Wednesday, November 6, 2013
A Lesson from Washington’s GMO Labeling Initiative | Latest News | Earth Island Journal | Earth Island Institute:
To put this all in the plainest terms: In order to win the long-term fight for GMO labeling, activists will have to find a way to divide Big Ag and Big Food, and convince the food processors and marketers that their interests are not served by waging these costly fights against their own customers.
The long-running campaigns targeting Big Oil and Big Auto can be instructive here. A decade ago, the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, and others were waging a corporate campaign against the automakers in an effort to get them to make dramatic increases in the fuel economy of cars and trucks. For decades the automakers had successfully fought off government-mandated increases in fuel economy. Yet the automakers had no real interest in selling inefficient cars; after all, they were in the personal transportation business, not the oil business. The environmentalist campaigners hoped to convince the auto companies of this fact, and to peel away Big Auto’s historic resistance to fuel economy increases.
Eventually the internal logic of the campaign manifested itself (though it probably had more to do with the financial meltdown and government bailout of GM and Chrysler than with any grassroots activism). Last year, the Obama administration put in place strict new fuel economy rules: by 2025 the US auto fleet will have to average 54.5 miles per gallon. Significantly, all of the major auto companies endorsed the proposal. Big Auto finally recognized that its interests weren’t the same as Big Oil’s.
The analogy might be imperfect, but there are some important similarities to the food and agriculture realm. Just as oil fuels cars, commodity crops fuel processed and packaged foods. And just as Big Auto isn’t selling gasoline (but rather transportation), Big Food isn’t selling GMOs (but rather taste). On the GMO issue at least, Big Food doesn’t need what Big Ag is offering.
The Detroit automakers fought stricter fuel standards for years because they feared the switch to more fuel economic models would be inconvenient and hard; but in the end it was just a matter of delaying the inevitable. Today, Big Food is making what could be a similar mistake – fighting its own customers to forestall what it fears would be an inconvenient and perhaps costly switch back to non-GMO crops. If the GMO labeling forces can keep picking fights, eventually the food processors and marketers will realize that defending the likes of Monsanto and DuPont is even more costly and inconvenient.
Posted by JOlmsted at 10:35 AM