How public relations led the GMO-labeling movement astray

How public relations led the GMO-labeling movement astray

by Jon Rappoport

November 18, 2013

(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, The Matrix Revealed, click here.)

It apparently started with polls.

The men who wanted to bankroll ballot initiatives mandating GMO labeling hired pollsters.

The question was, what message would resonate with voters?

The original pollsters (perhaps as early as 2011) tested all sorts of messages: “you have a right to know what’s in your food” was one of them.

Other messages were tougher. For example, they mentioned the effects of GMOs on health.

In every poll, the one message that came out far ahead was “you have a right to know what’s in your food.”

In 2012, the Mellman Group ran a poll for the group, Just Label It. 91% of the 1000 voters surveyed said they wanted GMO labeling, which was interpreted as “consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.”

So that became the single mantra in California and the state of Washington, and the ballot measures in both places lost.

I have questions about the Mellman survey. Obtaining 91% agreement on anything under the sun should raise doubts. Who were the voters that were polled? What questions did the pollsters ask? How did they ask them? How many of the voters actually understood what GMOs are? Most importantly, how solid was that 91% when it came time for a barrage of TV ads during a political campaign?

Polls can test people’s reactions to bland questions, but these reactions give you no clue about how they would respond if the issue were presented forcefully.

For example, you could ask people, “Are you concerned that GMO crops will affect small farmers?” Assuming these people even understand the connection between GMOs and farmers’ livelihoods is a major stretch.

So the people say, “No, I’m not motivated by that issue.”

But suppose you ran a TV ad in which a salt-of-the-earth farmer was standing on a barren piece of land, the camera zoomed in on him, and he showed his callused and worn hands to the audience and said:

“I am an American farmer. I’ve been on this land forty years. My family has been on this land every day for a hundred and fifty years. I’m a human being just like you. My relationship with Monsanto and their genetically engineered food ruined my farm, my future, and my life…”

You could make that ad (conveying the truth) knock people off their couches.

Then, if you asked those television viewers whether they thought GMO food and farmers’ livelihoods was an important issue, you’d get a completely different answer.

On an issue like GMO food, polls don’t really tell the story.

Suppose you had this TV ad: a mother and her little child stand on their lawn in front of the camera. The mother says, “See the rashes and lesions on my son’s body? Do you know where he got them? From the weed killer we sprayed out of a bottle. It’s called Roundup. It’s made by Monsanto. Do you want this for your child?”

You’ve got the beginning of a powerful and true piece of information, delivered in a way that goes beyond the impact of any poll question about chemicals and food.

Unfortunately, the men who bankrolled Prop 37 and 522 in CA and WA took the poll data at face value. They settled for “the right to know what’s in your food” and stopped there.

They thought they had a winner, the only winner.

They need to go back to the drawing board. They have to knock off those bland TV ads they ran in CA and WA and realize they have the opportunity to achieve something much greater.

They can show people the truth about Monsanto and cause the kind of outcome they’ve been hoping for.

If they have the courage for that kind of fight.

GMO labeling alone is not going to add up to a victory in the struggle against Monsanto. Some proponents of labeling admit this. They say, “But you see, we’re educating people about GMOs in the process.”

Well, do you want to really make an impact on people or do you just want to mess around? If you’re serious, forget the polls and the pollsters. Start producing TV ads that bite. Bite hard.

Use your money to detonate a real explosion in consciousness.


the matrix revealed


Here is the bottom line. The issue of food has two sides. On the one hand, you build an alternative universe in which people grow and sell and buy food that is sustaining and healthy. On the other hand, you attack the criminals who are degrading and poisoning the food supply.

One without the other doesn’t work.

TV ads must, and I mean must, attack Monsanto and the other big food-tech giants.

Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Organic, is a founding partner of the Just Label It group which commissioned the Mellman poll. Of all the leaders in the labeling movement, Hirshberg is the most overtly political.

During the 2008 presidential campaign season, his home in New Hampshire was a mandatory stop for candidates. Hirshberg’s first choice for the Democratic nomination was Tom Vilsack until he dropped out of the race. Hirshberg hosted gatherings for John Edwards and Barack Obama, and eventually decided to support Obama.

Vilsack, of course, became the Secretary of Agriculture under President Obama. Vilsack is a staunch supporter of GMO food. During his term as governor of Iowa, Vilsack was given a Governor of the Year award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Vilsack was an odd choice for Hirshberg to support for president, to say the least.

Hirshberg is the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. It’s safe to say he views revolution-by-the-consumer as an exceedingly powerful force.

I’m sure the Mellman poll confirmed his position that “right to know what’s in your food,” and GMO labeling, could tilt the marketplace against Monsanto.

It may be pretty to think so, but giving American consumers a clear choice about whether to buy GMO or non-GMO food, through labeling, isn’t, all by itself, going to push Monsanto up against the wall.

For that, an all-out attack is necessary. And it doesn’t doesn’t take a genius to pick the medium: TV ads.

The objective? To make Monsanto’s threat to health and life and liberty very real and very personal. To make that threat as imminent as it was when millions of students, in the 1960s, saw the military draft as their ticket to going to Vietnam to die.

After you’ve aired a few thousand plays of such attack ads against Monsanto, then you can do polls. Then you’ll see what people believe and think and feel in a new light.

Hirshberg serves as a co-chairman of an organization called AGree. Its objective is to “build consensus around solutions” to “critical issues facing the food and agriculture system.” As researcher Nick Brannigan has pointed out, AGree includes, among its foundation partners: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

It would be hard to find foundations more friendly to big corporate agriculture and GMOs. No doubt Hirshberg would say somebody has to walk into the lions’ den and try to change the system from the inside.

If that is his mission, it’s not surprising that he would support watered-down political ads that encourage GMO leveling, while failing to make a deeper impact on the public mind.

The labeling movement should be enlisting artists of all kinds to make ads that move people, that attack the poisoners of the food supply, that hold up to ridicule the corporate agenda of monopolizing and degrading the food of this planet.

Jon Rappoport

The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.

8 comments on “How public relations led the GMO-labeling movement astray

  1. Doubt it says:

    I agree that the fight against GMO’s has to go beyond the “right to know” argument. However, I do not believe that’s why the labeling initiative supposedly lost in Washington — or California. Does anyone really believe that votes are really counted anymore? That the poll machines are not rigged? Who owns/operates these machines? Can they be hacked? I am quite convinced that Prop 37 “won” a majority of the real votes in CA — but whoever controls the voting machines, controls the outcome. Voting has become just another charade in the United States.

  2. Debra Dawn says:

    Obviously there are disinfo agents in the anti-GMO
    group. One that I have suspected for a long time,
    (especially when I went eyeball to eyeball with him)
    is Jeffrey Smith. No one is apt to suspect him and
    he is very clever, but . . . I’m afraid my gut tells me
    he’s not as he appears.

  3. Rob O'Leary says:

    I agree Jon. John Mellencamp or another Farm Aid leader might be willing to do an ad. Martin Sheen might and there are others. I think the powers that be puppeteers and Monsanto are using delay tactics to get their crap to be all over the place and make these initiatives moot and they’re hoping to get the Trans Pacific Partnership passed (and I hope you’ll do an article on that, too). The Stonyfield head I believe is likely the one spearheading this. He looks good while at the same time doing dirty Eugenics work. We need to remind people of how we got rid of lead in paint and Asbestos out of buildings. GMO’s are running the game cigarette companies have been running. We have to shift the paradigm to banning. We’re letting vested interests set the parameters of the playing field just like they did with health care – and look what we got because we did not put single payer as a goal line option. And we let the insurance companies write the rules on top of that. It also would not hurt to start conveying that GMO’s, Chemtrails, the banks, vaccines and Big Pharma, Smart Meters, et al, are all part of the Eugenics and power consuming puzzle. We are all compiling evidence from different sources – Mike Adams just found whar appear to be Morgellon’s Syndrome Fibers in Chicken McNuggets. All we have to do is do what the great poet PeeWee Herman used to say: “Connect the dots…lalalala!

  4. Red Nation says:

    If it’s poison and toxic, the you do have the “Right To Ban”. Upcoming, the Right to Ban.

  5. Red Nation says:

    Yes and there are “Urban Guerilla” Farmers like Ron Finley in L.A.

    A libertarian farmer’s take on GMO labels (full speech)
    10Nov2013
    By Rady Ananda
    Food Freedom News

    http://foodfreedomgroup.com/20…..mo-labels/

    Note: An earlier version of this article first appeared at Activist Post. This version contains the full speech by Joel Salatin. (You may be able to watch the full debate. I can’t tell if my cookies enable me to see it since I paid for it, or if anyone can watch. Start at ~55 minutes: http://new.livestream.com/ftcldf/joevsjoel) ~ Ed.

    On Nov. 7, two real-food icons debated whether the federal government should mandate labeling of genetically modified foods: Dr Joe Mercola, who runs the world’s most popular alternative health site, and farmer and author Joel Salatin, who’s been featured in several documentaries including Food, Inc. and Fresh.

    The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and its founder, the Weston A Price Foundation, hosted the fundraiser in Atlanta, Georgia, as part of a weekend long conference. Five hundred people attended the sold-out dinner and debate, and 160 people bought tickets to watch the event online.

    Modeled after the Lincoln-Douglas debate style, Joe vs. Joel ran for 32 minutes and delivered far more than the organizers expected when tempers ran high. Highly entertaining and educational, the debate was ruled a tie by food author David Gumpert who moderated the debate in a black-and-white striped referee’s shirt. The resolution debated was worded as follows:

    “It is resolved that the federal government should mandate GMO labeling on foods.”

    Mercola took the position that labeling GMOs is vital to raising public awareness because GMOs are killing us, and the environment. The federal position that genetically modified foods are “substantially equivalent” to real food, he said, “is legalized fraud.” He sees the 20-year presence of GM foods at a critical stage that must be immediately addressed by federal involvement.

    Salatin, more energetic and emotional, opposes federal involvement in GMO labeling, and gave the libertarian take on Big Government. His 9-minute opening argument against federal involvement in food commerce was so profound, so common sensical, so radically free, that it was worth transcribing for those who missed the debate (at bottom).

    Salatin’s 7-point argument begins with rejecting government authority over our food, and ends with support for property rights as the proper solution to GMOs. His argument encourages consumers to pursue healthy foods thru self-education rather than demand entitlement from an authority that “has already shown by precedent” that bureaucrats will hold farmers hostage to arbitrary rules, or else be put out of business.

    Anyone following the federally-directed state raids on raw dairy farmers over the past several years completely understands this position. Research has shown that humans have been drinking raw animal milk and eating raw dairy for 10,000 years. It’s only in the last 100 that the US government has criminalized fresh dairy, taking a one-size-fits-all solution to ills caused by sick animals kept indoors in crowded, unclean conditions and fed grains instead of grasses, their natural choice.

    But Joel’s strongest point was against the “right-to-know”:

    “The consumer has no right to know. The founders of our great nation offered the right to pursue happiness. The right to seek is distinctly different than an entitlement. We turned pursuit into entitlement, and that cheapens inalienable rights bestowed by God, not governments….

    “I would suggest that this knowledge-entitlement idea led to prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Right to know coerces. Right to seek liberates.

    “That we the people should depend on the federal government for our knowledge on the morsels our bureaucratic caretakers dispense is profoundly un-American, disempowering, and childish.”

    Woven into that argument, he later said:

    “How do we stimulate educated consumers? By insisting on personal responsibility. If we shift that responsibility to know to the government, we simply encourage ignorance…. A label mandate dumbs us down. It creates lethargic interest rather than aggressive seekers.”

    Citing Smart Shopper guides and new technologies, Salatin added:

    “In the not too distant future, consumers will be able to run on-the-spot tests for environmental toxins, GMOs, pesticides, food safety and more with their smart phones. If we patiently wait for marketplace innovation, labeling will probably be moot.

    “To suggest that the first and most efficacious remedy for any societal ill is increased federal meddling and police power shows a profound lack of creativity and a prejudicial mindset against personal empowerment.”

    Spoken like a true independent, his argument cannot be ignored by anyone who recognizes that the federal government serves only corporate profits, routinely violating basic human rights enumerated in the Magna Carta and Bill of Rights.

    Ironically, he points out, GMO advocate Mark Lynas also calls for federal mandatory GMO labeling “as the best way for the industry to tell the story of its marvelous benefits.” I have a great deal of respect for both men, and an appreciation for both their positions.

    Stylistically, Salatin was far more charming. He knows how to hold a crowd. His argument against federal labeling won me to his position, while Mercola’s suggestion that Salatin’s position would split the true food movement hits below the belt.

    But, Salatin’s “Just Say No” to GMOs advice reveals a level of myopia only wealth can breed. “Food deserts” describe the utter lack of choice for most urbanites in crowded cities where organic simply isn’t stocked. Like a flea on the trunk of an elephant, a strictly bucolic view of the food system fails to perceive what it’s like to be an urbanite who is forced to eat the crap sold at the corner store, or at the local fast-food joint when you have only a 30-minute work break and no way to chill or secure a lunchbox.

    While 70% of all US food is genetically modified, in the inner cities, 100% of food sold is genetically altered and/or chemically saturated. Choice simply doesn’t exist for tens of millions of urbanites in the US. I travel an hour to procure raw milk. Most people don’t have that luxury. I do agree, though, that this societal ill, like most others, can and should be addressed by any means other than federal involvement.

    It might have been choreographed acting, but Salatin was surprisingly antagonistic toward Mercola, who flustered. Even more surprising, Sally Morell, director of the Weston A Price Foundation (which founded the FTCLDF) rebuffed Salatin in her comments following the debate:

    “Joel, you said if you don’t want to eat GMOs, eat organic. How do you know food is organic? It’s labeled. Is the label state or federal? It’s federal.”

    Her support of federal labeling contradicts the FTCLDF position that food commerce between consenting adults should be free of government intrusion, as articulated by attorney Pete Kennedy prior to the debate. Sally is Pete’s boss. Whose position will be promoted by these organizations when the rubber meets the road, when donation dollars are collected, when Take Action notices are sent, when client farmers face criminal charges?

    Also broadcast was FTCLDF’s presentation of the Never a Doormat Award to persecuted Wisconsin farmer, Vernon Hershberger, who was acquitted on three of four misdemeanor charges for selling fresh food directly to consumers. The jury tossed out the licensing failures but convicted on the hold-order violation. That means when state authorities sealed his food supply ordering him not to touch it, he simply cut the tape and sold, gave away and used the food according to his principles.

    Hershberger provides food for a private buying club as well as his own family of 10 children. He paid $1,500 in fines and court costs, as ordered. Even that penalty was extreme, given that his initial crime was raising natural foods for a group of private citizens. None of his product is sold on the open market, and none of it sickened anyone.

    Compare his case to Jack DeCosta’s egg operations which have sickened thousands of people and which continue to operate. The only difference is scale; government favors big business over small operations.

    Like the legal arguments used in the Hershberger trial, the GMO label issue represents an ideological debate between more government or less. More personal freedom or less. More authoritarian control over our food supply from a government that has seen to the destruction of small farms in favor of large agri-giants. More corporate domination and ecocide by criminalizing private contracts between sustainable producers and educated consumers.

    Food freedom advocates less government control and more personal choice.

    (You may be able to watch the full debate. I can’t tell if my cookies enable me to see it since I paid for it, or if anyone can watch. Start at ~55 minutes: http://new.livestream.com/ftcldf/joevsjoel)

    Joel Salatin’s 9-minute opening argument opposing federal GMO labels, Nov. 7, 2013, Atlanta, GA:
    “Should the federal government mandate GMO labeling on our food? No. I’m well aware that this position is contrary to many dear friends in the integrity food movement, Dr. Joe certainly being one of those.

    At the outset, let me make two things abundantly clear. I despise GMOs. I do not like GMOs, Sam I am. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere.

    Secondly, I categorically reject the notion that being against federal labeling makes me a friend of Monsanto. Everyone who favored [opposed?] prohibition was not in favor of alcoholism. I have seven lines of analysis.

    No. 1.

    We shouldn’t be asking for federal government authority over our food, period. A mandatory label is a marketing license. Listen carefully, a mandatory label is a marketing license. Only a higher power can license a lower power. Asking for a license concedes authority. Consider this. Do you want the government to have the authority to license your food? Really?

    The authority to license is the authority to deny access. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund promotes the idea that food commerce should be able to occur voluntarily between consenting adults, without bureaucratic intrusion. I summarily reject the notion that the government has authority over my food.

    No. 2.

    Demanding GMO labeling may be exactly what the industry wants. Just a few days ago on October 15, British environmentalist and GMO advocate Mark Lynas addressed the Center for Food Integrity summit in Chicago. He called for federal mandatory GMO labeling as the best way for the industry to tell the story of its marvelous benefits.

    Are we being duplicitous?

    No. 3.

    The consumer has no right to know. The founders of our great nation offered the right to pursue happiness. The right to seek is distinctly different than an entitlement. We turned pursuit into entitlement, and that cheapens inalienable rights bestowed by God, not governments.

    Right to know cannot be guaranteed by anyone or anything any more than a right to be educated, a right to good medical care, or the right to good food. These cannot be guaranteed as entitlements.

    I would suggest that this knowledge entitlement idea led to prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Right to know coerces. Right to seek liberates.

    That we the people should depend on the federal government for our knowledge on the morsels our bureaucratic caretakers dispense is profoundly un-American, disempowering, and childish.

    No. 4.

    Asking for federal intervention in this matter is not superior to a hodge-podge of state initiatives. Too many of us quickly arrogate to a centralized federal level every societal remedy, routinely abandoning state diversity in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach.

    Will the agencies overseeing GMO labeling be more righteous than the overseers of the national organic program? Or the Food Modernization Act? Of course not. They’ve already showed us by precedent that they’re going to hold a farmer in some sort of little itty bitty compliance hostage with a 20-day response period and embargo everything that he does. Joe says it’ll probably be the same way.

    The individual patchwork of state initiatives gradually develops the wording, protocols and oversight that work, and that’s the best way to arrive at the solution. Let innovative states jockey for the most functional system. The cream will rise to the top.

    No. 5.

    Labeling to reduce GMO consumption is a cure worse than the disease, like banning cars to eliminate drunk driving. Are you really going to put your faith in labels?

    Our farm uses completely bogus nutrition labels, some are incorrect by a factor of a thousand. The regulators don’t care about truth; they care about checked boxes and placating the peasants. Government regulated labels are a joke, and that’s the truth.

    Who’s going to decide what it is? Who’s going to decide? Yeah, you’re really going to put your faith in a bureaucracy to come up with some integrity definition of whatever.

    No. 6.

    Federal labeling is the poorest way to remediate the GMO problem. Let’s list some of the other remedies: Buy organic; just buy organic. Know your farmer. Look for non-GMO labeled products. How about using the Weston A Price Foundation Smart Shopper Guide? There’s more on the way.

    Dillon Charles, writing in the Waking Times May 27 edition, gives this prophecy: “In the not too distant future, consumers will be able to run on-the-spot tests for environmental toxins, GMOs, pesticides, food safety and more with their smart phones.” If we patiently wait for marketplace innovation, labeling will probably be moot.

    To suggest that the first and most efficacious remedy for any societal ill is increased federal meddling and police power shows a profound lack of creativity and a prejudicial mindset against personal empowerment. Nobody has to eat GMOs. Nobody is holding us hostage. The only thing hostage is our mental freedom to government nannyism.

    How do we stimulate educated consumers? By insisting on personal responsibility. If we shift that responsibility to know to the government, we simply encourage ignorance. We don’t exercise the servant muscles unless and until we have to. A label mandate dumbs us down. It creates lethargic interest rather than aggressive seekers.

    After all, if the government is watching out for us, our mental acuity can focus instead on the latest Kardashian excitement.

    No. 7

    Mandatory labeling is chasing the wrong solution. The right solution is a return to reverencing property rights. Think about the massive investment of time, money and effort expended in this labeling exercise. Now imagine if all that energy had been invested in demanding that district attorneys and state attorneys general simply enforced basic, common law property rights. Under trespass law, if my bull wanders onto your property and tramples your flowerbed, I’m liable. I’m liable! Any district attorney in the land will help you help me understand that my fist ends at your nose.

    In today’s America, however, these life forms that Monsanto owns, these alien, patented beings (let’s call them Monsanto’s bulls), these promiscuous beings run willy nilly to my farm, trampling my life, my property, committing sexual orgies in my fields and not only is Monsanto not liable for trespass but our nation is so convoluted that I must pay Monsanto for the privilege of their bulls trampling my flowers.

    Folks, where are the caretakers of our Rule of Law? Where is this outrage? You see, unfortunately, this issue can’t even raise a whimper because as a culture, we’ve drunk the Socialist Kool-Aid that private property is not worth defending, that my farm is really yours to control. My creek is yours to canoe on. My cheese is yours to regulate. My farm is yours to license. My body is yours to own.

    We have so eroded and abandoned the most fundamental virtue of Americanism that every person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that we no longer reverence personal stuff.

    And now with Obamacare, I don’t even own my own nose.

    For all these reasons, federally mandated labeling is a bad idea. Momentum and truth are on our side. Let them grow organically through freedom.”

    • GJH says:

      I like Salatin’s approach.

      The key takeaway for me on this is that if property rights were enforced, GMO would already effectively be banned, as anyone growing it would be violating the rights of neighbors by contaminating their crops with GMO, and therefore liable.

  6. humblejewishman says:

    thank you so much for exposing [this], it’s what I was saying. I would like to also point to another agenda in the works, RFID tagging all GMO food for their coming technocracy. It began already in China.

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