The nonconformists behind Proposition 37

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Ballot measure campaigns attract all sorts. The most colorful group in this year’s election, though, might just be the crusaders for Proposition 37, which would require labels on genetically modified foods.

They are fighting some of the biggest food and bioengineering firms in the world. The likes of Monsanto, DuPont and Kraft have poured millions of dollars battling the measure. The opponents to the measure argue it is based on junk science and would result in endless litigation and higher food prices.


The big corporate money on the pro side? Much of it comes from one company, which is hardly big and hardly corporate. It is called Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps All-One-God Faith Inc. Based in California, of course. Where else would such a company find a home?

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These are the people who make the peppermint and other flavored liquid soaps with all the tiny text crammed onto the label. Perhaps you used it for some of the advertised 18 uses -- brushing teeth, shaving, deodorant, and so on -- on camping trips in your youth. If you squint hard enough you can read some of the inspiration the late Dr. Bronner sought to impart with all those microscopic words. Such as: “Love is like a willful bird, do you want it? It flies away! Yet, when you least expect its bliss it turns around and it’s here to stay!”

A company spokesman called the L.A. Times last week, hoping to get a reporter to include CEO David Bronner’s perspective in a story about all the money going into ballot initiatives. But when the reporter called Bronner, he wasn’t immediately available. The spokesman explained in an email: Bronner was doing his court-ordered community service.

In June, according to the Washington Post, Bronner “locked himself in a metal cage…outside the White House with a stash of hemp plants and equipment, hoping to make enough hemp oil to spread on a piece of French bread.”

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The story goes on. “Park police and Secret Service agents joined D.C. police and fire officials, who worked for a couple of hours to open the cage. Bronner had designed the trailer so it could not easily be broken into or towed away by police.”

Back in California, it seems the quirky Yes on 37 campaign was downright restrained compared to what might have been.


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-- Evan Halper in Sacramento