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California GMO Labeling Law Named Prop. 37

California’s Office of the Secretary of State announced on Monday that the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, also known as the GMO labeling initiative, will appear on voter ballots as Proposition 37 for the November 6 elections.

If passed, Prop. 37 would make California the first state in the U.S. to require labeling of most foods made with genetically modified organisms — those given specific changes to their DNA through genetic engineering techniques.

Polls conducted by various organizations in recent years have found that roughly 90 percent of Californians support labeling for genetically engineered (GE) foods. But regardless of the polls, leaders of California’s GE labeling movement are still preparing for a fight on the road to election day.

“We certainly have huge support, but we’re not taking anything for granted. There’s a big effort to fight it and we’re worried about the money that will be put toward that effort,” California Right to Know campaign spokeswoman Stacy Malkan told Food Safety News.

GE labeling is already law in nearly 50 countries, including China, Japan and each European state. Alaska requires labeling of GE fish and shellfish, making it the only U.S. state with any type of GE labeling law.

Earlier this year, three-quarters of U.S. Senators rejected a federal GE labeling bill. Nearly 20 states have had similar bills turned down in congress in the past year.

Most major food corporations oppose GE labeling, citing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirement that GE ingredients be labeled if they’re determined to exhibit a difference in nutritional value or level of safety.

Malkan said the Right to Know campaign does not hope to ban or eliminate GE foods from the market, but operates on the belief that consumers should simply be able to know whether their food was genetically engineered.

“People want to know what’s in their food and the information shouldn’t be kept from consumers,” she said. “We get to know all the nutritional facts, allergy information, where it comes from, but we can’t know if it’s genetically engineered?”

The Right to Know campaign collected nearly 1 million signatures for the initiative, virtually doubling California’s 550,000-signature requirement. Malkin attributed the level of response to an army of volunteer petitioners.

Others who oppose GE labeling say that consumers want to avoid GE foods out of fear of the unknown, despite the proven benefits such as increased crop yields and better resistance to pests. The Grocery Manufacturers Association calls GE labels unnecessary and potentially confusing to consumers who might perceive the label as an indication of a risk.

The next four months, Malkan said, will pit consumers against corporations in a public relations slugfest. And if the measure passes, it could affect food labeling well beyond California: Supporters predict food makers will want to avoid making separate labels for California and simply choose to change their labels for the entire U.S.

© Food Safety News
  • Nathan

    So sad, a true tragedy- akin to the Church denying the world is round. Of course it’s going to pass, and its so easy to blame big companies (but for what-trying to feed the world?). And yes, it is going to throw a wet blanket over the whole biotech industry- that is the point. But ultimately it is the poor and disenfranchised who will experience the brunt of the food inflation once the biotech tool is taken away. Not all of us can afford to shop at Whole Foods!

  • Otis

    OK, so everything will get labeled with statements of the obvious and no one will care. Modern technology will continue to advance and continue to improve our lives. A few Luddites will breath easier knowing these ridiculous labels are in place, somehow giving them peace of mind and reaffirming their god-given right to go on knowing nothing and believing anything. What a silly wasteful effort by a silly wasteful cult of technophobes.

  • Peter

    Sorry for the long reply but there is plenty of scientific evidence to counter your argument. Perhaps the most significant and relevant scientific research to date on the future role of plant biotechnology in global agriculture was entitled the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (or IAASTD), a major UN/World Bank-sponsored report compiled by over 400 independent scientists and endorsed by 58 countries. This hugely ambitious project was set up in 2003 by the world’s major agriculture and development institutions to gather the best global science on agriculture, in recognition that agriculture is at the center of the looming crises of climate change, population growth, fossil fuel and natural resource depletion. One key area the IAASTD considered was the potential role of modern biotechnology. As the IAASTD co-chair, Dr. Hans R. Herren, stated at the time, “Biotechnology is without doubt a hot issue that is shrouded in layers of statements about its potential to solve the food production and nutrition issues in the future and also on how it will protect the environment and create new wealth along the way.”
    After completing its research in 2008, the IAASTD reported back in the form of multi-chapter reports of peer-reviewed science, specifically designed for global decision makers. While IAASTD did not reject modern biotechnology outright as a potential source of some solutions to the challenges we face in terms of climate change, finite natural resources, feeding a growing population, and so on, Jack A. Heinemann – one of the report authors – comments that the IAASTD “found that the inherent ability of this [GM] technology, or as it is applied under current intellectual property frameworks with an emphasis on agriculture innovation being driven by private wealth creation, was unexceptional at best and possibly counter-productive at worst.” Jack A. Heinemann was a professor of genetics and molecular biology at University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He wrote a book entitled “Hope Not Hype” about the IAASTD’s findings on biotechnology. You can download his book for free at http://bit.ly/gYFK8o. It’s well worth a read. Heinmann explains the IAASTD found:
    • No evidence of a general, sustained or reliable increase in yield from GM crops over the last 12 years since the first commercial release. Heinemann states that “there is no convincing evidence that the major transgenic crops have been superior to conventional crops for raising yields or achieving other sustainability goals such as poverty or hunger reduction with less impact on the environment.” [p 91]
    • No evidence of a sustained reduction in costs to farmers adopting GM crops, nor a sustained and reliable increase in farmer profits. Heinemann states that: “Coupled with higher upfront costs for GM seeds, amongst other production and market risks, reliable returns from genetic engineering are not certain.” [p 59].
    • No evidence of a sustainable reduction in pesticide use. In fact, close to 99% of GM crops are engineered to be herbicide- and/or insect-tolerant. The IAASTD found there has been a dramatic increase in the use of some herbicides: as Heinemann states, “The amount of glyphosate usage in the US has increased 15-fold since 1994.” [p 73].
    • The way that pesticides are used on GM crops is undermining the conventional farmer’s weed control options with the increasing emergence of herbicide resistant weeds – and the creation of new herbicide-tolerant weeds through gene flow from GM crops to related weeds. [We all know this is happening across the U.S. farmland today]
    • The presence of GM in food creates unique consumer choice and legal issues. As Heinemann says, “Whether or not someone knowingly grows a GMO such as a GM crop, they could become exposed to legal actions, suffer market rejections or be the subject of recalls causing loss of earnings.” [p 48].
    • No evidence that genetic engineering has been effective at delivering the crops and animals needed by the majority of the world’s farmers, or at prices they can afford. “While there is much talk of other traits, including drought and salt tolerance and nutritional enhancement, there are few or no commercial examples,” states Heinemann. [p 63].
    • The rush to patent plant genes as the intellectual property of a few mega-corporations is consolidating the seed industry and threatens long-term plant agrobiodiversity and biodiversity. The IAASTD are concerned that: “In developing countries especially, instruments such as patents may drive up costs, restrict experimentation by the individual farmer or public researcher while also potentially undermining local practices that enhance food security and economic stability.” [p 102]
    • New GMOs must be subject to uniform safety and ecological assessments of higher standard, transparency and independence than has benefited existing GM crops. Heinemann states that: “Not all GMOs in the human food chain may have benefited from a safety evaluation or been deemed to be safe as food.” [p 39].
    But perhaps the most important finding from the IAASTD is that there is substantial scientific evidence – and now scientific consensus – that agroecological methods of farming could contribute to feeding the world in a sustainable way. Indeed, the IAASTD found that organic and agroecological farming methods are already outpacing conventional/industrial agriculture in the very places that are most in need of a new path to food security – for example, Africa. This is despite the fact that that agroecological farming has not even remotely benefited from the vast levels of research funding which underpins the global modern biotechnology industry today. “Hope Note Hype” is a fascinating read.

  • Peltdown Man

    Nice article-length recitation of canned technophobe talking points, pete. So brilliantly nuanced with professionally polished paranoia. Shall we title it “Hysterics Not Genetics”?
    Well, you have convinced me of the utter uselessness of agronomic research, to say nothing of the dreadful dangers you bring to light. Obviously we should never have permitted biological progress beyond the hunter-gatherer stage of human development — or should we more correctly say the zenith of human development! Yup, that’s where we went wrong. All that treacherous genetic selection of improved food crops over the millennium, transforming weeds and wildlife to rice, to maize, to soybeans and beyond, all that was for naught. Some of it failed to work out in early attempts, in it’s day all of it was new, different, terribly scary…and oh so, so hideously unnatural. It must not continue!!
    Let us all acknowledge it simply is impossible to improve on the perfect natural state wherein naked humans feast upon grubs and random weeds plucked effortlessly from the surrounding biome. How soon, do you suppose, before we can restore that wonderfully natural primitive correctness for myself and a privileged few of my choosing? What is the most ecologically conscious means of disposing of the balance of the 6 billion surplus people who are cluttering up my planet? Do you think those food labels will be enough of a hint that we require those vulgar beings voluntarily to gracefully and permanently disappear? Will labels alone pack enough punch?

  • Nathan

    We live in a market based economy. Big seed companies are very successful because GE technology works and the vast majority of American farmers choose them. We have been producing and consuming GE products for 20 years, although not 100% safe- nothing is. Including organic farming (see also article on filthy farmers markets- which wouldn’t happen in a large corporation)

  • t darby

    California once led the nation in agricultural innovation, pioneering a modern progressive industry that put affordable fruits and vegetables on the dinner tables of every socioeconomic class of American family. Californians now fawn over Europe and ape European affectations. A more fundamental comparison to all things continental does not escape us — California will soon enough be America’s Greece; bankrupt and demanding a bailout. Let them eat cake…stuck all over with plenty of pointless labels, of course.

  • T. Greenwood

    Sorry, California GMO Label Folks, the US Senate just passed legislation earlier today making it unlawful for states to require GMO labeling. The House will bless it and forward it on to the President for his signature in the next few days. Another loss for the Organic Food Industry Lobby. They just keep striking out, time after time after time.

  • Rose

    Peter – Thank you thank you thank you for stating the scientific facts. I read tons about GMOs; certain health conditions prompted my research several years ago and everything you state is what the biotechnology industry doesn’t want people to know. I don’t shop at Whole Foods; I shop at Trader Joe’s where the food is less expensive and better quality than my supermarket. We continue to alter our natural world to the detriment of our health. Our bodies were designed to utilize natural food, not altered “food” filled with chemicals.

  • Jo

    Pretty amazing that the Trolls roll out against CHOICE — when they are Free to choose against their Big Bugaboo Label — Organic….

  • Jon

    Nathan — Market based economies rely on real transparency, safety monitoring and true consumer choice –all completely thwarted by the Biotech Industry when it got Carte Blanche from Government oversight in the early 1990s. As for farmers’ choice — Monsanto and other biotech corporations have bought up all the major seed companies — removing tried and true regional varieties from the market and pushing more and more expensive stacked traits that promise but don’t deliver — resulting in GE herbicide resistant weeds and insects, requiring more toxic chemical controls.

  • http://www.truthinlabeling.org Adrienne Samuels

    What’s wrong with identifying GMO’s? If GMO’s aren’t harmful, why are they being hidden?

  • Marty

    Interesting how many pro GMO commenters are on here. Is Monsanto now paying a bunch of astroturfers? Putting a stamp of “Luddite” or “technophobe” on GMO labeling supporters is a distinct pattern. It is obvious that nothing scares Monsanto more than California Prop 37. Good. http://organicconnectmag.com/wp/the-gmo-labeling-revolution/

  • http://glengoschfitness.com Glen

    I don’t see why there is opposition to this other than if people have a monetary interest in biotech farming. People should have a right to know what food they are eating and if it is made with GMO’s, and Proposition 37 would allow that. Science that proves there is an effect on the human body from consuming biotech food should not be ignored, and as for saying that biotech companies are good for the food supply for keeping costs down, what about the farmers that are forced to pay their patent fees that can barely survive? Saying that biotech companies are good for Americans in keeping costs down is like saying producers of trans fat oils are good because they make a shelf-stable fat that keeps food cost down – never mind the health effects.

  • Matt

    Marty:
    It’s not that Monsanto is paying the “astroturfers”, it’s that they fund where these “astroturfers” get their thoughts (verbatim) from: Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, etc…

  • Jason

    Understand this: Monsanto is spending millions to marketing companies who pay teenagers to sit in from of their computers and write pro-GMO comments. I live in California and practically everyone I talk to wants GMO labeling. Many of these people are farmers.

  • http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/07/california-gmo-labeling-law-named-prop-37-for-november-ballots/ Cole

    Reader beware,
    The majority of Pro-GMO commenters are paid by the industry to distract and divide by using ad hominem. Don’t take anything you read as gospel. Be smarter, do your own research, think for yourself. Kudos to those that already do!

  • Mark

    This proposition will pass because this is so vitally necessary. We have a right to know if the food is genetically engineered or not. This is a serious matter with serious health implications when we are eating gentically engineered foods. This will also make food producers of food sold in grocery stores unable to use the word natural. There are so many food companies using the word natural when their food products are not all natural. As for the vast majority of companies that are producing Genetically Engineered Foods this will inspire them to not use the genetically engineered ingredients. Here are some examples of major foods with Genetically modifed ingredients in them. Double Stuff Oreos, Ruffles Potato Chips, Trix Cereal, Wish Bone Ranch Salad Dressing, Wonder Bread, and many many others. This will inspire the major food companies to stop using Genetically modified ingredients. It is a major victory for the health of everyone in California. Don’t Take my word for it get a copy of books about genetically engineered food. Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith, Changing The Nature of Nature, and Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith. These companies are able to produce the products without genetically engineered ingredients just ask Europe where they still produce these food products and all Genetically modified ingredients are banned.

  • http://www.rosebudmag.com/truth-squad/california-gmo-labeling-initiative Anthony Brown

    Great News!!!!!!!!! California people are outraged that they don’t have same right that over 40% of the world’s population has. While digging for this, I found an article that is more informative – http://www.rosebudmag.com/truth-squad/california-gmo-labeling-initiative

  • adam De La Montanya

    @Nathan i know its hard to believe but people have been eating non gmo food long before gmo was around Luther Burbank invented types of food to feed the masses, but when you have corn now that has enzymes that eat insect stomachs and then when given to rats it kills them we have a issues. or when monsanto puts seed farmers and viggie farms out of work because they made an overly agrissive strain of corn, soy thats not good dude by any means

  • Marcie Plummer

    No one is trying to stop an industry or deny starving people food choices. Labeling is for the purpose of allowing people to be fully informed about what they are ingesting and making a
    choice to purchase GMOs or not. Plain and simple. Keeping people ignorant is never the right option.

  • Seth Cooper

    Why is no one concerned that GE crops said to save the world from hunger, when it’s a fact that we’re wasting at least 1/3 of our food. If you’re concerned about feeding the world you need to focus on access and availability. Which translates into local and regional farm systems. Not GE crops. And this is without the argument that the majority of our land is devoted to GE corn that is used to make fuel. How does that feed the world?

  • Raymond

    I simply want to pass on lab created food. Prop 37 will keep me on my target. Others who want Frankenfood can eat up. Enough said.

  • http://www.YourHealthyDietIsKillingYou.com/recommends/healthsaver Barry Ferguson

    There is so much information regarding how bad GMO’s are for humans. If you would do your research you would know what is being done to our food. Corn, soy and many other foods have the gene from the weedkiller, Round Up, spliced into their own genes. Everytime you eat these foods made with GMO you are ingesting these chemicals. Animals will not eat this food on their own. When they are forced many have died, grow tumors, have cancer as well as becoming to bear offspring. It has been shown that GMO’s do not increase the overall yield of food. These foods are being forced on us because they make Monsanto a lot of money. When are we going to have the right to choose what we want to eat? Isn’t that our right? Or are we going to allow the FDA, our own government and the biotech industry to control us? We have been lied to, decieved and coerced into eating unhealthy food just to put money into someone else’s pocket. This is not abouty the rich vs. the poor. This is about the right of the individual to make his own choice and be told the truth. So Sorry if the truth hurts but someone has got to say it.

  • Nick

    The more the market knows about a product, the more accurate price discovery is. Does it really matter? Probably not, but the same could be said for Kosher products. If the market wants information about a product, the suppliers shouldn’t withhold that information because it looks like they have something to hide.

  • https://twitter.com/Sonny_Resist Sonny

    There is no reason to believe that GMOs are a step in the right direction for food security. Many GMO crops have already had disastrous effects on food supplies, including unforeseen (known-unknown) diseases that exclusively targeted GMO crops. The usurpation of plant diversity, seeds and crops has simply been put under the guise of food security and a (2nd) “Green Revolution” by poorly regulated transnational companies such as Monsanto.

  • Matt

    I would like to just say that GMO corn does not have bug eating enzymes or toxins. It is modified to produce a natural protein, that other plants we eat have, that worms can’t digest therefore plugging up their stomach so they can’t feed on the plant anymore. There is nothing harmful to humans unless you are the size of a worm. Humans process the protein like any other. Yes there are plenty of studies that show that the protein is present in humans. Duh we ate it. But what they don’t tell you is that it has no effect on the human system. We consume many plants that have that protein naturally. Monsanto just figured identified what was in those plants that gave them resistance and modified the DNA chain in corn to peoduce the same resistance. Ignorance is a terrible thing. Please educate yourselves before posting

  • C.Roses

    Proposition 37 may seem like a small frivolous fight to those people who choose to be ignorant towards the truth about GMO foods. But it’s a BIG step for us people trying to bring a better future to our country. To those still living in the dark please come out to the light because what you don’t know can kill you. GMO’s are polluting your body and this earth. The truth will always reveal itself and I pray this proposition will help open the eyes of Americans so we can stop these big money hungry companies from ruining our childrens future and our precious earth.

  • Laura

    Plain and simple, people have the right to know what they are eating. People have food allergies and have other medical problems where it is vital to know what food ingredients may affect them. Plus it is the right thing for companies to do. If they have nothing to hide, they won’t have a problem labeling what they put in it.

  • Ben

    I support labeling of GM food. I grew up in farm country. We lived three miles outside of a town of six hundred people. The crop dusters flew within feet of our house. I thought it was so cool to see the tissue paper markers fall so they would know where to spray. Our cat walked out in the field of “non toxic” spray and died. Part of the GM food business is chemicals. I find it interesting how that people will ban BP for leaking oil into the gulf but are not concerned about the millions of pounds of pesticides dumped on the farm land each year. I don’t think that the chemicals sprayed on the foods we eat are as harmful to the consumer as they are to the farmers. I do believe the ones who really suffer are the farmers, because they live in the stuff. I worked for a man who grew cherries. His daughter got cancer and a close neighbor got cancer at the same time. They spray malathion on the cherries so that when we eat them we don’t get any extra protein from the little worms. If you are in doubt do an internet search for “farmers and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma” The way some people are fighting against labeling GM food you would think that they believe people are calling for a ban on the stuff. Relax people it’s not a ban just a label. Cigarets are bad they are labeled and look how many people still smoke. Labeling GM foods will be a good boost for small organic farmers which will be good for all of us. Less cancer, better tasting, more nutritious food. Here is something we all can agree on and feel good about voting for here in CA. So lets get out and vote! Some city boy who studied farming in college will probably chastise me for my ignorance on the subject. And I challenge him to a goat milking contest :)

  • Sam

    Rest easy Ben. No educated city boy in his right mind would ever challenge a make-believe goat roper. There are so many other more fascinating ways to waste time than listening to some idiot’s delusional reminisces of a time that never existed. Nope, no challenge…there just ain’t no percentage in it, as Mark Twain observed.

  • dennie

    Well, well, well. So, now Ca. wants to label our food so consumers know what they’re putting into their mouths. Well, what will that accomplish? Your average buyer doesn’t read food labels now. What makes one think they’ll read these labels? We should be ridding all fast food, processed, frozen foods that people continue to buy. If one reads the ingredients of frozen TV dinners, frozen french fries, pizza, and frozen meats, they would read all the chemicals in them to keep the food from spoiling. What’s wrong with the American diet is that it’s based on fast food and frozen, processed food. This contributes to the obesity epidemic. We should be putting our energy into getting rid of these foods.

  • Pamela

    Here’s a worthwhile article exposing the true intent of prop 37
    http://www.science20.com/science_20/mercenary_intent_behind_proposition_37s_gm_food_labeling-92928

  • Kelly

    Pamela, that article is clearly an opinion with zero facts. I DO want to know if GMO is in my food. I want a label that lets me know. I can’t believe anyone would ever fight it. Aside from Monsanto fans of course.
    If you think people are going to buy it anyway, then let them buy it. As long as it is labled, it will be your choice. I know plenty of people who will not though. We now have it in 93% of our food. The studies that have been done (FDA refuses to do any studies…what does that tell you people!) have been beyond disturbing.

  • Kimberly

    Organic Consumers Fund already has slushed in more than $$$$ half a million dollars $$$$ to purchase this legislation.
    http://www.kcet.org/news/ballotbrief/elections2012/propositions/prop-37-funding-genetically-engineered-food.html
    Perhaps the most amazing thing is how a measly half-million bucks buys organic food special mention and a complete blanket exemption from any scrutiny under prop 37 enforcement. Now there is a wonderful example of the corrupting influence of special interest lobbies, no?
    http://www.science20.com/science_20/mercenary_intent_behind_proposition_37s_gm_food_labeling-92928

  • Carrie Ann

    Well I read this proposed new law and thought it was very poorly written. I was wrong. It is very cleverly written to wring big bucks out of little grocers
    http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2012/08/proposition-37-beware-of-trial-lawyers-lurking-in-your-food/
    They took our right to know argument and used it to line lawyers’ pockets. I haven’t felt so used in a long time. You can bet I will vote NO on 37!

  • Veda Siva

    We have to approve Prop 37 for the sake of California and America. Lots of good articles like yours. Here is another one that gives a lot of history about Monsanto and how we got here:
    http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/4984/corporations-spending-millions-to-defeat-california-gmo-labeling-proposition/

  • mmm

    I can’t wait for Nov. 6th-so the big GMO bandwagon can looose!
    If it was so good for you then why not label it.If no one cares either way then why fear a label?
    There should of been labeling all along!
    Just look at the dead sheep and goats that went into a GMO crop and died after eating it…What more proof is needed.
    I have never seen livestock die off normal pastures.

  • David Villa

    Please don’t characterize us. I am not a Luddite. I do not believe in God. I know we are apes, and creationists are very poorly informed, to put it mildly. I studied mathematics, support space exploration, and believe that humans contribute to global warming.
    I do not shop at Whole Foods. Before this year I could not really afford to anyway. But I have always read labels because I like to drink juice, for instance, and not sugar water. I also wash my fruits and vegetables before I eat them.
    I am not opposed to genetic engineering in principle. I just want to know what’s in my food, what I can’t wash away. I believe in progress for the sake of humanity, but not in spite of humanity. And although I do not live in California, I have contributed to the campaign with the hope that some day it will affect me, too.