Proposition 105, the GMO Labelling Initiative, will be on your Colorado ballot in November 2014. Proposition 105 is not a ban on GMO products – it asks voters if foods modified or treated with genetically modified materials should be labeled “Produced With Genetic Engineering” starting July 1, 2016. To view the official ballet language visit www.righttoknowcolorado.org.
As part of the initiative review process, a Citizens Initiative Review panel was selected, and began meeting in September 2014. The intent of the CIR process is to produce a nonpartisan "voter guide" with pro and con statements about a given ballot initiative.
Then, Monsanto sent in a camera crew and legal representatives to film citizen participants, possibly to gain material for their own anti-Prop 105 advertising. Here's the story as told on the Natural Grocers blog.
The rules were simple, written and agreed upon in advance: no video, still or voice recording of the event. That's not so hard to understand, is it?
The occasion was the first Citizen Initiative Review pilot project held at the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs in Denver, on September 7, 2014. Twenty Colorado citizens, carefully selected to represent the full range of Colorado voters, were invited to Denver from across the state to take a close look at Proposition 105, the Colorado Right to Know Act initiative.
Over four full days, the citizen panel would research, present and discuss the issue in great depth. They were charged with identifying key issues for Colorado voters, determining the validity of the evidence, and presenting a list of statements supporting and opposing the ballot measure.
Hence the idea that open and honest dialog would be encouraged by the rule against recording.
All went well until Monsanto showed up on Day Two. Without prior notice, Monsanto lobbyists and operatives set up video cameras at the back of the room and refused to budge when asked to leave. They had brought with them one of the top constitutional attorneys in the state, a fierce silent man in a stern gray suit with matching steely glare. "If you try to stop us from filming the citizen panel, we will sue you," barked the company flacks to the executive director of HealthyDemocracy.org. The room fell quiet.
Was Monsanto really openly breaking the rules, bullying their host, and threatening to sue a nonprofit because it wants to break its promise to follow the rules?
Remember, the participating citizens had been promised a private event. The nonprofit had rented the meeting space from the University of Colorado, and thus HealthyDemocracy.org was legally allowed to set whatever rules it wanted for its event. Except that CU had provided free coffee and lemonade, which, according to Monsanto, changed the event from a private one to public one, and thus Monsanto, like any schoolyard bully, said it was now in charge of the rules.
Damn the constitution and hang it from
a tree of technicalities in a knot of lawsuits.
Monsanto is above the law.
What Monsanto wanted, apparently, was to use the footage in future political TV ads and mailers. This was certainly not what the participants had signed up for, but Monsanto's rules prevailed. Day two proceeded with Monsanto's camera's rolling. Can you imagine seeing your voice and image used on TV to support or attack and ad, when you did not give permission? Too bad, citizens. That's how the law reads, because Monsanto dearly protects its political free speech while silencing that speech of others. Don't like it? So sue me.
Day three, however, did not turn out so well for Monsanto. Under duress, HealthyDemocracy.org lawyered up with its own attorney, David Fine, from the powerful law firm of McKenna and Long in Denver. And then advocates for proposition 105, who had been invited to help educate the citizen panel, called Monsanto's bluff.
The Prop 105 advocates would walk out of the event unless Monsanto was forced to follow the rules. Mr. Fine attended to Monsanto's surrender. Tails between their legs, the photographers packed their bags and left the building.
One small victory for democracy in the face of corporate arrogance.
More Monsanto strategy: A year ago, during the early stages of signature gathering for Prop 105, Monsanto claimed that if anything were labelled for GMO content, then everything must be labelled – nothing less than 100% would do. Once it began to look as though Prop 105 would make the ballot, Monsanto suddenly backed away from this uncompromising stance.
More anti-GMO news: If successful, Colorado will join Oregon, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut in requiring GMO foods to be labelled as such. California anti-GMO activists tried to enact one, but it was defeated after heavy industry lobbying. Kansas (of course) passed a law banning GMO labelling, and allowing "natural" to be used when labelling GMO foods.
Per Josh Lindenstein in Bizwest: Look for even more battling ads on Prop 105 this election season, as both sides are investing heavily to sway voters for or against Proposition 105.