Vote No on Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Food

This is the eighth part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

A Badly Written Proposition…

On its most basic level, Proposition 37 has a fairly simple concept. It requires labels on genetically engineered food and prevents genetically engineered food or processed food from being advertised as “natural.”

Unfortunately, in the real world things are rarely that simple. The Sacramento Bee gives a number of examples. Should we include pet food? What about alcohol? What about an animal which ate genetically engineered food but isn’t genetically modified itself? Olive oil is processed; you press olives to make olive oil. Does that mean that olive oil can’t be labeled as “natural?”

Proposition 37’s backers did not attempt to pass the law through the legislature before writing their proposition. In the legislature these complex issues might have been dealt with adequately; after all, that is the legislature’s job. Instead, Proposition 37 attempts to address the complexity of labeling genetically engineered food by adding a number of exemptions.

These exemptions make matters worse. Pet food, under Proposition 37, could be labeled as genetically engineered. Alcohol would not. But fruit juice could. Cow’s milk would probably not be labeled as genetically engineered, even if the cow ate genetically engineered grain, under Proposition 37’s exemptions. But soy milk would probably be labeled as genetically engineered, since almost all soy in the United States is genetically engineered. Genetically engineered broccoli in a restaurant would not need to be labeled, but in a grocery store it would need to be labeled.

And yes, it’s quite possible that olive oil could not be labeled “natural” under Proposition 37. After all, olive oil is obviously processed.

On a Subject For Which There’s A Better Solution

There’s a better way to do things. Producers can, on their own initiative, label their foods as non-genetically engineered.

The same purpose that Proposition 37 attempts to accomplish would then be served. Consumers worried about eating genetically engineered food could decide to only buy food labeled as non-genetically engineered. No need for all of Proposition 37’s messy exemptions. As the Los Angeles Times writes:

…the marketplace already provides ways to inform consumers about their food. Just as some meats are labeled antibiotic-free or hormone-free, and some eggs are labeled cage-free, food producers are welcome to label their foods as GE-free.

That sounds a lot easier and simpler than Proposition 37’s craziness.

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19 Responses to Vote No on Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Food

  1. John Kusic says:

    People should decide health and safety is paramount, labelling shouldn’t increase the cost for us. It should be their

  2. Holly says:

    I think one reason labeling is important is because of food allergies. Foods altered using peanut or wheat genes can make those products dangerous to people with severe food allergies. Don’t scoff unless you are celiac and can say you aren’t worried. Vegans would want to know if their food has been modified with an animal-product gene. Let’s err on the side of caution for a change. And truthfully, sometimes those genetically modified products look better but aren’t – like that luscious-looking red tomato that has very little actual taste…

  3. j says:

    Why are the meat and dairy industries exempted by Prop37 while their competition – soy milk, rice milk, Quorn, all of the veggie burgers and artificial meat products – are not exempted? This is a scam on the part of the factory farming industry to decrease consumer use of these competitive products by forcing the GM labels on them. If 37 passes more animals will live squalid and tortured lives on farms under conditions that would be illegal for domestic pets. Read Eating Animals.

    • Boris says:

      That’s just plain stupid… This may be only a start and things can be added later but I DO want to know what I am eating, just like in most other countries in the world. These company funding “no on 37” (Monsanto, pepsico etc…) are already adding this label for all their export. Why is this that big of a deal to add it in their own country? Just because they don’t want people to know they are screwing them!

  4. Betsy Cornell says:

    Why shouldn’t pet food be labeled? Do you feel that pets don’t deserve the same quality of food that humans do?
    And alcohol. It doesn’t have an ingredients label…THUS IT CANNOT BE LABELED!! Prop 37 is simply adding GMOs to the label. It isn’t adding a label to products without one.
    I feel it is perfectly reasonable to label fruit juice, I would like to know why you don’t.
    And for cow’s milk. If they eat genetically modified grain, it is still in their system, is it not?
    Since Monsanto refuses to conduct safety tests on their own genetically modified products, some private studies have been done on rodents. It was found that genetically modified soy not only had adverse affects on the rats and mice who consumed it directly, but also on their descendants. Monsanto found out about this, so they restricted independent research on their genetically engineered crops.
    Comforting, isn’t it?
    Monsanto and Dow — the companies who produce GMO’s — they also produced DDT and Agent Orange. They told us these products were perfectly fine for our health. And so they sprayed it on our children.
    30 years later….whooops its toxic.
    61 other countries already label — none of them have seen an increase in food price.

    When it comes down to it, I just do not think a person should be denied the right to know what is in their food.

    I would love to know why you do.
    Please reply?

  5. ladybuginca says:

    As long as the gov acquires more debt the inverse declining value of the dollar will drive food proces up like they have already. More debt higher food prices.
    I think companies like Monsanto and companies that buy their chemically altered food ate scared.Scared to have people informed what they are putting in their bodies and their children. Their currently being sued for poisoning poor people in the 50s
    If they increase their prices they would shoot thselves in the foot. People would buy better quality foods natural free range foods more if the GMO s went up and you could pay the same for better quality. Consumers have the last word. More and more people are learning the negative effects of GMO including lower sperm counts in males. Population is a issue what a better way to control it by poisoning the food you eat.

  6. John Smith says:

    Can anyone give a good reason why it is better to hide whats in food from the people who buy it? In America, we used to have this idea called FREEDOM. Freedom to buy one product over another. The best way to eliminate this freedom is to cut people off from the information they need to exercise their choice.
    This si a referendum on whether Monsanto has the right to feed you stuff that you dont want to eat. They rightly fear the real referendum – the one that takes place in grocery stores every day. Given a choice between genetically modified food and normal food, I will choice normal food every time, unless perhaps the price of the genetically modified food is less. They always tell us that GM food is better because its more productive leading to cheaper food – the same is implicit in the scare stories that this will increase the price of food; but let the market sort that out. Let the consumers decide whether they want cheap and abundant genetically modified food or normal food.
    What I rather suspect is that GM food is the same price as non-GM food. And if there really are no benefits to GM food in terms of price, then why are we eating it?
    Let the free – AND INFORMED – market decide.
    Freedom demands transparency. Transparency demands labeling.

  7. Jose says:

    we need to know what is in our foods not only for animal but for people. YES on 37

  8. Sea Palm says:

    Failing to mention that 61 other countries now require labeling of genetically modified food is a rather large oversight in a story about Prop 37 giving this story not even the appearance of journalistic integrity, research or fair reporting. All those other countries have government agencies and credible scientists and they all concluded that transgenic foods (GMO’s) should be labeled, typically citing human health and environemental risks as findings. The European Union initially tried to ban growing and importing GMO’s as well, but the USA threatened to sue under WTO restraint of trade rules, so labeling them was only a fallback position for the EU.

    Also, I don’t think everyone is ready to buy into the idea that some of the bigget global players in the agrochemical, biotech and food sectors are coming to CA with a warchest of +$35 million as a public service to save consumers from increasing food cost, greedy lawyers and exceptions. That isn’t even remotely plausible. Monsanto owns patents on GMO seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. Since there is no consumer demand for GMO foods, they have only been able substitute ever increasing percentages of lower cost, and riskier quality, GMO’s in the USA by keeping them invisible with no labeling. Consumer would not normally pay the same price for trangenic food as conventional, but due to a lack of labeling, we are. The only way to create a human food market for these biotech DNA cocktails is to keep them hidden, and lack of labeling has the added benefit of being more profitable as well since GMO’s cost less on global commodity markets but in the USA they sell for the same price, and the higher the percentage of lower cost substitutes in our processed food the more the food processors make on the spread. The lack of labeling is an artificial price support for GMO food and also reduces liability by making problems harder to trace.

    • inoljt says:

      If there’s really such a good case for Proposition 37, then its proponents should try to pass it through the legislature. They didn’t even bother to try before trying to slam it through with a proposition.

      And it’s not as if it’s impossible to get past the legislature. California’s legislature is fairly liberal, and this measure is a fairly liberal initiative. Labeling GMOs could very well pass the legislature and become law.

      But for God’s sake, at least try to get it into law the normal way before slamming it through with a proposition. Unless it’s a crisis, I’m not going to vote for a proposition that you didn’t even bother to send through the legislature.

      • keelala says:

        I think taking it directly to the voters was a smart move. If all else fails, at least this proposition will have shed a little light on the GMO issue for the average consumer.

        This is one I feel pretty strongly about. I equate it to the Prop 65 warning label they put on cheap ceramics. They may contain lead, they may not. Food may contain GMOs, and they may not. Lead is harmful, GMOs have not been proven to be, but might be. The point is, having a label for GMO food can help people (like me) make intelligent decisions about which items they want to purchase. It doesn’t cost the food companies anything to print a little label on the box, it won’t make food prices go up (actually, it will probably make GMO food prices go down), and the only harm it does is to Monsanto (and maybe the farmers who CHOSE to buy their patented seeds). Yes on 37.

      • inoljt says:

        Well…it will probably make food prices go up. Food companies will try to make food without GMO because consumers won’t buy food with GMOs, and that will make the cost of food go up.

        Besides, if you want to make intelligent decisions about what items you want to purchase you can go buy organically labeled food. Pretty sure they’re no GMOs in those.

      • John Smith says:

        What an odd post. Back room deals by sleazy money-grubbing Sacramento politicians is a more open and transparent expression of democracy than a referndum of the people?

      • Larue says:

        The problems with your argues on this one and Prop 31 regarding pass it thru the legislature is simple, and you ignore it.

        NONE of these things that are good for we the people will ever make it to the legislature.

        The legislature is only going to enact and pass legislation that benefits their sponsors, namely corporations.

        Simple, end of story.

        It’s all bought and paid for, hence, the whole proposition thang to begin with.

        You would have we the people give up and let the paid fellas do the dirty work for the overlords.

        Uh uh, not me brothuh. Not in a million lifetimes.

        Nice try tho.

  9. Ty says:

    Who cares about the exceptions, this is a good first step. The Monsanto people are poring millions into defeating this, and with lobbying efforts stronger than ever this will NEVER become legislation, it’s up to the people to push back against GMOs!!

    • inoljt says:

      Yeah, who cares about the details of these laws!

      • John Smith says:

        The question is whether the law moves in the right direction or the wrong direction; no law is perfect. Current law says that you can shovel GM food into people without their knowing about it. I think thats a bad law designed only to fatten the wallets of corporations who buy off the Sacramento politicians who you want to make the choice. I think a better law is to give consumers the information about whats in their food.
        Labeling transfats eliminated them from our diet. No, the price of chips didnt double.
        Give people the power to choose.
        And if this law isnt perfect, it can be amended later to continue the good direction.

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