Labeling campaigner dies

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On Friday the 3rd of July, GE labeling campaigner Craig Winters died. He was fighting an ongoing cancer battle, with multiple back surgeries and other treatments to boot.

Winters was involved in political efforts to label genetically engineered crops for many years, which never succeeded. His most recent effort was during the 2008 Presidential campaign. He organized efforts to seek campaign promises to label GE foods from the major candidates, asking people to send in written requests with a standard, printed form for them to sign and send to Winters. After a while, his site announced that all of the democratic candidates supported labeling.

I learned about this seven months ago when Jeffrey Smith claimed that President Obama had promised to label GE foods. After some investigation, it turns out that he did not make that promise at all. You can read about the whole miscommunication here.

During my investigation, I actually called up Craig Winters on the phone to talk to him about it. He seemed somewhat optimistic about convincing Obama’s presidency of his position, but he had not read about Obama’s statements in support of the technology, either. Winters was certainly very busy with other matters – when I called him he had just gotten out of surgery the previous day.

Winters not only started The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, he also organized a nonprofit organization to accept donations to support anti-GE efforts. The organization he directed was called The Coordinating Council (Archive), and for years it was the vehicle through which people gave money to Jeffrey Smith’s organization. (I use the term organization lightly here.) It now appears that Smith has set up an alternate vehicle for accepting donations, but this page (Archive) of his still links (Archive) to the Coordinating Council site.

The page that replaces TheCampaign.org’s site sends people to Smith’s site, so my hunch is that he will be the inheritor of their campaign effort.

I can certainly vouch from having spoken with him for 15-20 minutes, that Craig Winters was a jovial and enthusiastic fellow, who seemed to have a genuine interest in making the world a better place. Whether the labeling effort would have actually done that is questionable. However, he told me about a solar power bill he was working on that he had yet to release. I gave him some words of encouragement on that idea, and hopefully someone else will continue that worthy effort now that he has passed away.

Note: TheCampaign.org has been completely wiped over the weekend, previous links to its pages will not work anymore. You can access archived pages of the site through the Wayback machine, up to February 2008, and I have downloaded google caches of relevant documents for archival purposes and fixed the broken links in my Obama post.

Update: August 25, 2009: It appears that several pages I have linked to have been modified since this post was written. This includes The Coordinating Council site, Jeffrey Smith’s TCC donation page, and the seeds of deception page that links to it. I have included the relevant archival links so people can see them before the changes.

I wonder, will I need to include web archive links in the first place, as these things tend to go down the Memory Hole a la William Dembski? Did these changes take place on their own schedule, or does Smith read this blog?

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:
Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.