Supporters of the popular GMO labeling measure that appeared to have narrowly lost in California’s election are raising serious questions about whether every vote was accurately counted. The measure would have required many grocery store foods to disclose whether they contain genetically engineered or transgenic ingredients, such as corn designed in a laboratory to grow its own biological pesticide. Currently, food companies do not have to disclose this, although GMOs are common in processed foods. Food and chemical companies spent more than $40 million dollars opposing the measure with advertising.
While most of us watched for unofficial results late on election night in November, votes are not certified until weeks later. The State of California doesn’t officially certify its election results until December 14. In the internet age, California’s Secretary of State has been providing an ever-changing count of votes on all of California’s ballot issues, as they were reported in from various areas of the state. This public information sharing stopped December 4, around the same time that Food Democracy Now founder Dave Murphy noticed “yes” votes for Prop 37 passing the 6-million mark on the state’s website, prior to that number apparently rolling back under 6-million. Murphy and other activists, statisticians and journalists are questioning whether all of the “yes on 37” votes are being accurately counted.
When Flour Sack Mama questioned the California Secretary of State’s office about Prop 37 vote numbers being rolled back on their website, spokesperson Shannon Velayas responded, “The only reason that results would change on our website is if further information was provided by counties.” When asked why there is now a lag time between vote counting and what is released to the public, with no new vote totals promised until December 14, Velayas was firm, “The lag time is within the law.” She also referred us to a press release put out December 7 that explains in detail that counting votes can be a cumbersome process and includes this link to its accounting of unprocessed ballots from various counties.
Meanwhile, the internet is abuzz with questions about alleged “statistical anomalies” in some of California’s largest precincts. As for the online vote rollback by the Secretary of State’s office, Murphy told Flour Sack Mama, “Their response is not satisfactory.” Food Democracy Now has openly questioned whether the will of the people regarding food policy is being heard by either big agriculture or the government. Murphy said emphatically, “We’re not going to allow them to steal our food system behind closed doors in Washington, DC or in state capitols across the country. We’re not going to let them steal our votes at the ballot box.”
Disclosure: this writer has openly supported GMO-labeling as useful information for consumers to make informed decisions about their food.