Minnesota’s sizable food and agriculture industry can rest easier this week after California voters rejected a controversial referendum that would have required labels on genetically modified foods.
The food industry’s victory came after pouring tens of millions of dollars into advertisements — primarily on TV — against the mandate. Labeling opponents raised about $46 million, or five times as much money as pro-labeling forces.
“Forty-six million buys an awful lot of confusion and misunderstanding,” said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based organic industry watchdog. “There was a very well-funded misinformation campaign.”
But Reid MacDonald, CEO of Faribault Foods Inc., said that while lots of money was, indeed, spent on advertising, it provided consumers with correct information on labeling’s drawbacks.
“The advertising was quite well done,” MacDonald said. “Food companies are very good at advertising, and that’s what happened here.”
Faribault Foods, known for its Kuner’s beans and Butter Kernel vegetables, was one of five Minnesota companies that contributed to the anti-labeling initiative.
General Mills Inc. was the largest Minnesota contributor, giving $1.23 million, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan research outfit. Hormel Foods Corp. was next at $467,900, then Cargill Inc. at $238,888, Land O’Lakes Inc. at $153,300 and Faribault Foods at $76,000.
St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. was the biggest financial force against Proposition 37, contributing about $8 million, MapLight said.