The battle over Proposition 37, a ballot initiative that would require labeling many genetically engineered ingredients, is heating up in California. Large food and biotech companies have put up around $35 million to defeat the initiative, but now Prop 37 proponents have a slew of celebrities on their side.

Danny DeVito, Dave Matthews, Bill Maher and other big Hollywood names all star in a new, sarcastic video in support of the proposition.

“Why would you want to know what’s in your food?” asks Matthews in the online ad, which was produced by Food & Water Watch.

“It’s kind of none of your business,” adds actress Katilin Olson, of popular sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

“Certain companies would lose a lot of money if you didn’t buy their stuff,” jokes Maher.

The 1:30 spot continues with each celebrity asking California voters to vote Yes on Prop 37 for the “Right to Know” what’s in their food. The campaign is trying to get the “PSA” on air to combat the onslaught of TV ads against Prop 37.

The No on Prop 37 folks – backed by Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, PepsiCo, Nestle and others – argue that labeling would just needlessly increase the cost of food, confuse consumers and open up the floodgates for litigation against food companies and grocers.

“California farmers are threatened by Prop 37, a complex bureaucratic food labeling proposition that would increase costs to food producers and consumers by billions of dollars,” says Ted Sheely, who is identified as a California family farmer. “It’s going to put California at a disadvantage with the 49 other states. The people who are least able to pay are going to have to pay more.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently only requires labeling of GE foods if they have a significantly different nutritional profile or contain an allergen that consumers would not normally expect to be present. The FDA maintains there is no significant difference between GE and non-GE foods and foods containing GE ingredients pose no risk to human health.

A recent poll by Oklahoma State University found that 76.8 percent of California voters plan to vote “yes” on Prop 37, but the study also found that support for the initiative waned once poll respondents were shown a “No on Prop 37” ad.

  • Husna

    For those lobbying to support Prop 37, go ahead and take a Food Ingredient and a Food Labeling class before jumping to support a change that does not benefit the consumer in any way.  When the average consumer can’t read the basic food label and figure out the common name of the ingredient presents, how will they benefit from knowing what else is in their food?

    • Em

      Consumers always benefit when information is put on labels. The average consumer most certainly can read basic food labels. Corporations are against this because their bottom line is profit. Period. Transparency in labeling is a basic human right. We deserve to know what goes into the food we eat.

      • Shade

        What is wrong with profit? It always chaps my hide when people show their ignorance when they complain about a company making a profit. Where is this “basic human right” documented that you speak of? Or is that just a random subjective statement so many like to throw out to sound good?

      • HH

         Em…if this is a concern then you should be aware and more worried about the food that we import from developing countries that have poor public health standards and little regulatory ability to prevent pesticides and other chemicals from being used in food production.  Their public health problems become our problems.

    • I think most consumers have the intellectual capacity to understand:

      1. Genetically Engineered” on the front package for raw foods. 
      2. “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced 
      with Genetic Engineering” for processed foods containing GE ingredients

      • keene observer

         Those same consumers have the intellectual capacity to understand:

        1. Presence or absence of modern genetic engineered ingredients has no significance to safety or quality.

        2. Variously motivated special interest fear merchants aim to frighten them with untruths impuning our safe abundant affordable modern foods.

        That would be the case for intellectually competent reasoning consumers. Your labels and your crusade insult their intelligence. That effectively guarantees celebrity endorsement and passage of this politically motivated legislation in California where intellectually competent reasoning consumers are rare indeed.

        • If people have no problems with genetically engineered food, than why the worry about labeling?

          Put the information on the label, then people can make a choice. 

        • Then what’s the harm of providing the information on the label?

          Let people make their choice, don’t make it for them.

      • Hsingoldsby

        Gee, you’d think less people would smoke cigarettes too, given the information we have and provide for consumers…

        • Well, actually yes, there are many fewer smokers now than years ago. Is that the point you’re trying to make? That when people are aware of facts, they make better decisions for their health?

          You’ll get no disagreement from me. 

        • Less people do smoke, because of information published by the medical community and across the pack of cigarettes.

          Is that the point you’re trying to make?

  • Mike

    Don’t try to accomplish a good thing, giving people more information about their food, by suporting a bad proposition.  Please don’t make up your mind on Prop 37 by listening to the propaganda from each side.  Instead, actually read the proposition.  You may be surprised when you see the exceptions to labeling that have been included and I’m sure you will be surprised when you see that the proposition does not limit itself to GM-related topics.  This proposition also potentially opens up a nightmarish situation with regards to frivolous and baseless litigation that will do nothing but drive up food prices.  Do you really want a proposition that allows for lawsuits without cause or demonstration of damage?

    Please read it for yourself and ask yourself if the cure might just be worse than the disease.  Fight for legislation that actually accomplishes what you are after and doesn’t create more problems than is solves.

    • I don’t know of any group that is against the proposition because it doesn’t do enough. 

      The bill isn’t that complicated. The exceptions are limited: meat from animals unintentionally fed with GMO materials, or injected with same, products labeled organic, food eaten in restaurants, and medical material. 
      The exceptions just aren’t that broad. 

      The only other none GMO characteristic of the bill is products can’t use ‘natural’, because the term has been so badly abused. Well, that’s true People can see for themselves,_Mandatory_Labeling_of_Genetically_Engineered_Food_(2012)

      • FoodSci

        Why are restaurants exempt?

  • Carlo Silvestri

    What is the problem with labeling GM foods?  Why can’t we know that GM foods have GM ingredients?  What is “Big Food” trying to hide from us?  Their commercials are addressing all sorts of irrelevant concerns.  They’re just avoiding the addressing the basic question.  Keep the public dummied down!  They don’t need to know what goes into what they eat!  It doesn’t matter if a few tens, hundreds or thousands die.  Our profits are what’s important.  We purchase Cascade Fresh Yogurt.  How much did it cost for them to print “No GM ingredients” on the yogurt container?  That’s going to break a company financially?  Give me a break!  Let me know what I’m eating!

  • Husna

    Consumers definitely have a right to know their food. Even though several peer reviewed studies have linked GE foods to health
    problems, they have failed to address the other chemicals present in food and
    environment that contribute to organ damage and food allergies. Period.

    Will the consumer see diminished health problems after the
    food products in Supermarkets are labeled with GMO’s. Definitely not, because the
    consumer still will have no idea what really makes up their Food. Food labeling
    will still not reveal what is the chemical composition of flavors, processing
    aids or additives present in the food. It will not reveal the soil composition
    of the food or the pesticides used during food production. Neither it will reveal the industry processes used in food production or the chemical composition of the packaging material.  Experts from the food
    industry can give the audience several more reasons for not supporting Prop 37, and  those reasons are beyond the scope
    of this discussion.

    So now let’s get back to my original post. For those
    lobbying in favor of Prop 37, can the average intellectual consumer read their food label and ingredient
    list and tell “what actually is in their food”?  I definitely can’t despite a Master’s
    education in Food Science!

  • Mario

    Whenever the conversation turns to safe food for consumers I always think of Danny De Vito. Doesn’t everyone?

    One puzzling thing…what does Danny and fellow playactor playmates have against grocers?

    See, prop 37 is directed at grocers of all sizes, punishing them to the melodic tune of $10,000 for each and every questionable product we can find on their shelves. The smaller and mid-sized grocers will be the easiest prey. Especially those stocking locally produced stuff and specialty items.

    Thanks to Danny De Vito I will be raking in big cash by simply strolling the aisles of neighborhood grocery stores and bodegas. Just like the old protection racket only 100% legal. And mandated by a majority so I will be a hero instead of a thug. This is going to be great!

    • Missy

       Some people will abuse anything. It is not the intent of this wonderful law to ruin store owners but it will be worth it to lash out at farmers and food makers. What a shame evil doers will take unfair advantage.

  • Juan balli

    …you all against prop 37 must be rich or financially sound and have stocks in these big companies. i bet you do not feed your children foods with GMO, if you say you do, i want to be a witness. i know you do not feed your kids poisons, you want them to have the highest IQ and be fit. the poor and minorities are the lab rats,  you do not care for these people. VOTE yes to prop 37, its about your families health.


    As a toxicologist, public health/food safety regulator and microbiologist turned farmer I don’t jack up my prices just to let people know I grow and sell heirlooms. Heck, it is part of the company name.
    I hope Californians vote it in. Then, this southerner who lOves nor Cal will move back from TN where the attitude is ignorance is bliss but here it’s legal to burn motor oil and other substances for comfort heat

  • Kevin

    The arguments for No on Prop 37 are ridiculous. Nowhere is a focus on the benefits of GMOs, everywhere alarm around potential cost and criticism of how the law was written. IMO, this law is needed for the market to take its course – label GMO foods and see if buyer habits change. Some may, some won’t. The hear tof the law is I get to make a purchase decision now. Since most GMO companies (Monsanto etc.) keep pretty close tabs on who is using their seeds and require farmers to do the same, this shouldn’t be that difficult……

  • We don’t have to eat in restaurants, but we do have to buy food to eat. 

    Restaurants are typically exempt from many nutritional labeling requirements.