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Letter From The Editor: Proposition 37


We need to talk about ballot initiatives.

It a subject that does not come up much in the South and East, but state constitutions mostly in the West contain provisions for Initiatives and Referendums.

When adopted late in the 19th Century, Initiatives and Referendums were seen as emergency provisions for the people to take back power from the Legislature if something on rare occasion went horribly wrong.

A century later, however, in states like California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, voters are routinely asked to settle questions. About a dozen ballot measures have qualified for the November ballot in California, the once-golden place now sometimes called a failed state.

Proposition 37, mandatory labeling for genetically engineered (GE) foods, is one to be decided by California voters in November. It does not mean food safety is on the ballot. It’s unlikely to be brought up much seriously by either side.

Instead, the “yes” campaign is going to be built around the “right to know” with GE labeling being the best tool to accomplish it. The “no” campaign is going to be built with multiple arguments, beginning with the prospects for higher food prices.

In other words, even though the “organic” label does not mean food is safe, neither would a “genetically engineered” label mean its not safe. Still, there are probably many of you outside of California who are going to be paying attention to Prop 37.

So, I thought I should help out and offer some advice.

There are three stages in almost every initiative campaign.

First, you need someone willing to start the play. Initiatives are the political equivalent of rolling a hand grenade into the political process. It helps if you can find someone who is both rich and crazy.

In the second stage, you will usually find zealots who like working in secret because most initiatives are “sprang” on the body politic. The time right before initiatives are printed and circulated for signatures is usually the most dangerous time because it is disconnected from reality.

In the third stage, reality sets in with the general election campaign. One rule that always seem to apply to this stage is: “Yes, campaigns drop like rocks.” Motives of proponents become fair game. They can become among many reasons to vote “No.” The question becomes: “Is there a strong enough reason to vote ‘Yes?'”

That’s important because an initiative wins with 50 percent plus one vote.

Do not pay much attention to early polling. Only when pollsters know what voters are going to see on the ballot can you begin to get accurate survey research results for a ballot initiative.

In California, the Prop. 37 campaign is starting from a very lofty place — 91 percent for genetically engineered food labels.

That may be, but I have not seen any pollster provide the survey instrument and audience. The Mellman Group, an excellent Democratic pollster, did write about such a poll last April saying “An arresting 91 percent of voters favor an FDA requirement that “foods which have been genetically engineered or containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled to indicate that.”

But wait a minute. There is no FDA requirement, and respondents might well have been led astray by how survey questions were structured and if they were provided with misleading information. Only survey work that approximates what is going to come down the election will be useful.

As for the three stages of an initiative campaign, Prop. 37 is right on target. It’s no surprise that the food industry is getting organized to oppose the initiative. About $2 million has been raised for the opposition so far with Pepsi, Coke, and Nestle being among the first in for a campaign led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. This is a California campaign, so millions more will follow.

So far however, proponents are out front with $2.3 million in contributions. First to strike a big check — a nice, cool $500,000 — was Dr. Joseph Mercola’s Mercola.com LLC. He’s added another $300,000 since.

He is the rich guy who tossed the political hand grenade. How crazy is he? Ultimately, that’s for you to decide.

But, with all due respect to the volunteers who got Prop. 37 on the ballot, we would not be talking about this initiative were it not for Dr. Mercola.

He is an osteopath who practices “alternative” medicine from outside Chicago with a web-based direct mail operation that has come in for repeated warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Illinois doctor has a practice of finding fault with established medical practices, and then substitutes one of his mail order supplements or devices. For example, he thinks women should use his “thermograms,” not those “mammograms.”

Mercola is actually against a lot of things, including vaccinations, statins, mammograms, fluoride, amalgams, and flu shots — to name just a few. And, oh yes, he is very much against the FDA.

He’s got a collection of warning letters from the agency and the consumer website Quackwatch has been following the issues involved:

“In 2005, the FDA ordered Mercola and his Optimal Wellness Center to stop making illegal claims for products sold through his Web site. The claims to which the FDA objected involved three products:

– Living Fuel Rx, claimed to offer an “exceptional countermeasure” against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, etc.

– Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil, claimed to reduce the risk of heart disease and have beneficial effects against Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and many infectious agents

– Chlorella, claimed to fight cancer and normalize blood pressure.

“In 2006, the FDA sent Mercola and his center a second warning that was based on product labels collected during an inspection at his facility and on claims made on the Optimum Wellness Center Web site. This time the claims to which the FDA objected involve four products:

– Vibrant Health Research Chlorella XP, claimed to “help to virtually eliminate your risk of developing cancer in the future.”

– Fresh Shores Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, claimed to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and degenerative diseases.

– Momentum Health Products Vitamin K2, claimed to be possibly useful in treating certain kinds of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

– Momentum Health Products Cardio Essentials Nattokinase NSK-SD, claimed to be “a much safer and effective option than aspirin and other pharmaceutical agents to treating heart disease.”

“The warning letters explained that the use of such claims in the marketing of these products violates the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, which bans unapproved claims for products that are intended for curing, mitigating, treating, or preventing of diseases. (Intended use can be established through product labels, catalogs, brochures, tapes, Web sites, or other circumstances surrounding the distribution of the product.)

“In 2011, the FDA ordered Mercola to stop making claims for thermography that go beyond what the equipment he uses (Medtherm2000 infrared camera) was cleared for. The warning letter said that statements on Mercola’s site improperly imply that the Meditherm camera can be used alone to diagnose or screen for various diseases or conditions associated with the breast, they also represent that the sensitivity of the Meditherm Med2000 Telethermographic camera is greater than that of machines used in mammography.

“The statements to which the FDA objected included:

– “Revolutionary and Safe Diagnostic Tool Detects Hidden Inflammation: Thermography”

– “The Newest Safe Cancer Screening Tool”

– “Because measuring inflammation through thermal imaging is a proactive, preventative method you can use for detecting disease, which significantly improves your chances for longevity and good health.”

– Additionally, thermograms provide: “Reliable and accurate information for diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.”

– “Yes, it’s true. Thermograms provide you with early diagnosis and treatment assistance in such problems as cancer, inflammatory processes, neurological and vascular dysfunction, and musculoskeletal injury.”

– “Thermography can benefit patients by detecting conditions including: Arthritis: ‘differentiate between osteoarthritis and more severe forms like rheumatoid.’ Immune Dysfunction, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, ‘Digestive Disorders: Irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and Cohn’s disease,’ and ‘Other Conditions: including bursitis, herniated discs, ligament or muscle tear, lupus, nerve problems, whiplash, stroke screening, cancer and many, many others.'”

According to report in the Chicago Tribune, Mercola opted to just ignore the last warning waiting for FDA to “take it further.”

Mercola does better with TV’s Dr. Oz than he does with the FDA. The Dr. Oz website says: “Dr. Oz disagrees with many of Dr. Mercola’s remedies and treatments though he does appreciate how Mercola pushes physicians to think differently about medicine.

Most of what the Dr. Oz site has to say about Dr. Mercola seems more cautionary than endorsement, but you can judge for yourself here.

Mercola, who has posted videos on YouTube  warning about genetically modified foods being dangerous and about the Prop. 37 campaign being an authentic grassroots campaign, may be using the initiative as a way to throw a wench into FDA.

FDA has long said there is no difference between GM and non-GM food. Mercola has now donated $800,000 or about 35 percent of all the contributions going to the California Right to Know Campaign for Prop. 37.

So, a supplemental pill and medical device mill run out of Schaumburg, Illinois by a doctor with off-the-wall opinions is the primary force behind the California initiative.

But the zealots who wrote Prop. 37 might have left behind an even bigger problem, one that is common in initiatives. I think I heard about the specifics of this one on National Public Radio.

The problem is the initiative language on “natural food.”  If you are thinking that Prop. 37 should just be about GE food, you’ve failed to understand what always seems to happen when zealots draft laws behind closed doors.

If Prop/ 37 becomes law, It might not be possible to market a California almond as natural because it is salted or canned, or an apple as “naturally grown” once turned into applesauce and cooked. Both could be free of GE ingredients and still be limited by the plain language of the initiative.

Specifically, section 110809.1 of the proposition states:

“(I)f a food meets any of the definitions in section 110808(c) or (d) and is not otherwise exempted from the labeling under section 110809.2, the food may not in California, on its label, accompanying signage in a retail establishment, or in any advertising or promotional materials, state or imply that the food is ‘natural’, ‘naturally made,’ ‘naturally grown,’ ‘all natural,’ or any words of similar important…”

Section 110808(d) defines the term “processed food” as follows:

“Processed food means any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any food produced from a raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, smoking, pressing, cooking, freezing, dehydration, fermentation or milling.”

Going overboard in initiative language is just something zealots do. They cannot help themselves and it’s done when there is nobody around to stop them. After failing to achieve their goals at the state legislative level, the zealots love the freedom of the initiative process.

We count on the election campaign to prevent mistakes from happening, but there is no amending ballot initiatives.

We count on voters to catch poor drafting and over-reaching. That’s why it is not just about the money. Usually, the side with the best brains wins.

I would not want to bet on the outcome of this campaign. It’s probably the California Right to Know’s campaign to lose, but I do not count Stop Costly Food Labeling out.

My advice for the Stop Costly Food Labeling campaign would be to offer Californians another option.

Let’s face it, requiring writing on food packaging is so 20th Century.  How about giving consumers a GM App for checking on whether foods are generically engineered?

With some out of the box thinking, this campaign could be an opportunity for the food industry.

As one who would like to be able to know EVERYTHING, about food, we are all for the “right to know.” Still I am not sure I’d vote for Prop. 37. Some things are best suited to be hammered out the old fashioned way — in Sacramento.

California Proposition 37 Summary

Requires labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits labeling or advertising such food as “natural.” Exempts foods that are: certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potential increase in state administrative costs of up to one million dollars annually to monitor compliance with the disclosure requirements specified in the measure. Unknown, but potentially significant, costs for the courts, the Attorney General, and district attorneys due to litigation resulting from possible violations to the provisions of this measure. 

© Food Safety News
  • Jon

    Citing labeling as the road to ruinous “Costly Food” is totally BOGUS. Food corporations change their labels all the time — “New!” “Natural!” “High in Fiber, Omega 3’s”, etc etc….
    And making Dr Mecola the poster child of the honest food labeling movement is also BOGUS. Plenty of people have given money to support this campaign. It does a tremendous injustice to the MILLION plus citizens who signed on to support the “Just Label It” lawsuit requiring FDA to label GMOs — just as FDA has ALREADY done over the adulterant qualities of Food Irradiation.
    Because GMO foods have NEVER BEEN fully independently safety-tested (because the Biotech corporations own and control access to the proprietary genomic material) and the Bush I/Quayle Administration gave them a full regulatory green light to keep USA “competitive” — the public has EVERY Right to know if they are in the foods they eat.

  • pawpaw

    There are strange bedfellows on both sides of this proposition.
    Seldom mentioned from those opposed: The EU nations and dozens of others (many developed) label GM foods. How do they do it if so burdensome and costly?

  • DJ

    I don’t pay much attention to Mercola, he goes a bit overboard, but he is right about many things. I absolutely do not trust anything that comes from Quackwatch. They are like the pot calling the kettle black, and even worse. I don’t eat GM foods because they give me bad stomach pains, among other symptoms. And I don’t trust the all-natural label claims, because they are meaningless. There is no regulation of the term and a company can slap an all-natural label on junk foods, and even products that contain GMOs. There is no truth in labeling, for the most part.

  • Edward Arnold

    Using the FDA as your stalwart not to mention Dr.Oz and NPR says much about your awareness…may your eyes be opened.

  • Xiaans

    The food industry could have avoided the overreaching and poor drafting if they had stepped up to the plate and volunteered their own language that actually gave consumers the right to know. Whether Dr. Mercola makes questionable representations regarding his products or advice has NOTHING to do with whether GE food should be labeled. The question should not be “why yes?”, but “why not?” Given the massive opposition from Big Food, every dollar counts, regardless of the source.

  • bogu

    drought causes higher food prices. producing ethanol causes higher food prices.
    seesawing oil prices affect food prices. corruption in the commodity exchange marketplace raise food prices. MF Global?
    labeling is a drop in the bucket.
    I fully support prop 37 and will vote yes.
    I oppose lifeform patents and the biotech lobbying for even more intellectual property rights (which is theft from the commons).

  • Ted

    Prop. 37 is about defending one’s God-given right to know nothing, to believe anything.
    Hence the Mercola crusade on behalf of his more-money-than-brains customer base.
    If the issue truly was GMO food safety the hue and cry would be for setting up a GMO-free product classification to serve an elitist premium market (just like certified organic). Qualifying foods would be labelled certified GMO-free, they would be tested and purchasers would actually “know” the status of the product, as if it mattered anyway. There is no credible indication GMO technology is unsafe, only bold-faced charlatans like Mercola foisting those claims hawking their pricey fairy-dust products to customers who dearly love a good conspiracy theory. And it works! How else could Mercola casually toss $800,000 (so far) at such a farcical cause?
    Thanks Dan for sharing your wonderfully frank and clear-headed editorial!

  • rascal rick

    Hah! California deserves Mercola and Oz.
    And Feinstein, who now endorses Kentucky Fried Chicken.
    What a bunch of slapstick hoopleheads! Maybe they should be required to wear labels (or signs) to warn the rest of us they harbor dangerously silly prejudices. Maybe tattoo it in black ink low on their foreheads using a plain font lettering no smaller than 1.5 inches tall? That could be the makings of the next California proposition, no? I mean, the rest of us have the right to know when these crazy sh!ts come creeping around to waste our time, don’t we? Just label ’em, I say!

  • Justine

    i used to get deathly sick from genetically modified food until i discovered wonderful dr mercola who shown me the light. that is where i learn to purge ge toxins with hi volume enema. it is like a good hosing out for the soul my headaches seem less intense since then even if my butt hurts more. plus now that i send most all my money to wonderful dr mercola i have so much less to spend on dangerous food he is a genius. i hope pork & beans isnt ge or ramen noodles but it will probably be ok if i keep the hose on full blast. and taking the magic products sold to me by wonderful dr mercola of course. he protects my right to know whatever he wants me to know i am so proud to know so much thanks to wonderful dr mercola and dr oz because i use to watch him on oprah. she showed him how to doctor folks the right way but not as good as wonderful dr mercola i owe my life to him. i use to be so toxic but no more

  • I had to check what publication this was. At first, I thought I was at Politico.
    The text of the bill is quite precise. Not only does it account for deliberate introduction of GMO material, it handles the cases of accidental introduction of GMO, and even meats from animals that may be fed GMO material, but not themselves genetically modified.
    Since you didn’t provide a link to the full text, I’ve included it at the end of my comment.
    Mercola contributed to the campaign…
    So what?
    It doesn’t matter who contributed to the campaign–all that matters is what the campaign will accomplish. What the proposition will do is require that foods be labeled as genetically modified if certain criteria are met. In addition, it prohibits the use of “natural” if certain criteria is met.
    It doesn’t demand a “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” label. It makes no subjective demands related to the GMO labeling. It just asks that the material be identified.
    As the European Union writes:
    “The EU recognises the consumers’ right to information and labelling as a tool for making an informed choice.”
    If Mercola is too far out there for you, perhaps you’ll find the European Union to be more palatable.
    To return to Prop 37: the purpose of an initiative is to provide a law of last recourse. It came about because wealthy influences on state legislatures hindered necessary legislation. Yes, it can be abused, but as we’ve seen–time an again–state legislatures have been corrupted time and again, in far more egregious displays of abuse than come from most state initiatives.
    It would be a simple matter for the food corporations to voluntarily label their own foods, and then do what they feel is necessary to education the people about the safety (or quality) of the food. They refuse to follow this route, though. And legislatures do very little in support of consumers nowadays.
    So, we’re now faced with an act of last recourse. Don’t condemn Prop 37. Don’t condemn the state initiative process. Condemn the organizations (the companies, and the state and federal governments) who could have acted in the past, and didn’t.
    http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i1044_11-0099_(genetically_engineered_food_v2).pdf (PDF)

  • keene observer

    Don’t you just love when self-important anti-GMO zealots point naively to the European Union as consummate justification for insipid food labels? The EU laboriously prints mandatory statements of the obvious on food packages…and so must we if we want to be stylishly vapid! The EU, coincidentally, is also going broke and falling apart at its political seams.
    Newsflash: The European Union is swirling down the bowl at this moment but if you hurry you can dive in and accompany them into the authoritarian abyss. The rest of us free-spirited Americans will carry on without you…somehow. (PS: Could you please, please take Mercola and Oz with you?)
    Oh, and Dan listed 3 sure indicators of any agenda-driving initiative campaign. There is at least one other cardinal sign you’re dealing with fanatic quasi-religious zealots — exemptions.
    Always, always ultimatums of crusading whackjobs will very specifically, even tediously feature concise language exempting them and theirs from any possibility of being impacted in any way by their own crappy bludgeoning legislation dictated (as they disingenuously assure, cajole and purr) for the good and necessary regulation of all. This prop 37 farce certainly is no exception to that rule (it could, in fact, become a standard example).
    Here moneyed zealots angrily demand the “right to know” at the same time they quietly exempt themselves from responsibility for knowing what GE enhancements might characterize their own merchandise — they carefully reserve for themselves the “right to not know”! Duplicitous self-serving political hacks.

  • bogu

    I always know when I am dealing with vested interests.
    They start calling the opposition names instead of putting
    forth a credible argument.
    As I stated earlier corruption in the commodities marketplace
    exchange has cost consumers trillions (MF Global, etc)
    Opposition to labeling is all about deception in the food
    supply for profit.
    Hiding product content ends badly for producers as the pink slime
    debacle clearly demonstrates. Once consumers find out that they
    have been deceived they spend their money elsewhere.

  • keene observer, your rants about moneyed zealots might have more impact if it weren’t for the millions of dollars being invested by corporate interests fighting against the bill.
    The $900,000 or so contributed towards Proposition 37 doesn’t really compare with the $2 million contributed by those against it.
    Among the countries requiring biotech labeling:
    And the list goes on.
    Now, I suppose you could say most of the world is full of crackpots, but at some point in time, you come off sounding like a crackpot yourself–or someone representing the interests of those who really don’t want GMO labeling.

  • bogu
  • Nathan

    There was a quote in our local paper recently “we are being overtaken by quackery”
    Buy organic or GMO-free certified products.
    The ultimate goal of this campaign, like Europe, is to remove GM products from America. This, more than the labeling will significantly increase the cost of food in America.

  • Well, here’s an interesting twist on the dangers associated with GMO: corn stalks that take out tractor tires.

  • keene observer

    No need to link to biased whackadoodle websites, I quote from Dan’s excellent article right here on FSN:
    “So far however, proponents are out front with $2.3 million in contributions.”
    $2.3 million in moneyed interests. That’s million with an “M”, Shelley, sweetheart. Experiencing difficulty with your reading and comprehension, dear? Why am I not surprised? Duplicitous self-serving political hack agenda-whores and willful myopia naturally work hand-in-hand. Still, no excuse for your salacious cherrypicking and outright prevarication.
    But what would I know, since I share the interests of those rational creatures who detest frivolous argument and who oppose subversive autocratic legislation of all types. Your asinine anti-GMO crusade falls squarely into both categories, Shelley. Congratulations to you! Now, quick, go join your heroes, the EU crowd on their little field trip…and I promise to jiggle the handle after your safe departure.

  • Are you talking about my link to Food Poisoning Bulletin? Do you want to ask Dan et al whether they think Food Poisoning Bulletin is a whackadoodle site?
    The donated amounts I listed were for the _quarter_, not total.
    And you keep talking about the money donated for Prop 37 and ignore the money donated from the other side, which exceeds it.
    Someone once said in another comment thread to just give the trolls a pass. Good words.

  • Ted

    One sure way to know the just-label-it crowd is full of organic fertilizer right up to their ears.
    If what they claim is true, any of it from the 91% Americans terrified of the dark to the reckless wishful assumption intelligent Americans will stop buying food if it is labeled, if any of that was true the store shelves would long ago have collapsed under the weight of foods brightly labeled “GMO-free”. Hell, you wouldn’t be able to buy anything that wasn’t “new and improved and all-natural and trans fat-free and GMO-free and high-fiber…”
    Gazillions of $$$$ would be flooding into the pockets of savvy marketers right now if that labeling had any market value. Obviously it doesn’t. That is why Mercola and his loyal legion of tin-foil-hat Quixote role players must buy their way into politics with their $$$millions$$$. That’s why they have to write lame proposition legislation and defend it with distracting nonsensical arguments about their precious “right to know”. Fact is most of them are complete strangers to the concept of scientifically valid knowledge, incapable of truly knowing their anatomical elbows from…uh, well, you know.
    Jumpin Jeebus, talk about special interests and lobbyists and corruption — looks like an “all-natural” all-green phenomenon! Obviously the evil Monsanto does not have the market cornered on skanky political maneuvering.

  • According to the Food Navigator, and KCET, the anti-Prop 37 crowd seems to have raised about 1.8 million in large donations, compared to about 2.3 million from the pro-Prop 37 side.
    So the pro-prop 37 side does have bigger donations. At least at this time.
    And I’ll repeat what I said earlier: so what.
    If people in California agree with the bill, they should vote for the bill; if they don’t, they shouldn’t.
    As for the money, there’s money on both sides. Neither side can claim that they’re the “little guy” in this race.
    Oh and keene observer, I do draw the line at tolerating sexist comments, which is what your “sweetheart” is. I can’t believe that FSN would have a high tolerance for sexism in comments.

  • Mike

    Last year, Monsanto spent $5.3 million dollars to essentially buy off politicians from passing labeling laws in 20 states. Revolving door politicians, who once worked in corporations such as Monsanto, are now in key positions at the FDA, Agriculture and other government agencies. Michael Taylor, who crafted laws that enabled GMOs to slip into this country’s food supply without any vetting in 1995, has since served as FDA safety czar and now as the deputy director of the agency in charge of labeling. There are countless other revolving door regulators like Taylor who couldn’t care less about the public’s safety because they are too busy tending to their own welfare – at our expense. How much of a stake do hacks like Dan Flynn have in this game?If you want to see what happened to real journalists who tried to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds GMOS, check out the youtube link on the internet that features award winning reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre who were fired from their jobs at Fox News for simply attempting to report the truth about GMO tainted milk in Florida? The double dealing between government officials at the highest levels on this matter, who have no compunction about compromising our safety so they can make money, is beyond insidious. And proposition 37, by implementing labeling requirements directly into law, bypasses tainted clearly agencies such as the FDA . GMOs pose a danger to our personal healtg and the financial health of our nation, which is now 49th and sliding. And even if they didn’t, shouldn’t Monsanto be proud to put the GMO label on its products? Members of the current generation are the first who will not outlive their parents, judging by the way things are going. It’s time for the rest of us not to be dissuaded by propaganda like Flynn has to offer, which, thanks to big corporate pockets, is surely coming.

  • Jim

    Lacking facts, KeenTedious the Troll ONLY has ad hominem slurs. Same old; same old Tediousness……
    Let’s just wait and do the REAL math when all the funds are counted at November election time. With Grocery Manufactures of America already a big pro-Biotech contributor — the sky’s the limit.

  • Nathan

    I agree, no sexist comments.
    Also, that article on more hardy cornstalks did appear in the Wall Street Journal last week.
    Ultimately though, writing on the label that the products are Genetically Modified is frightening to consumers. This will lead to market pressures.
    But, responding specifically to Dan. Yes, the food industry should have been more proactive, and still does have an opportunity to be creative in how GM products are presented to consumers. An app might work, labelling when it is not GM is a good idea, rebranding.
    What I care about is a safe, efficient and well priced food market. GM is a part of that market now, it is going to be hard to turn back the clock on that. But a little bit of an intelligent conversation with consumers wouldn’t hurt.

  • Janice

    The entire argument against genetic progress is absurd. I want the most modern most technologically advanced foods possible. Progress is great. It is essential. Why would I spend good money buying some obsolete throwback to neanderthal times. Obviously the neanderthals didn’t do so hot, why would I foist that crap on my kids? Why would any reasonable person encourage that kooky nostalgia by shopping at expensive farmers markets or eating raw fish? Who knows, maybe scientists can invent a type of new broccoli kids will eat. We should be encouraging that instead of trying to resurrect the nutritional equivalent of buggy whip factories. Just one mom’s opinion. Can’t Mercola whip up some calming nostrum or soothing powder to take the edge off his groupies? It would be great if he would sell them a remedy to make them smart but that probably is expecting too much, even of the great Mercola. I suppose that wouldn’t be good for his business in the long run, either.

  • Mike

    Last year, Monsanto spent $5.3 million dollars to essentially buy off politicians from passing labeling laws in 20 states. Revolving door politicians, who once worked in corporations such as Monsanto, are now in key positions at the FDA, Agriculture and other government agencies. Michael Taylor, who crafted laws that enabled GMOs to slip into this country’s food supply without any vetting in 1995, has since served as FDA safety czar and now as the deputy director of the agency in charge of labeling. There are countless other revolving door regulators like Taylor who couldn’t care less about the public’s safety because they are too busy tending to their own welfare – at our expense. How much of a stake do hacks like Dan Flynn have in this game?If you want to see what happened to real journalists who tried to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds GMOS, check out the youtube link on the internet that features award winning reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre who were fired from their jobs at Fox News for simply attempting to report the truth about GMO tainted milk in Florida? The double dealing between government officials at the highest levels on this matter, who have no compunction about compromising our safety so they can make money, is beyond insidious. And proposition 37, by implementing labeling requirements directly into law, bypasses tainted clearly agencies such as the FDA . GMOs pose a danger to our personal healtg and the financial health of our nation, which is now 49th and sliding. And even if they didn’t, shouldn’t Monsanto be proud to put the GMO label on its products? Members of the current generation are the first who will not outlive their parents, judging by the way things are going. It’s time for the rest of us not to be dissuaded by propaganda like Flynn has to offer, which, thanks to big corporate pockets, is surely coming.

  • Mike

    The personal attacks and other specious points made by Dan Flynn in his pathetic denunciation of Proposition 37 takes my breath away. After Flynn used the word “zealot” for the third time, I stopped counting and began to chuckle. Who are the real zealots here, and who is to be believed? Ordinary people (like the 971,000 who petitioned to place the “right to know” initiative on the California ballot) who want to bypass bought and paid for politicians who are in the pocket of Big Ag? Who see health care costs in the U.S. going through the roof, at the same time that disease rates of all kinds are following suit, and who can’t help but wonder if there might be a link between this upsurge and the food we eat? Or bought and paid for hacks like Dan Flynn who attempt to marginalize such people because they themselves can’t mount credible arguments to support a fundamentally indefensible (albeit well funded) position. What next on your agenda, Dan? Will passage of proposition 37 send food prices through the roof? (a myth); Prevent Big Ag from feeding the world? (another myth). What sort of dirty trick ads are you going to unleash over the public airwaves to sow confusion in the minds of voters in the coming months leading up the election?
    It is your “beliefs” that are truly dangerous, not those of your opponents. You are the real zealot.

  • Jon

    “Janice” — The only “genetic progress” here is the Biotech Corporations found a way to manipulate transgenics and patent their “substantially equivalent” (non-regulated products) — with their extensive proprietary controls (and heavy lobbying dollars) preventing access to real, independent food safety testing. There’s lots of people who want Real Food and Real Labeling — and what is ever wrong with that??

  • Mike

    Decade-Long Feeding Study Reveals Significant Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods
    By Dr. Mercola
    Scientists in Norway have released results from experimental feeding studies carried out over a 10-year period, and the verdict is in: If you want to avoid obesity, then avoid eating genetically engineered (GE) corn, corn-based products, and animals that are fed a diet of GE grain.
    As reported by Cornucopia.org1, the project also looked at the effects on organ changes, and researchers found significant changes that affected weight gain, eating behaviors, and immune function.
    How Genetically Engineered Corn and Soy Can Wreak Havoc on Your Health
    According to the featured article2:
    “The results show a positive link between GE corn and obesity. Animals fed a GE corn diet got fatter quicker and retained the weight compared to animals fed a non-GE grain diet. The studies were performed on rats, mice, pigs and salmon, achieving the same results.
    … Researchers found distinct changes to the intestines of animals fed GMOs compared to those fed non-GMOs. This confirms other studies done by US researchers. Significant changes occurred in the digestive systems of the test animals’ major organs including the liver, kidneys, pancreas, genitals and more.”
    Their findings (which were published July 11, 2012 in Norway by Forskning.no, an online news source devoted to Norwegian and international research3) showed that animals fed genetically engineered Bt corn ate more, got fatter, and were less able to digest proteins due to alterations in the micro-structure of their intestines.
    They also suffered immune system alterations. The impaired ability to digest proteins may be of particular concern as this can have far-reaching implications for your health. If your body cannot digest proteins, your body will be less able to produce amino acids, which are necessary building blocks for proper cell growth and function.
    As noted by Cornucopia.org:
    “This not only may relate to a rise in obesity, but to increases in many modern diseases. These diseases include diabetes, digestive disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (ADD), autoimmune diseases, sexual dysfunction, sterility, asthma, COPD and many more.
    …[Lead author] Professor Krogdahl explains: “It has often been claimed that the new genes in genetically modified foods can’t do any damage because all genes are broken down beyond recognition in the gut. Our results show the contrary; that genes can be taken up across the intestinal wall, is transferred to the blood and is left in the blood, muscle and liver in large chunks so that they can be easily recognized… The biological impact of this gene transfer is unknown.”
    Bt Toxin Found in Blood of Women and Fetuses
    This is not the first time scientists have revealed significant biological impacts and related health problems as a result of eating a diet of genetically engineered foods. More often than not, unless the research is tainted by industry ties, studies into the effects of genetically engineered foods demonstrate that it is anything but safe. This isn’t so surprising when you consider that simple logic will tell you it’s probably not wise to consume a plant designed to produce its own pesticide, for example.
    So-called “Bt corn” is equipped with a gene from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces Bt-toxin—a pesticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. This pesticide-producing corn entered the food supply in the late 1990’s, and over the past decade, the horror stories have started piling up.
    Monsanto and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swore that the toxin would only affect insects munching on the crop. The Bt-toxin, they claimed, would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and would not have any impact on animals and humans. The biotech companies have doggedly insisted that Bt-toxin doesn’t bind or interact with the intestinal walls of mammals, and therefore humans.
    The featured research proves all such claims false.
    Prior findings have already shown that Bt corn is anything but innocuous to the human system. Just last year, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood4 of:
    93 percent of pregnant women tested
    80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and
    67 percent of non-pregnant women
    Bt-toxin breaks open the stomach of insects. Could it similarly be damaging the integrity of your digestive tract? If Bt-toxins can damage the intestinal walls of newborns and young children, the passage of undigested foods and toxins into the blood from the digestive tract could be devastating to their future health. Scientists speculate that it may lead to autoimmune diseases and food allergies. Furthermore, since the blood-brain barrier is not developed in newborns, toxins may enter the brain causing serious cognitive problems. Some healthcare practitioners and scientists are convinced that this one mechanism for autism.
    If Bt genes are colonizing the bacteria living in the digestive tract of North Americans, we might expect to see an increase in gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and childhood learning disorders since the advent of Bt crops in 1996, and that’s exactly what’s being reported. For example, between 1997 and 2002 the number of hospitalizations related to allergic reactions to food increased by a whopping 265 percent. One out of 17 children now has some form of food allergy and allergy rates are rising.
    Genetically Engineered Foods Trigger Adverse Immune System Responses
    There’s plenty of evidence showing that the Bt-toxin produced in genetically modified Bt crops like corn and cotton plants is toxic to humans and mammals andtriggers immune system responses. For example, in government-sponsored research in Italy5, mice fed Monsanto’s Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses, such as:
    Elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, which are typically associated with allergies and infections
    An increase in cytokines, which are associated with allergic and inflammatory responses. The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were found to be elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, to MS and cancer
    Elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases.
    Rats fed another of Monsanto’s Bt corn varieties called MON 863, also experienced an activation of their immune systems, showing higher numbers of basophils, lymphocytes, and white blood cells6. These can indicate possible allergies, infections, toxins, and various disease states including cancer. There were also signs of liver and kidney toxicity.
    USDA Clears Roundup Ready Sugar Beets
    So-called “Roundup Ready” crops are another type of genetically engineered crops. While Bt crops contain a gene that produces a pesticide inside the plant itself, Roundup Ready crops are designed to withstand otherwise lethal topical doses of glyphosate—a broad spectrum herbicide, and the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup as well as hundreds of other products.
    This way, the crop survives while all weeds are theoretically eliminated from the field. I say ‘theoretically’ because the overuse of the herbicide has led to the rapid development of glyphosate-resistant superweeds. It’s estimated that more than 130 types of weeds spanning 40 U.S. states are now herbicide-resistant, and the superweeds are showing no signs of stopping.
    Roundup Ready crops have also been linked to serious health problems—particularly relating to fertility and birth defects—as has glyphosate itself, which is why the latest news regarding the deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets is all the more disappointing.
    A number of organizations challenged the USDA approval of Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beets in 2008, arguing that the beets would contaminate related organic and non-GE crops such as table beets and chard. Further, they said that the pesticide-resistant beets would increase pesticide impacts on the environment and worsen the current epidemic of pesticide-resistant superweeds.
    A lawsuit was filed against the USDA in 2009 for failure to complete an Environmental Impact Study. A federal judge agreed, temporarily suspending all planting of RR sugar beets. The suspension was later overridden by the USDA, ostensibly to prevent a sugar shortage. After a number of additional legal twists and turns, the USDA has now announced its decision to deregulate Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically modified sugar beets7. According to a July 19 press release by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)8:
    “After completing both a thorough environmental impact statement and plant pest risk assessment, holding three public meetings and considering and analyzing thousands of comments regarding its analyses, APHIS has determined that, from the standpoint of plant pest risk, Roundup Ready sugarbeets are as safe as traditionally bred sugarbeets.”
    GM Companies Threaten Food Security and Sovereignty
    A landmark speech delivered during the 2011 SEMEAR conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on how genetically modified (GM) seed companies threaten food security and food sovereignty has resulted in a call to action by an unlikely source who is a key player in the soy industry. Pierre Patriat, President of APROSMAT, the association of seed producers of Mato Grosso, Brazil, does not oppose genetically engineered (GE) crops, but he does recognize the unprecedented threat to food security that GM seeds pose.
    Saying that the GM industry is rapidly taking away Brazilian farmers’ freedom of choice, he asked for “immediate mobilization and action on the part of concerned industry members, government, lawmakers, farmers, and civil society to avert the threat to food sovereignty posed by the GM industry’s control of markets through their patented seeds,” according to a recent report by GM Watch9.
    In his speech, which I recommend reading in its entirety to learn more, Patriat wisely says:
    “… [T]oday, people think everything can be resolved through the seed. If soybean rust occurs they say, “Just wait, this can be resolved with genetic engineering!” A problem with nematodes? – “We’ll change the seed directly!” They want to solve all problems that way… But as long as we have alternative solutions we don’t need genetic engineering to get rid of all problems.
    Today we have a big problem with nematodes for a simple reason, not least because of the lack of a medium-term agricultural policy. There is a solution known to every agronomist: Crop rotation! That is how weeds and pests are weakened. It is so simple! Another way is soil management and measures to correct the soil – fundamental things nobody pays attention to anymore because everything has to be resolved through the seed.
    No one does rotation any more – everyone does succession [planting same crop in succession]. These are problems that are not resolved by biotechnology. The man who is going to spend 150-200 Brazilian dollars per hectare would do much better to invest it in the [quality of the] land. The profitability in the medium term will be much better for sure. This does not mean that constant seed improvement will not bring solutions. But we ought to cooperate and define the base for new regulations, so that everyone may collaborate harmoniously without abusing their economic power.
    Because today there are no brakes on the abuse of economic power over seed, and even worse, this affects the sovereignty of a country, because it is a matter of food security and food security is national security.”
    The issue of food sovereignty is certainly not restricted to Brazil. It’s becoming a serious threat to every nation on this planet as genetically engineered crops spread. These seeds are owned by private companies, and it’s imperative to understand that once a country allows GE crops to monopolize their agricultural sector, it becomes completely beholden to and dependent upon a corporation for the ability to grow food and feed its citizens!
    Support California’s Ballot Initiative to Label Genetically Engineered Foods!
    In the video above, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks about proposed amendments to the U.S. Senate Farm Bill and Nutrition Programs with regard to genetically engineered foods.
    Unfortunately, due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what genetically engineered foods are. We now have a great opportunity to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue supporting the California ballot initiative—which will require labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, and eliminate the routine industry practice of labeling and marketing such foods as “natural”—in any way you can. The voting takes place in November, so we still have a few more months to go, and we need “all hands on deck,” so to speak, until then.
    Remember, since California is the 8th largest economy in the world, a win for the California Initiative would be a huge step forward, and would likely affect ingredients and labeling nation-wide, as large companies are not likely going to label their products as genetically engineered when sold in California, but not when sold in other states. Doing so would be a PR disaster.
    But it’s an enormous ongoing battle, as the biotech industry will outspend us by 100 to 1, if not more, for their propaganda. Needless to say, the campaign needs funds, as there are no deep corporate pockets funding this citizen’s initiative. So, please, if you have the ability, I strongly encourage you to make a donation.
    Some good news: the California “Yes on 37” Right to Know campaign recently received the endorsement of the California Labor Federation and U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Mark Leno.
    “Senator Boxer said… “California consumers have the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered. This basic information should be available for consumers on the label the way it is in nearly 50 other countries around the world.” The Digital Journal reported on July 2710.
    State Senator Mark Leno said, ”The people of California want to know what’s in their food. More than half the people in the world live in countries that already require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Californians deserve to have this information too.”
    Steve Smith, Communications Director for the California Labor Federation, said, “Working people deserve the right to know what is in the food we are feeding our families. Prop 37 is a commonsense measure that ensures our families are able to make educated choices about the food we purchase. We’re proud to join with millions of Californians in supporting the right to know what’s in our food.”
    I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can. Be assured that what happens in California will affect the remainder of the U.S. states, so please support this important state initiative, even if you do not live there!
    If you live in California and want to get involved, please contact LabelGMOs.org. They will go through all volunteer requests to put you into a position that is suitable for you, based on your stated interests and location.
    No matter where you live, please help spread the word in your personal networks, on Facebook, and Twitter. For help with the messaging, please see LabelGMOs.org’s “Spread the Word!” page.
    Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort, either through the Organic Consumers Fund.
    Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to label genetically engineered foods.
    For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

  • Joanie

    Dan — and others looking for the real story here — might want to take a look at the back-to-back highly-informative articles on this subject by journalist Tom Philpott:
    Part I: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/08/biotech-gmo-deregulation
    Part II: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/08/biotech-gmo-labeling-california
    “Biotech Giants Are Bankrolling a GMO Free-for-All”
    “The so-called “Big Six” agrichemical companies—Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, Bayer, and Pioneer (Dupont)—are sitting pretty. Together, they control nearly 70 percent of the global pesticide market, and essentially the entire market for genetically modified seeds. Prices of the crops they focus on—corn, soy, cotton, etc.—are soaring, pushed up by severe drought in key growing regions. ”
    In the first quarter of 2012, Monsanto spent $1.49 million while Dow spent $370,000 hectoring Congress on the Plant Protection Act, which is the law under which the USDA regulates new GMOs. The American Farm Bureau Federation, long-time ally to the Big 6, added a total of $640,000 in lobbying that qurter at least some of which went to biotech regulation. In the second quarter, the cash continued flowing, with Monsanto dropping $1.6 million and Dow chipping in $220,000.”
    Part II:
    “…based on the Secretary of State’s Office’s latest release, the group has raised about $1.98 million, with $1.13 million of it coming from the Big 6 and its trade groups and the rest coming from Big Food companies”
    It’s easy to see from all this that Big Biotech’s modus operandi is to trick unsuspecting eaters into eating genetically manipulated, artificial food. Thanks to major lobbying initiatives and the revolving door between Biotech corporations and government — our government in complete collusion. Labeling allows consumers to make an informed choice, pure and simple.

  • Ted

    “Jon” — Sure and there are lots of people who collect Elvis memorabilia but they don’t force poorly written laws down our throats to make us active participants in their silly fetish. Should be no different with career technophobes, fanatic Monsanto haters or paid NOFA shills. Keep your workaday whacko phobias to yourselves — and what is ever wrong with that?

  • Pat

    Yeeee haaawwwww!! Boy, the tin foil hats are out in force! Indoctrinating us with pages of twisted commentary quoting Mercola (of all people — I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it) and a massive crapload of paid opinion from hack journalist Philpot (whose credentials are less impressive than Mercola’s even). Then some delightfully tedious canned rants apprising us of details of Monsanto’s ledger sheet (as if we are major stockholders prepping for a vote or a stock split).
    And all this meaningless off-topic baloney to try to convince us scientific illiteracy and technophobia are good things…so good we should all jump on the Mercola bandwagon at once, no questions asked.
    No thanks, caped crusaders. Hey, isn’t that your mother calling you home to the Batcave? Better flitter back on over there!
    And we thought raw milk zealots were over the top with their notional nonsense…whew! I believe you may have struck the motherlode with this one, Dan. Touche!

  • Mike

    This forum really brings the industry hacks out of the woodwork, and this “yeeawwwww” loser wanker really takes the cake. To what extent are your unctuous palms getting greased by Big Ag and Big bio? Do you think your verbal vomiting has any traction whatsoever, silly put down boy? Better find another job, because labeling of GMOs is going to be the order of the day in November, since that is what real people with real concerns about their health who are not bought and paid want, whether you and your special interest toadies like it or not.

  • Mary

    Hmmm…speaking of “special interest toadies”, strange indeed these hyper-excitable anti-gmo zealots are conspicuously NOT working their tin foil underpants into a wad over who stands to profit from the $2.3 million paid in (so far) by Mercola & groupies to publicize this sophomoric piece of legislation and get it rammed through? Don’t think for a second there is no profit in this investment by professional alarmists. It’s what they do for a living.

  • Mike

    Do I stand to profit from the passage of Proposition 37? You bet! But not in the way Mary seems to suggest. Not by cashing in on soaring Big Ag/bio-tech stock shares, certainly And not by being handed a fat bonus check from some sleazy lobbyist. My dividends are to be paid in terms of the peace of mind I stand to gain from finally being able to unambiguously determine food choices that will help me promote my continuing good health, and distinguish food choices that detract from that. As far as any other financial incentives in this fight, I have none whatsoever. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I wish I could say the same for Mary. It is curious to see that she is so quick to trash my pure, simple goal with such utterly false, anal retentive assertions that, more than anything, self project. Will some pro Proposition 37 supporters profit if this initiative passes? Almost certainly. But if they can help those of us who crave transparency in our food choices and who are tired of seeing health care costs go through the roof as more people than ever get sick on GMOs, more power to them. That is capitalism at its very best.

  • Amy

    Finally, someone somewhere has laid bare the agenda of the “just label it” cult…
    Mercenaries. Yep, that’s hitting the nail squarely on the head.

  • You may want to update your totals, because the food companies have not upped the ante to $10 million dollars.

  • Ted

    Extremist lobbying front, Organic Consumers Fund shoveled in more than $$$$ half a million dollars $$$$ to purchase their bold advantage in this prop 37 legislation.
    Perhaps the most amazing thing is how much special treatment a measly half-million bucks will buy you — a complete blanket exemption from any scrutiny under prop 37 enforcement for organic foods in this instance. Now that is a wonderful example of the corrupting influence of moneyed special interest lobbies, no?
    Obviously Monsanto hasn’t cornered the market on cheesy sleazy political special interest machinations. Congrats to Organic Consumers Fund. Supporters should be able to jack up their already exorbitant product prices for organic food and will multiply their seedy little half million dollar lobbying investment many, many times over.
    Prop 37 will work wonders to crucify California food retailers, and that is its intended purpose. Sure, some minor repercussions will ripple back to food producers but any and all added expense, each costly inconvenience will be passed along to California food consumers. And that is as it should be.

  • joanie

    Well, well now. The “right to know” innocuous food ingredients turns out only to be the “right to fleece” vulnerable grocers. Shoulda’ suspected that all along ’cause there ain’t no pure intent among foodie extremists. These daze they are bought and used like Charmin…and damned proud of it.

  • Jed

    You certainly have to hand it to the moneyed organic lobby. They really bought themselves some political impact with their measly half million bucks. Credit where credit is due! You go girls!

  • Mike

    Industry hacks like Dan Flynn try to trash Proposition 37 – which simply gives us the right to know whether we are eating genetically modified organisms – by claiming that the FDA is in charge of safety and that we should go to them with our concerns. What these hacks don’t tell you is that the FDA has been bought and paid for by Monsanto, which pretty much owns Washington, its politicians who are lavished with huge Monsanto campaign contributions and its revolving door regulators who go back and forth between industry and the companies that they are beholden to. Take for example, Michael Taylor, the former Monsanto attorney who crafted legislation that enabled these controversial products to slip into the U.S. food chain in the mid-90s without any vetting. Michael Taylor, of all people was appointed in 2009 to serve as the FDA’s deputy director, and is in charge of labeling at the agency. Appointing Taylor was like authorizing the fox to guard the hen house. All of us are now the chickens.
    Any more questions?

  • agm

    Mike prefers to be “bought and paid for” by Mercola. P.T. Barnum said it — there’s a sucker born every minute. Go figure.