant deceivers as Campbell Soup, Bimbo Bakeries, Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Nestle, PepsiCo and J.M. Smucker.

The fun part is that the organic subsidiaries of these conglomerates support the Right-To-Know labeling law, with such organic firms as chips-maker Food Should Taste Good labeling its packages as “non-GMO” even though its owner, General Mills, has pumped a million bucks into the anti-labeling campaign. Many of the subsidiaries are aghast that their corporate parents are financing legalized consumer deception.

Nothing like a feisty family squabble to air out dirty linens and expose some ugly truths! To keep up with Mr. Right-To-Know’s California campaign, go to www.caRightToKnow.org.

Jim Hightower is national radio commentator, columnist and author.
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