Eat Drink VOTE

A reminder from us: Eat Drink VOTE! Your vote can help to create a food system that is better for us and the planet. And - after the election, please remember that your purchase and consumption decisions will also encourage a food system that is better for us all.
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Tomorrow is Election Day

Do you have the right to know what is in the food that you eat? This is the question that voters in the state of Washington will decide in this election. While the connection between politics and food is obvious in this contest, all elections have implications for the food that we eat. Why? Because the food businesses know that government action affects what they pay for their ingredients, what they may put in their food, how they may label and market their food, and where their food may be distributed. In short, government influences profits which prompts businesses to distribute their political spending so as to maximize profits.

Elections with food-related initiatives on the ballot provide a stark example of how spending affects what you eat - and how it changes in response to consumer feedback. Prop. 37 in California was one of the first major GMO labeling initiatives. In the 2012 election, the opponents of the initiative included mostly out-of-state corporations such as Monsanto, DuPont, PepsiCo and a trade association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association. These entities and others spent nearly $45 million to narrowly defeat the initiative and, in the process, outspent the initiative's supporters by nearly 5 to 1.

Fast forward to Washington's GMO labeling initiative. Two things, at least, are notable about how the opponents are spending their dollars in this election. One - On a per voter basis, they are spending at a higher rate. To-date, the opponents of I-522 have spent approximately $22 million which translates to just over $5/registered voter, which essentially doubles the roughly $2.50 spent/voter in California. (As in California, opponents are outspending supporters ... by a significant margin.) Two - The Grocery Manufacturers Association has replaced Monsanto as the largest spender. Corporations are choosing to direct their spending via the Association as opposed to spending directly. Additionally, according to an article in The Olympian newspaper, many of the opponents of the California initiative are not spending to oppose the Washington initiative. The newspaper notes the reasons vary but for some entities there is growing awareness that they risk consumer backlash if they spend to oppose this type of initiative.

The tactical changes (i.e., increased spending directed through the GMA and the decision by some opponents not to spend to oppose the initiative) are two different sides to the same coin: The food movement is becoming a more formidable foe for the food companies. Without your electoral votes as well as your purchase and consumption decisions, the tactics used by the opponents to the GMO labelling initiatives would not be changing.

As Marion Nestle points out in Eat Drink Vote, your votes matter! So, tomorrow vote with your vote!
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A Reminder: Vote with Your Vote

In many states and cities next Tuesday is an election day. Eat Drink Vote reminds us that food is political because our votes affect what we eat. The food and agricultural companies know this and they invest heavily in campaigns to encourage the election of politicians who will protect their interests and profits. For consumers, the challenge is to overcome this well organized and well-funded influence in order to elect politicians who will encourage a food system that is healthier for people and the planet.

As a result of the growing awareness of the vote-food connection, more candidates are speaking about food policy. For example, in August Marion Nestle moderated a food forum for mayoral candidates in New York City. Hopefully, this type of forum will become more prevalent in elections for local, state and national political offices.

Another example of the politics of food is seen in elections related to initiatives, specifically those related to GMOs. These elections provide a crystal clear example of how food and ag comapnies organize and spend to protect their profits and interests. One of the first of GMO initiative elections was in California, Proposition 37, a 2012 initiative related to the labeling of genetically engineered food. The initiative lost - narrowly - after opponents - largely out-of-state - provided nearly $44 million for opposition advertising. The supporters were able to raise just $7.3 million so that they were outspent by more than 5 to 1. Who were the opponents? Big spenders included Monsanto, Kraft, PepsiCo - and given that it is Halloween today, it should also be noted that large candy manufacturers (Hershey, Nestle and Mars) also contributed to defeat Prop 37.

This election brings us a similar initiative and pattern. This time the initiative is I-522 and the state is Washington. The spending ratio between opponents and supporters is similar as is the influence of out-of-state money - and even more is being spent than in California on a per voter basis. More about this will follow in the next few days as more news about spending in Washington comes in.

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Food Politics and NYC Mayoral Election

Marion Nestle recently moderated a food forum for candidates for mayor in New York City. She posted about it on her blog Food Politics. This was an exciting event not just because of what it meant to the voters of New York City but because of what it indicated about the food movement. As Nestle notes in her post, "The food movement is strong enough to make candidates for office stand up, listen and take food issues seriously." The forum was the result of 88 food advocacy groups coordinating their efforts. Nestle comments that this "... proved that food coalitions can have political power." Concluding the post, Nestle states "I can’t think of a better time for food advocacy groups to join forces and work collectively toward common food system goals." Here's to that! Join the 1,000+ in the audience plus an overflow crowd! Watch Marion and the candidates here. Vote with your time: Here are groups working on diverse food-related issues.
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