SACRAMENTO -- Major bio-tech companies and manufacturers of household food products, including Campbell Soup, General Mills and Coca-Cola, have pumped almost $10 million into the campaign to defeat Proposition 37, the November statewide ballot initiative to require labels for genetically engineered crops and processed food products.
The California Secretary of State's office reported that a members of the Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme, sponsored by farmers and food producers, had contributed $9.98 million since the close of the Jan. 1-June 30 reporting period.
The large cash infusion swelled the "No on 37" group's total campaign kitty to $11.9 million.
The Yes campaign has reported receiving recent large contributions of $756,000 as of Friday in addition to an earlier $2 million during the first half of the year. The Yes campaign, with what it calls the "California Right To Know" initiative, already has spent a substantial amount of money to qualify the measure for the ballot by gathering around 1 million signatures from registered voters.
The campaign is backed mainly by organic farmers, health food retailers, makers of processed organic foods and consumer advocates.
Campaign spokeswoman Stacy Malkan said she was surprised that big agriculture and grocery manufacturers have raised so much money so quickly.
"It clearly shows they are going to start running television advertisements soon," she said. "The fact is they are nervous about being behind in the polls."
A statewide poll by Pepperdine University and the California Business Roundtable showed the Yes campaign has a commanding lead with 69.4% of respondents in support. Opponents accounted for only 21.8%, with 8.9% undecided. The Internet poll of 873 likely voters was released Aug. 2.
Kathy Fairbanks, a "No on 37" spokeswoman, declined to predict when her campaign would begin running television spots.
Farmers, food processors, biotech companies and many scientists contend that genetically modified foods derived from plants that have been altered at the cellular level are identical to non-genetically modified crops. They accuse backers of Proposition 37 of trying to scare consumers into eating more expensive organic products.
Proposition 37 advocates counter that they're not trying to ban GMO foods but only want to give consumers more information about what they are buying to eat.