Author Archives: Mollie

Capital Press: Rule to allow raw milk sales goes to Wyoming governor

September 19, 2012
Full Article

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A proposal to change Wyoming’s food safety rules to legalize some raw milk sales is pending before Gov. Matt Mead.

The Casper Star Tribune“>( ) reports that the proposed change would allow people to buy raw milk as long as they owned a share of the animal that produced it. Such arrangements, called herd shares, are currently prohibited

Direct sales of raw milk to the public would remain illegal.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture has been working on updates to the state’s food safety rules for more than a year.

AgWeek: Foes of modified corn find support in study

Rats fed either genetically engineered corn or the herbicide Roundup had an increased risk of developing tumors, suffering organ damage and dying prematurely, according to a new study that was immediately swept up into the furor surrounding crop biotechnology when it was released Wednesday.
By Andrew Pollack
Full Article

Rats fed either genetically engineered corn or the herbicide Roundup had an increased risk of developing tumors, suffering organ damage and dying prematurely, according to a new study that was immediately swept up into the furor surrounding crop biotechnology when it was released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by a prominent opponent of genetically engineered crops, was immediately criticized by some other scientists, who said the methods were flawed and that other research had not found similar problems.

But in California, proponents of a ballot measure that would require genetically modified foods to be labeled immediately seized on the study as support for their cause. The French government ordered a review of the findings, saying they could possibly result in the suspension of European imports of that type of corn.

The study, which is being published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, was led by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen in France. He is also a leader of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, which sponsored the research.

The study followed 200 rats for two years, essentially their entire lives, far longer than the typical 90-day feeding studies used to win regulatory approval of genetically engineered crops in some countries. While there have been some other long-term studies, none has involved as many animals or as many detailed measurements.

“The results were really alarming,” Seralini said in a telephone news conference conducted by an organization in Britain opposed to genetically modified crops.

He said that the tumors did not develop until well after 90 days, meaning they might have been missed by shorter studies.


The rats in the study were split into 10 groups, each containing 10 male and 10 female rats. Six of the groups were fed different amounts of a corn developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. In some cases the corn had been sprayed in the field with Roundup.

Three other groups were given different doses of Roundup in their drinking water, with the lowest dose corresponding to what might be found in U.S. tap water, the authors said.

The 10th group, the control, was fed nonengineered corn and plain water.

The study found that in groups that ate the engineered corn, up to 50 percent of the males and 70 percent of the females died before they would have from normal aging, compared with 30 percent of the males and 20 percent of the females in the control group.

Some 50 to 80 percent of the female rats developed tumors compared with only 30 percent of the controls. And there were several times as many cases of liver and kidney injury in the exposed rats.

Some critics pointed out that the new findings contradicted other studies. One review of long-term studies, published earlier this year, concluded that those studies did not present evidence of health hazards.

Monsanto, in a statement, said it would review the study, but that other studies had confirmed the safety of its crops.

San Francisco Chronicle: Farmer acquitted in Minn. raw milk trial

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Full Article

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota man charged with violating the state’s restrictions on raw milk sales was acquitted Thursday in what he and his supporters called a victory for consumer freedom.

Alvin Schlangen, an organic egg producer from central Minnesota, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of distributing unpasteurized milk, operating without a food handler’s license and handling adulterated food. Minnesota law prohibits raw milk sales except directly to consumers on the farm when it’s produced.

The three-man, three-woman jury deliberated for about 4 ½ hours before returning not guilty verdicts on all three counts in Hennepin County District Court.

“This is a huge victory for food freedom,” said Schlangen’s attorney, Nathan Hansen, who told the jury in closing arguments Wednesday that Schlangen did nothing illegal.

Raw milk consumers and government regulators disagree sharply on whether unpasteurized milk is a healthy food with significant benefits for their families or a dangerous product that can cause serious and potentially deadly diseases such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.

Schlangen, 54, said he was prepared for the decision to go either way “just because the system doesn’t let the jury realize they have the power to disregard a stupid law.”

The Freeport man does not produce milk but runs what the defense described as a voluntary and legal association of consumers who lease cows from Amish farmers. The defense said his role is merely as a middleman, delivering the milk to members who live mostly in the Twin Cities. He said he expects the club to keep operating for now, though members are trying to spread out the work, and he’s not sure it’s economically viable in the long term because it requires so much effort.

Schlangen said his victory gives him optimism for his next legal fight. He faces similar charges in Stearns County, where he’s due to stand trial Oct. 9.

“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction,” he said of his acquittal, “but I have a hard time understanding why this basic freedom was so hard to maintain, or bring back, because it was lost,” he said.

Raw milk supporters say pasteurization destroys important nutrients, enzymes and beneficial bacterial. They blame pasteurization for contributing to allergies, tooth decay, colic and growth problems in young children, and osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer in adults.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund says retail sales of raw milk are legal in 10 states, while farm sales are legal in 15, including Minnesota. Cow-share or herd-share programs, which have some similarities to Schlangen’s club, are allowed in some states, according to the group.

Schlangen’s passionate supporters filled the small courtroom for his trial, including a sizable contingent of mothers with young children in tow. They said Judge Robert Small commented at one point on how well-behaved the children were. One person piped up that it was because they drink raw milk.

Susie Zahratka, 34, of Lauderdale, was pleased with Schlangen’s acquittal but said it won’t make it any easier for her to buy raw milk for her children, 5-year-old Ethan and 2½-year-old Gabby, because she purchases it directly from a farmer. She said her experience is that consumers who drink it are making well-informed choices after doing a lot of research — “more informed than going to a grocery store,” she said.

Alyson Jeseritz, 30, of Inver Grove Heights, attended the trial with her sons, 4-year-old Johnathan and 6-year-old Ben. She said she’s too busy to go to a farm herself.

“It’s insane, all the rigmarole you have to go through,” said Jeseritz, who believes her sons are healthier because they drink draw milk.

Terry Flower, 62, flew in from Mancheter, N.H., where retail sales are legal. Flower said it was well worth the trip to see Schlangen acquitted.

“I am very passionate about the fact that we need to be able to choose our own food. In New Hampshire we can do that,” Flower said.

Tour de Farms Sampling & Cycling Event Another Great Success

500 People, 25 Sampling Partners, One Beautiful Day!

Bikes lined up at the first farm stop – Vermont Trade Winds Farm where cyclists sampled maple everything – maple candy, maple syrup, maple-rubbed pork, and more! (Photo courtesy of Robbie Stanley)

A lively crowd of 500 cyclists and walkers convened on the Shoreham Green this past Sunday September 16th to participate in the 2012 Tour de Farms. The 5th annual cycling and sampling event drew participants from all over Vermont, as well as the greater New England region, and from as far away as California and even London! The Tour featured twenty-five sampling partners from Addison County, including 21 farmers, 3 restaurants, and the local Co-op.

As cyclists traveled from farm to farm under beautiful blue skies, they were treated to samples of hearty minestrone soup from Eagle’s Flight Farm, apples & cider from Champlain Orchards, signature salsa from Singing Cedars, farm fresh eggs & chicken from Doolittle Farm, creamy tomato basil soup from Neshobe Farm, pate from North Branch Farm & Gardens, and so much more! In addition to the sampling, cyclists were delighted to find NOFA’s wood-fired oven pizza and Sylvan Shade Farm’s Highland grassfed beef burgers for sale at the Orwell Green.

Following their 5, 10, 25, or 30 mile route, cyclists returned to the Shoreham Green with big smiles, full bellies, and the happy exhaustion that comes with a really good bike ride. The Shoreham Apple Fest was the perfect place to unwind, swap stories, and enjoy some good music and (even more!) food.

In the hours following the Tour, cyclist Ute Talley of Hinesburg VT followed up to say “What a great day and a GREAT event!  I’m already inviting people to join us next year!”

The Tour de Farms is an annual benefit for ACORN, Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition. This year’s Tour was supported by a large crew of volunteers and generously sponsored by Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness, City Market, Healthy Living, Cabot Creamery, Green Mountain Feeds, the Lodge at Otter Creek, Vermont Sun, and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.

Save the date for next year’s Tour de Farms – Sunday, September 15th, 2013! For more info, contact Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222 or To see photos from this year’s event, visit or “like” the Tour de Farms Facebook page.

Burlington Free Press: Seed wars come to Vermont

Monsanto vice president says GMOs essential to feeding world’s population, but protesters fear impacts
Sep 20, 2012
By Dan D’Ambrosio
Full Article

The appearance in South Burlington of a Monsanto vice president to address the annual conference of the Vermont Feed Dealers and Dairy Industry associations sparked a protest Thursday morning by Rural Vermont in front of the DoubleTree Hotel on Williston Road.

Andrea Stander, executive director of Rural Vermont, said her organization is concerned about the health and environmental effects of the genetically modified seed Monsanto produces.

“We say ‘no’ to that,” Stander said. “Genetically engineered crops and seeds do not represent sustainable agriculture in our view. Rural Vermont holds very strongly that what we need is an earth-based, sustainable, locally based food system. Not giant corporations dictating what we can eat and what we can buy without knowing what we’re getting.”

James Tobin, vice president industry affairs for St. Louis-based Monsanto, was invited by the feed dealers and dairy farmers associations to talk about sustainable agriculture, an invitation he said he was happy to accept.

Tobin spoke to the Burlington Free Press after he addressed the joint conferences. A reporter for the paper was asked to leave the private meeting before Tobin talked.

The Vermont Feed Dealers and Manufacturers Association provided a printed statement about its 70th annual meeting and conference, which said in part: “We are proud of the diverse line-up of speakers that will provide insight on global, national and local trends challenges and opportunities that impact Vermont agriculture. Our organization recognizes the need to produce food needed to feed a growing global population in a manner that reduces agriculture’s carbon foot print, protects our environment and enhances water quality.”

The statement also said, “We respect the right of individuals to express their democratic right to free speech and as an organization are open to all ideas that help to provide safe, nutritious and affordable foods to an increasingly hungry world.”

In his interview with the Free Press, Tobin said one of the goals Monsanto has set for itself is to double the average yields of corn, soy, cotton and canola by 2030 to keep up with worldwide demand.

Doug Flack, a Rural Vermont board member who attended Thursday’s protest, called Monsanto a “disaster” for farmers, saying the genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, they produce are spread by pollen and by bacteria.

“So GMOs end up in the soil, they end up in our gut bacteria, they’re going to alter the whole course of the biological world,” Flack said.

Flack, who has a livestock farm on about 160 acres in Fairfield, also objects to what he sees as Monsanto’s overzealous protection of its patented seeds.

“Corn GMO genetics spread easily on the wind,” he said, meaning genetically modified plants and seeds can wind up on the land of farmers with no intent to grow them.

Tobin said he didn’t talk to anyone from Rural Vermont, but that he is “very proud” of the work Monsanto does for farmer. All of its projects concerning seeds and plants are subject to approval by federal agencies before being allowed onto the market.

Farmers do have to sign a contract for the patented seed they get from Monsanto, agreeing to use it for one commercial crop and not to save it, or use it for something else, according to Tobin. He said the protection of the intellectual property Monsanto’s seed represents — or the seed produced by any of the company’s competitors, such as DuPont and Dow — is essential to encourage continued investment in improving seed for higher yields and better resistance to disease and drought.

Andrea Stander says the assurance that government agencies are monitoring the effects of genetically modified seeds rings hollow to her.

“We’ve all become lab rats in a huge experiment without our permission and without our knowledge in many cases,” Stander said. “That’s what we see as not sustainable.”

WPTZ: GMO protestors rally against Monsanto

Seed company’s executive in town for speech on sustainability in America
By Charlie Gorra
Full Article and Video


Their message was loud and clear.



“Say no to GMOs! Say no to GMOs!”chanted Robb Kidd of Rural Vermont.

Protesters against genetically modified organisms rallied before a vice president of the Monsanto agriculture company spoke to the Vermont Feed Dealers Association on sustainability.

“Monsanto’s version of sustainable agriculture is not what we need in Vermont,” said Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont.

Those rallying against Monsanto and GMOs want more transparency in food labeling.

“Monsanto genetically modified organisms are in our food without our knowledge and therefore we are the biggest bio-tech experiment in humanity so far,” said protestor Nicole Driscoll.

Anti-GMO protestors believe any long-term effects of GMOs are unclear.

“We’re looking at this as protection, consumer health, and just environmental risks. We never know what crops will disappear because of their technology,” said Kidd.

Some local Vermont farmers echoed those fears.

“In traditional pistol roulette there’s a bullet in one chamber. This is different, there’s a bullet in every chamber,” said Doug Flack of the Flack Family Farm.

And some expressed opposition to Monsanto’s claims of knowing what’s best for sustainability.



“Not properly testing products for your long term health or environmental effects is not sustainable,” said Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm.

Monsanto’s vice president, Jim Tobin, said he respects opposing views, but maintains the use of GMOs is an important component to feeding the world.

The Vermont Feed Dealers Association issued a statement including the following:

“We respect the right of individuals to express their democratic right to free speech, and as an organization are open to all the ideas that help to provide safe, nutritious and affordable foods to an increasingly hungry world.”

Rural Vermont and Concerned Citizens Say NO to Monsanto’s Version of Sustainable Agriculture

September 19, 2012

Monsanto protesters march in solidarity through the streets of South Burlington.

South Burlington – This morning, Rural Vermont farmers and a crowd of over 40 concerned citizens gathered in front of the Doubletree Hotel in S. Burlington to protest a presentation by Jim Tobin, Vice President for National Affairs of the Monsanto Corporation titled: “A US Perspective on Sustainable Agriculture – Feed and Seed.” Mr. Tobin was speaking at the VT Feed Dealers Association Conference. The protest was musically orchestrated by Ariel Zevon and her group Doo-Occupy. The protestors were saying NO to Monsanto’s claim that its genetically engineered seeds and crops represent the future of sustainable agriculture.

Following the protest, Rural Vermont held a press conference down the street at Healthy Living Market featuring remarks by Doug Flack of Flack Family Farm in Fairfield and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg. Both Rural Vermont and Rachel Nevitt are plaintiffs in a landmark, national, class action lawsuit against Monsanto that challenges the constitutionality of their seed patents. Rural Vermont was also a leading advocate for the Vermont Right to Know GMO Labeling bill in the 2012 legislative session.

Flack criticized Monsanto’s approach to agriculture as wrong and dangerous for Vermont, the U.S. and the planet. As the alternative, Flack described Rural Vermont’s vision of “a community-based food system which is self-reliant and based on reverence for the earth. It focuses on building living soils which nurture animals and people with wholesome, natural products supporting healthy, thriving farms and communities.”

Rachel Nevitt took issue with Monsanto’s claim that its products and agricultural practices are sustainable saying, “Widespread over-use of Round-up herbicide, leading to the creation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds is not sustainable. Suing farmers for saving seed is not sustainable. Suing farmers for cross-contamination is not sustainable…Not properly testing your products for long term environmental or health effects is not sustainable.” She also said that “what is sustainable is voices of dissent against Monsanto’s untruthful and unethical business practices.”

For 27 years Rural Vermont has been a leader in advocating for economic justice for family farmers as the foundation of a healthy rural economy. Towards this end, Rural Vermont strives to counter corporate consolidation and dominance of agriculture and the food supply. If this issue is important to you, then support Rural Vermont by becoming a dues-paying member today!

Watch a video of the event here.

Read a recap of the event, written by farmer-activist Katie Spring, who joined protesters last Thursday.

09/19 Action Alert: Vermont Says No to Monsanto

Monsanto’s Vice President of Industry Affairs Talks to the VT Feed Dealers.  Join us Thursday, Sept 20 at 8:00am
South Burlington Doubletree Sidewalk
(Please park at Healthy Living, 222 Dorset Street, at 7:45am)

GMO Protest
Dear Members & Friends,

We are inviting you to join Rural Vermont at a political action outside of the South Burlington Doubletree Hotel (1117 Williston Road) this Thursday (9/20) at 8:00am as we protest the talk of Monsanto Vice-President of Industry Affairs Jim Tobin at the Vermont Feed Dealers Conference. The title of Mr. Tobin’s talk is “A US Perspective on Sustainable Agriculture-Feed and Seed.

Monsanto’s vision of sustainable of agriculture is not the vision we Vermonters have been working hard to achieve. Come join us as Vermont says NO to Monsanto.


7:45am-Park at Healthy Living – 222 Dorset St, South Burlington

8:00am Walk on the sidewalk to the Doubletree Hotel – 1117 Williston Road.

The protest will be orchestrated by Doo-Occupy (Ariel Zevon) which will include music and political theater. Please bring your attention-grabbing signs to greet Mr. Tobin and the morning commuters.

9:00am – Return to Healthy Living

9:15am – Press Conference outside of Healthy Living

The press conference will feature remarks by Rural Vermont board member Doug Flack, of Flack Family Farm in Fairfield, and Rachel Nevitt, of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg. Both Rural Vermont and Rachel Nevitt are plaintiffs in a landmark class action lawsuit against Monsanto.

We look forward to seeing you there. If you are unable to attend, please consider becoming a member of Rural Vermont to further support our work on GMOs. Thank you,

The Staff and Board at Rural Vermont

New York Times Op-Ed: G.M.O.’s: Let’s Label ’Em

September 15, 2012,
Full Article

IT’S not an exaggeration to say that almost everyone wants to see the labeling of genetically engineered materials contained in their food products. And on Nov. 6, in what’s unquestionably among the most important non-national votes this year, Californians will have the opportunity to make that happen — at least in theory — by weighing in on Proposition 37.

Prop 37’s language is clear on two points: it would require “labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.” And it would prohibit marketing “such food, or other processed food, as ‘natural.’ ” (For now, let’s ignore the vast implications of the phrase “or other processed food,” lest we become overexcited, except to say that the literal interpretation of that sentence has the processed food manufacturers’ collective hair on fire.)

Polls show Prop 37 to be overwhelmingly popular: roughly 65 percent for to 20 percent against, with 15 percent undecided. Nationally, on the broader issue of labeling, in answer to the question of whether the Food and Drug Administration should require that “foods which have been genetically engineered or containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled to indicate that,” a whopping 91 percent of voters say yes and 5 percent say no. This is as nonpartisan as an issue gets, and the polls haven’t changed much in the last couple of years.

Unsurprisingly, Big Food in general — and particularly companies like Monsanto that produce genetically engineered seeds and the ultraprofitable herbicides, pesticides and other materials that in theory make those seeds especially productive — have already thrown  tens of millions of dollars into defeating Prop 37. On the other side is a relatively underfunded coalition led by California Right to Know, which collected the necessary million-plus (yes!) signatures to get the proposition on the ballot. Although television advertising has just begun and its advocates would never say so, at the moment the bill seems assured of passage. Excellent.

This doesn’t mean labeling will begin on Nov. 7; there will be battles upon battles before implementation. But in general, as California goes, so goes the nation.

The best guess about what will happen if California requires labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.’s) — which, as far as I can tell, includes almost all processed food containing corn or soybeans, the vast majority of which are produced from genetically engineered (G.E.) seeds, as well as a number of “unprocessed” foods, like an apple that won’t turn brown when sliced and a fast-growing salmon — is that food manufacturers will instead reformulate their products using non-G.E. ingredients. (By most estimates, there’s enough non-G.E. corn and soybeans to continue producing hyperprocessed food at our current alarming rate.)

FOR manufacturers, that’s a much safer bet than labeling, which they’re inclined to resist anyway and which could have a negative effect on sales. And since it’s unlikely that they’ll reformulate foods solely for California, whose population is 12 percent of the nation’s, in a way, Prop 37 is a national vote.

If you’re Monsanto, this is a big deal.

But should the rest of us care? Definitely, but perhaps not for the most obvious reasons. If genetic engineering were to prove its advocates’ oft-stated claim that only by relying upon it can we “feed the world,” labeling would be irrelevant. No one minds that vitamin enrichments — generally seen as beneficial but not exactly “natural” — are labeled, and it hasn’t slowed their use at all.

If a decline in profitability of G.M.O.’s were to lead to a greater focus on research in all fields of agriculture, that would be a plus. One could also argue that if G.M.O.’s were to become less profitable, their producers would be more cooperative with others in the field. You cannot, for example, analyze or research genetically modified seeds without express permission from their creator. Bear in mind that Europe’s agriculture system runs nearly as, er, “well” as ours does, and without much in the way of G.M.O.’s.

G.M.O.’s, to date, have neither become a panacea — far from it — nor created Frankenfoods, though by most estimates the evidence is far more damning than it is supportive.

But that’s not the issue. Prop 37 isn’t a ban on foods containing genetically engineered material; it’s a right-to-know law. As things stand, you can find out whether your salmon is wild or farm-raised, and where it’s from, but under existing legislation you won’t be able to find out whether it contains the gene of an eel.

That has to change. We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and a right to know how it’s produced. This is true even if food containing or produced using G.M.O.’s were the greatest thing since crusty bread. (It’s worth mentioning that as a candidate, Barack Obama promised to label genetically engineered food; maybe a re-elected Obama could work on that.)

Big Food is worried that this is the thin edge of the wedge, and I hope they’re right. If we win the right to know what’s in processed food, we might be inclined to demand to know how other food is produced. (You might think of Prop 37 as the anti-ag-gag law.) If genetically engineered food is so terrific, persuade us; if it’s not, well, fine. In any case, it should be up to us to buy it or not, but first we have to know what it is.

I want to know — quite technically, in all the detail available — how my food is produced, and I’m far from alone. We’d be able to make saner choices, and those choices would greatly affect Big Food’s ability to freely use genetically manipulated materials, an almost unlimited assortment of drugs and inhumane and environmentally destructive animal-production methods.

The New York Times: Uneasy Allies in the Grocery Aisle

Organic cereals like Kashi and Cascadian Farm at a market in Berkeley, Calif. Those brands, and many like them, are owned by large food corporations.
September 13, 2012
Full Article

Giant bioengineering companies like Monsanto and DuPont are spending millions of dollars to fight a California ballot initiative aimed at requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. That surprises no one, least of all the proponents of the law, which if approved by voters would become the first of its kind in the nation.

A sign at a Whole Foods store endorses a ballot measure in California, known as Proposition 37, to put labels on genetically modified food.

But the companies behind some of the biggest organic brands in the country — Kashi, Cascadian Farm, Horizon Organic — also have joined the antilabeling effort, adding millions of dollars to defeat the initiative, known as Proposition 37.

Their opposition stands in sharp contrast to smaller, independent organic companies, which generally favor labeling products that contain genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s. And it has raised a consumer reaction on social media that has led some of the organic brands to try to distance themselves from their corporate parents.

“We want to be clear that Kashi has not made any contributions to oppose G.M.O. labeling,” the brand said in a statement issued late last month after its Facebook page was inundated with comments from consumers saying they would no longer buy its products because its corporate owner, the Kellogg Company, has put more than $600,000 into fighting the ballot initiative.

But as recently as last week, consumers were still peppering the sites of Horizon, owned by Dean Foods; the J. M. Smucker Company, which has a number of organic products, and Kashi with expressions of betrayal and disappointment. “It is unconscionable for you to be funding the effort to defeat Proposition 37,” one post said.

“Consumers aren’t always aware that their favorite organic brands are in fact owned by big multinationals, and now they’re finding out that the premium they’ve paid to buy these organic products is being spent to fight against something they believe in passionately,” said Mark Kastel, a co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog and farm policy group that has been tracking corporate contributions in the ballot fight. “They feel like they’ve been had.”

The uproar highlights the difference between large organic brands that have driven the double-digit growth of the organic market and the smaller, independent businesses and farms that most shoppers envision when they buy an organic peach or shampoo — companies like Nature’s Path, one of Kashi’s largest competitors.

Although certified organic products are prohibited by law from containing genetically engineered ingredients, organic companies generally favor the labeling law, contending that consumers have a right to know what is in the products they buy. What is left unsaid is that it may also be a marketing advantage for organic companies, distinguishing them from conventional food producers.

The parent companies, among them Kellogg, General Mills, Dean Foods, Smucker’s and Coca-Cola, declined to talk about their opposition to the labeling initiative, which is on the November ballot, referring questions to Kathy Fairbanks, the spokeswoman for the No on 37 campaign.

Last week, the organization released a study it had commissioned that estimated the initiative would add $1.2 billion in costs for California farmers and food producers. Ms. Fairbanks said that the higher costs could add as much as $350 to $400 to an average family’s grocery bill.

The European Union has required such biotech labeling since 1997, and companies by and large have formulated their products so that they do not contain any genetically engineered ingredients and thus do not need labeling. Also, David Byrne, the former European commissioner for health and consumer protection, has said that there was no impact on the cost of products.

Americans, however, are becoming much more aware of the role that food plays in their health and well-being, and consequently want much more information about what they eat, including whether it contains genetically engineered ingredients as well as salt and trans fats. So far, opponents of Proposition 37 have committed roughly $25 million to defeat it, with the largest contributions coming from Monsanto ($4.2 million) and DuPont ($4 million), which have made big investments in genetically engineered crops.

Several food companies are not far behind. PepsiCo, Nestlé, ConAgra Foods and Coca-Cola, which owns the Odwalla and Honest Tea brands, have each put more than $1 million in the fight, while General Mills, which owns organic stalwarts like Muir Glen and Cascadian Farm as well as popular upstarts like Lärabar and Food Should Taste Good, has spent more than $900,000.

“We believe labeling regulations should be set at the national level, not state by state,” General Mills said in a statement on its Web site.

Supporters of the measure thus far have mustered only $3.5 million from donors like Organic Valley, which has given $50,000, and Clif Bar and Amy’s Kitchen, which each have put in $100,000.

On Tuesday, Whole Foods, the retail mecca of the organic and natural foods movement, said it supported the California proposal, though with some reservations over the details — and without putting any money into the effort in accordance with its policy, a spokeswoman said.

Nature’s Path, an independent business, has put more than $600,000 into supporting the ballot initiative — even though it is a Canadian company. Some 70 percent of its sales and most of its production take place in the United States, said Arran Stephens, president of the company, but that is not why it is one of the biggest supporters of Proposition 37.

“We get to know what the salt content of our food is and the nutritional content, and producers have to state whether there are preservatives in it,” Mr. Stephens said. “But in the case of genetically modified organisms and whether they are in a product or not, we don’t know.”

Ronnie Cummins, founder and national director of the Organic Consumers Association, which represents some 850,000 members, said he expected the food and biotech companies that oppose the measure to spend roughly twice what they have already contributed by the time of the Nov. 6 election.

Nonetheless, Mr. Cummins said he expected it to pass. In a poll of 800 likely California voters in July by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University, 64.9 percent said they were inclined to vote in favor of Proposition 37 based on their knowledge at that time.

“The more ads they put out, the more they remind people that they’re already eating foods with G.M.O. ingredients in them,” he said.

Brand experts say the companies also risk tarnishing the very brands that they have worked so hard to keep separate from their conventional businesses, if at all possible keeping their corporate ownership to microscopic print buried somewhere on a Web site.

The Organic Trade Association supports labeling food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients even though two of its board members are from companies — Dean Foods and Smucker’s — that oppose the California ballot measure.

Christine Bushway, the association’s executive director, said the issue was fairly clear-cut for the organization, since genetically modified organisms are banned from organic foods. “Our question has always been, if companies don’t feel that G.M.O.’s are in any way an issue for consumers, what is the concern about putting them on the label?” Ms. Bushway said.

She said that as a trade association, the organization did not typically put money into campaigns.

Just Label It, an organization that has fought for genetically engineered labeling nationally since 2011, came out in support of the ballot measure on Wednesday — but it also will not put money into the fight. Gary Hirshberg, the campaign’s chairman and also chairman of Stonyfield Farm, the organic dairy brand now 85 percent owned by Groupe Danone, said his organization had already used much of its resources by the time the California initiative got under way.

“To be candid with you, I understand exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, and I’m supportive of their goal, but I don’t believe that in the long run we can solve a problem like this on a state-by-state level,” Mr. Hirshberg said. “Even if California succeeds, and we hope it does, there is still a national policy question before us.”

Others say that the reason the food and biotech companies are investing heavily to fight the ballot measure in California is because that market is so large that it would effectively cause them to adopt labeling or reformulate their products nationally. “That’s why they are fighting this so hard,” Mr. Kastel said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 15, 2012

An article on Friday about a food-labeling referendum in California that is putting some organic food brands at odds with their corporate parents misidentified the owner of the yogurt brand Stonyfield Farm. It is majority-owned by Groupe Danone, not by Dannon. (The Dannon Company is a subsidiary of Groupe Danone.)