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Big Tobacco Shills Trying to Stop GMO Labeling in California

GMO Tabacco
 The food industry really hates it when you compare them to Big Tobacco. They try to deny the negative association by claiming that food is different from tobacco. Of course that’s true, but why are the same consultants who have worked for the tobacco industry now shilling for Big Food, opposing the ballot initiative that would require labeling of all foods containing GMO ingredients?

Hiring Secret Consultants for the Dirty Work

The latest financial filings in California for the “No on 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme” reveal a $7,500 payment to the Sacramento-based political consulting firm MB Public Affairs. Here is how The Los Angeles Times described the firm last year: “MB Public Affairs is headed by Mark Bogetich, a garrulous operative known to his friends as ‘Bogey,’ who has helped a number of Republican candidates neutralize their opponents. In recent years, MB Public Affairs has worked for Altria, once known as the Phillip Morris Cos.” Bogetich has also been called “the go-to guy for [the Republican Party]” and “the only game in town.” The Los Angeles Times article explains how last year MB Public Affairs filed more than 50 Public Records Act requests to dig up dirt on a small but effective group called the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. No wonder, given that the organization has scored such important victories as a living wage for workers, which would threaten plenty of businesses.

But which ones? Who knows, because by hiring MB Public Affairs to do its dirty work, the food industry gets to keep its nose clean — a classic Big Tobacco tactic. Well-known brands such as PepsiCo and Kraft don’t want to be associated with negative campaigning, so they farm out the job to consulting firms. In this case, they went right to the top (or the bottom). Things are likely to get ugly.

Creating Front Groups for the Dirty Work

Another tactic honed by Big Tobacco is to form a front group that appears to be made up of small businesses and others, in order to give the impression of a grassroots campaign, but which is really funded by large corporations. This tactic, known as an Astroturfing, is alive and well with “No on 37,” which describes itself as a “broad coalition of family farmers, scientists, doctors, taxpayers, small businesses, labor, food companies, biotechnology companies and grocers.”

Small farmers and small businesses? I don’t see any listed on the “Who We Are” page. I do see many not-so-small trade groups representing numerous not-so-small corporations, some of them from outside California, including CropLife America, which is a trade group for the biotech and pesticide industry.

Also, the “No on 37″ campaign is represented by the law firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, which has a sordid history of stealth tactics such as Astroturfing. And no wonder, with former Phillip Morris outside council Tom Hiltachk as the campaign’s treasurer. (His firm’s address is listed on the webpage for where to send donations; you can’t get much cozier with the “no” campaign than that.)

Hiltachk made this disingenuous statement about the GMO labeling initiative back in February: “Farmers and food producers strongly oppose this costly, ill-conceived labeling proposition.” There are those invisible farmers again.

Read more of this insightful article by Michele Simon…

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