The folks at Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Escondido, Calif., sent us this label Wednesday. The company said it “has created a special agitprop label for its quart-sized liquid soaps in support of GMO labeling and the Washington state voter initiative to label GMOs, Yes on I-522…”
It is the first time I have heard a consumer products company use the word “agitprop” (originally a Russian contraction of “agitation” and “propaganda”) to describe its actions.
The label, which will be on the company’s quart-sized liquid soaps all over the United States beginning in September, urges voters in Washington and money donors everywhere to support I-522, a measure on the November ballot that would require labeling of genetically modified ingredients. I-522 is promoted by the natural-foods and organics industry, of which Dr. Bronner’s is a member.
This label, which reminds me of some of the e-mails I get, is chock-full of text. In addition to the product name, the ingredients, the certifications (“100% Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic Bottle!”), etc., it argues that I-522 is of national importance. “The close loss on Prop. 37, California’s GMO initiative, has sparked a nationwide movement to label genetically engineered foods… The next battleground state is Washington, which has vital agricultural sectors and fisheries that are very concerned about GMO wheat, salmon and apples. In fact, trial plots of GMO wheat recently contaminated conventional wheat, and major export markets have stopped importing wheat from the Northwest.”
That stretches things a bit. The trial plot of GMO wheat, discovered in Oregon, did not “contaminate” any wheat shipments, as far as federal investigators have been able to discern. The farming industry is certainly concerned about the issue, and about Initiative 522, and its most prominent political organization in this state, the Washington Farm Bureau, has joined the “No on 522” campaign.
These ads are also a case of an out-of-state company trying to influence an election in Washington–to which I have no objection. Under the Citizens United ruling, which I support, companies (and unions) have the First Amendment right of freedom of speech — on TV, in newspapers, on street corners, and even on the labels of soap bottles.
The campaign begins.