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Food Labeling Campaign Broadcasts First Ad, Challenges Corporate Product Safety Claims

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By Gabriela Worrel / Special to LAist

The Yes on 37 Right to Know Campaign launched its first TV ads this week. In November, Angelenos will vote on the grassroots ballot initiative Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically engineered foods and a restriction on foods that can be advertised as "natural."

Earlier this week, The Sacramento Bee reported: "The 30-second ad - which will run in select online news venues and on broadcast and cable television stations in major California media markets for 10 days - presents the history of notoriously inaccurate corporate health claims, including falsehoods from some of the very same corporations now funding the No on 37 campaign."

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The video features mid-20th century footage, which would make any conscientious citizen cringe: A doctor proudly smoking a cigarette, a woman liberally spraying DDT on her couch cushion, and a shirtless man spraying an herbicide (presumably a derivative of agent orange) from a fire hose onto an orchard. Meanwhile, an old-timey-sounding narrator ensures the safety of these products.

As history shows, the widespread use of these products was soon shown to have a negative effect on people's health and the environment—at times, fatal. The ad calls into question the trustworthiness of corporations that pushed these products decades ago. It also challenges the notion that the public trusts the companies that oppose labeling of genetically engineered foods, which they have more recently introduced into the market.

The last image conveys the main thrust of the campaign: "Yes on 37 for the Right to Know What's In Our Food." The ad also notes that it is "Supported by Consumer Advocates, Makers of Organic Products, and California Farmers. Major funding by Health Resources LLC, and the Organic Consumers Fund."

This begs the question: How will the opposition approach advertising for their position?

And just for old times' sake: