Opponents of GMO Food Labeling Accused of Mislabeling Their Ads

Monday, October 22, 2012

The advertising mailer seems unmistakably clear: “The US Food and Drug Administration says a labeling policy like Prop 37 would be ‘inherently misleading’ ” and beneath the quote is the FDA logo.

It may be clear, but it’s probably not true.

Supporters of California Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically-modified foods, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice that use of the seal was illegal and the quote was fabricated. A quick search of the internet using TinEye.com turned up 2.1834 billion images of the official logo in 6.407 seconds, but independent verification of the alleged FDA quote was unsuccessful.

Joseph E. Sandler, a legal advisor to the Yes on 37 campaign who wrote the FDA, said the lack of quote verification was because, “Of course, the FDA has never taken a position on Proposition 37; it would be unlawful for the agency to do so, in the general election; and the quoted statement from FDA was made in an unrelated context more than twenty years ago.”

The letter from Sandler also took issue with the inclusion of Dr. Henry I. Miller in the official Voters Guide prepared by the California Secretary of State. Miller is listed as an author of a “Rebuttal” and identified as “Founding Director, Office of Biotechnology of the Food & Drug Administration.” Sandler argued that the listing implies Miller is a current FDA official—which would make it an illegal endorsement—when the job actually ended 15 years ago.

Miller, who is a staple in anti-Prop. 37 advertising, was in an ad that was pulled when Stanford University complained that he was being billed as a Stanford researcher. He isn’t. He is a think tank researcher for the conservative Hoover Institution, which is located on the Stanford campus.

The Sacramento Bee analyzed a radio advertisement from Prop. 37 foes and rated it “somewhat misleading.” The Bee said the ad’s claim that Prop. 37 is “a food labeling scheme written by trial lawyers to benefit trial lawyers” is false; they didn’t write it. The ad also greatly exaggerated red-tape cost estimates of the initiative by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office and relied solely on its own studies to project huge costs for consumers.

Prop. 37 opponents are outspending supporters $35.7 million to $7.7 million, and as the advertising pace quickens support for the proposition has plummeted from a 44-point lead to 8 in two weeks.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

GMO Labeling Campaign Complains to Feds about Foes (by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times)

Right to Know Letter to U.S. Department of Justice (Yes on 37 campaign)

TV Ad against Food Labeling Initiative Proposition 37 Is Pulled (by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times)

As Ad Money Pours in, Support for GMO Labeling Plummets (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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