We have watched with great interest two soda tax ballot measures in California cities that New York Times columnist and resident food snob Mark Bittman hoped would lead to the end of beverage freedom. We’ve also examined a ballot proposal to label biotech-containing food, financially backed by such characters as Joseph Mercola and a “magic soap” company, that Bittman’s fellow foodie Michael Pollan thought would be a political genesis for his so-called “food movement.” Today we awoke to see Californians’ beverage freedom lives on and the “food movement” still isn’t labeling biotech food, or doing much moving.
Voters in El Monte and Richmond, California were asked to approve a Kelly Brownell-style one-cent per ounce tax on sugary sodas. Not only did they defeat the taxes, they defeated them overwhelmingly. In El Monte, where one newspaper editor was confident enough to consider what sodas should be served at the opponents’ victory party a week in advance of the vote, the tax fell by a margin of about three to one.
Activists held out greater hope in Richmond, but food freedom prevailed there as well. A fawning interview of an activist city councilman by Bittman was not enough to convince voters to support the tax. It went down by a margin of two to one.
Michael Pollan hoped that passing Proposition 37 would “change the politics of food not just in California but nationally too.” Now that the votes are tallied, we hope he’s right. California may have a history of adopting poorly designed ballot measures that lead to unintended consequences, but unnecessary biotech food labeling won’t be part of it. Based on last night’s returns, Prop 37 failed. Perhaps the politics of food will now be guided by forward-looking science rather than sentimentalism or a Luddite view.
So common sense prevailed against foodie activism. Let’s hope that other jurisdictions give power to the people and not unelected bureaucrats. As for Pollan and Bittman, they can drown their sorrows in some over-priced organic chardonnay.