Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Boycotting Companies that Opposed Prop 37's GMO Labeling Initiative

To be perfectly honest, I cared more about Prop 37 passing than I cared about the outcome of the presidential election. Maybe this is because I didn't see the presidential outcome mattering all too much: Both candidates said the same thing.

Sure, Obama and I agree on social issues... but it's all lip service. I mean, until Obama actually galvanizes Congress to pass legislation regarding gay marriage, how does his expression of "supporting them" really matter? What does such rhetoric even mean? In truth, very little. El Presidente and I diverge on every important issue: the economy, healthcare, foreign policy and national security. And on those issues, he and Romney said virtually the same things. Thus, the outcome didn't mean much to me. 

Anyway, this post isn't about Obama or Romney. It's about Prop 37 in California, the initiative that would have required labeling on GMO foods if passed. Alas, it failed. It failed in part because of misleading statements, such as one's food bills rising as a result of manufacturers passing along the higher costs of implementing the labeling law. Opponents said the science behind GMO safety is perfectly sound. I could write a long, impassioned post dissecting those claims. But again, this post isn't about the validity of GMOs, or the underhanded debate tactics employed by Prop 37's opponents.

This post is really about what to do in light of its failure: I don't want a single red cent of mine to go to any companies that have GMOs in their products, nor the ones that funded Prop 37's opposition. 

Now, this is a neat resolution of mine; one that rolls off the tongue with ease. But I had absolutely no idea how hard it would be to implement. Sure, some products are incredibly easy to write off: General Mills donated $1.13 million in opposition of Prop 37? Why, no Cheerios ever again--no problem! Where it gets difficult, however, is that General Mills also makes a number of reasonably healthy products I do consume. Like Lara Bars. Several products like these end up in the crossfire. Silk soymilk is another casualty of my resolution (and I should add that I go through a carton and a half a week back home).  

When I do a 5-minute Google search on my favorite products, I'm stunned at how many require serious reconsidering. For instance, I was thrilled that the Wonderful pistachio brand gave no money to Prop 37. Oh, but the company is owned by billionaires who also have one of the largest pesticide manufacturing companies, Suterra. I don't even want to know about Lindt's labor laws in Africa, where it probably sources most of its chocolate.  

Then there's the problem of doing the family shopping and realizing how many products come from Prop 37 opponent donor companies. Quaker Oats, Minute Maid fruit juice, Nescafe gold instant coffee, Nature Valley granola bars, Lay's baked potato chips... suffice it to say, if it's from the US and exported to India, it's very likely from a large, multinational chain that contributed funds to opposing Prop 37. 

But yet I'll keep trying. I got as far as Hershey in terms of listing out each individual product before I wanted to crawl in a fetal position and never step foot into an Amma Nana or Nilgiris ever again. The asterisks indicate that the company sells products in India.

Here’s a list with names and figures reported by

--Monsanto, biotech: $8.1 million
--DuPont, agriculture and biotech: $4.9 million
--Pepsico, seller of soft drinks and snack foods*: $2.14 million
+Companies and products under Pepsi include FritoLay, Gatorade, Tropicana, 7UP, Doritos, Lipton Tea, Cheetos, Ruffles, Aquafina, Tostitos, Sierra Mist, Fritos, Walkers potato chips, Sun Chips, Cracker Jacks, Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima, partnership with Starbucks for Frappuccino distribution
--BASF Plant Science: $1.98 million
--Bayer CropScience: $2 million
--Dow Agrosciences: $2 million
--Syngenta Corporation: $2 million
--Kraft Foods*: $1.64 million
+Companies and products under Kraft include: Capri Sun, Jell-O, Kraft cheese, Velveeta, Maxwell House coffee, Philadelphia cream cheese, Oscar Mayer deli meats, Teddy Grahams, Planters nuts, Oreos, Cadburry products, Macaroni and Cheese, A1 steak sauce, Kool-Aid; Nabisco products including Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Nilla Wafers, Ritz crackers, Snack Wells, Handi-Snacks, Chips Ahoy cookies, Belvita, Easy Cheese, Fig Newtons, Honey Maid, Nutter Butter, Wheatsworth, Mallomar, 100 calorie packs; Crystal Light drink enhancers; Miracle Whip; Vegemite; Tang; Taco Bell grocery items; Tombstone frozen pizza
--Coca Cola*: $1.46 million
+Companies and products under Coca Cola include: Coke, Fanta, Minute Maid, Nestea, Powerade, Fruitopia, Dasani water, Fuze, Vitamin Water, Odwalla
--Nestle*: $1.31 million
+Companies and products under Nestle include: Baby food including Cerelac, Gerber, Nestum, Graduates; bottled water including Pure Life, Perrier, Poland Spring and San Pellegrino; cereals including Cini Minis, Cookie Crisp, Estrelitas, Fitness, Nesquik; chocolate including Aero, Butterfinger, Cailler, Crunch, Kit Kat, Orion; coffee including the Nescafe line; Cold and canned foods including Biuitoni, Di Giorno, Herta, Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine, Maggi noodles, Chef, Chef Mate, Sjora, Stouffer’s; Dairy including Carnation, CoffeeMate, LaLaitiere, Nido; Drinks including Juicy Juice, Milo, Nesquik, Nestea; Weight drinks and food including Boost, Nutren Jr., Peptamen, Resource, Power Bar; Ice cream brands including Dreyer’s, Extreme, Haagen-Dasz, Movenpick, Nestle ice cream; Petcare including Alpo, the entire Purina line, Beneful, Chef Michael’s canine creation; Anything Jenny Craig, as the line is owned by Nestle
--ConAgra*: $1.17 million
+ConAgra’s products and companies include: Banquet frozen foods, Chef Boyardee canned foods, David Seeds, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice canned and powdered soups, Hebrew National meats, Hunt’s canned tomatos, Kid Cuisine frozen food, Marie Callender’s frozen food, Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn, Pam oil spray, ReddiWhip, Slim Jim meats, Snack Pop pudding, Wesson vegetable oil, Act II popcorn, Alexia chips and crisps, Blue Bonnet margarine, Crunch N Munch snackfoods, Dennison’s canned chili/beans, Fiddle Faddle snacks, Fleischmann’s oil and margarine, Gulden’s mustard, Jiffy Pop popcorn, La Choy Asian food line, Libby’s canned meats, Manwich canned meat, Parkay margarine, Penrose snack meat, Peter Pan peanut butter, Poppycock nuts and popcorn, Ranch Style canned beans, Ro*Tel canned tomato and chili, Rosarita canned beans and salsa, Swiss Miss hot chocolate, Van Camp’s canned beans, Wolf Brand Chili, Lamb Weston potatos and fries, SpiceTec flavorings and seasoning, Angela Mia Italian product line, Award Cuisine line
--General Mills*: $1.13 million
+Products include: Baking products such as Betty Crocker, Biquick, Gold Medal flower, Jus-Rol, Knack and Back, La Saltena, Pillsbury, Yoki; Cereals including their generic brand, Cascadian Farm, Cheerios, Chex, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fiber One, Kix, Lucky Charms, Monsters, Total, Trix, Wheaties; Frozen fruit from Cascadian Farm organics; Good Earth meal kits and tea line; Meal line from Green Giant, Hamburger Helper, Macaroni Grill, Old El Paso, V. Pearl, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki; Organic natural products such as Lara Bar (so sad!!), Muir Glen, and Food should Taste Good; Pasta products including Frescarina, Latina, Wanchai Ferry; Snacks including Bugles, Chex, Fiber One, Gardetto’s, Fruit by the Foot, Nature Valley granola bars; Soup line including Progresso; Yogurt including Yoplait, Liberte, and Mountain High  
--Kellogg*: $790,700
+Products include: Cereal brands including All Bran, Krave, Crunchy Nut, Fiber Plus, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Frosted Mini Wheats, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, Special K; Toaster pastries including Pop Tarts; Warm breakfasts including Eggo; Bars including Fiber Plus, Nutri-Grain, Special K; Crackers including All Bran, Special K; Kellogg’s fruit snack line
--Smithfield Foods: $683,900
+Products include meat brands such as Smithfield, Eckrich, Farmland, Armour, Cook’s, Guraltney, John Morrell, Kretschmar, Curley, Carando, Margherita, Healthy Ones
--Del Monte Foods*: $674,100
Products include: Canned vegetables including beans, corn, peas, potatos, spinach, asparagus, mixed vegetables, specialties, leaf spinach; canned/processed fruit including fruit bowls, fruit cup snacks, jarred fruit, fruit chiller frozen treats; canned tomato sauces and condiments;
--Hershey Company*: $518,900
Products include: Chocolate, syrups, baking powder, milk and milkshakes (all products prominently display Hershey’s names), Twizzlers. Subsidiaries include Mauna Loa macadamia nut company, Scharffen Berger, Reese’s, M&Ms
--HJ Heinz*: $500,000
--JM Smucker*: $485,500
--Mars Inc*: $398,107
--OceanSpray Cranberries*: $387,100
--Hormel Foods: $374,300
--Unilever*: $372,100
--BumbleBee Foods: $368,500
--Sara Lee Corp*: $343,600
--Dean Foods Co, seller of Silk Soymilk*: 253,950
--McCormick and Co, seller of spices: $248,200
--Abbott Nutrition: $234,500
--Welch Foods: $167,000
--Sunny Delight, seller of soft drinks: $134,496
--WM Wrigley, Jr*: $116,866

Here's a flowchart of several companies and their products that supported the initiative's opposition as well: Johnson and Johnson did not (since, well, they don't exactly sell food), but the others did. 

Staggering how few choices we really have, no?



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