Vote to Know What’s in Our Food
By Mary Budinger
On November 6, California voters could shake up things big time in grocery stores. Ballot item Prop 37 would require that GMOs—genetically modified organisms—be labeled. According to polls, about 90 percent of people asked say they want labels to tell them if there are GMOs in food, in addition to the existing nutrition information about calories, fats, carbs and sodium.
The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act would require GMO labeling on packaged food sold in grocery stores and other retail outlets; require that when foods are not packaged, such as sweet corn or fresh fish, store shelves must post a label; and prohibit the advertising and labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods as “natural.”
The labeling requirement would kick in July of 2014. It would not apply to what is served in restaurants, at salad bars or at the neighborhood bake sale. And it would not apply to food from animals fed genetically engineered feed.
Stacy Malkan, media director of the California Right to Know initiative to label GE foods, says Prop 37 is about transparency. “There is no proof that GMOs are safe because long-term human health studies have not been done. Yet this isn’t a referendum on good or bad, but about the right to know and giving people a choice whether they want to eat it.”
The opposition group, “Stop Costly Food Labeling,” is funded primarily by the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Grocery Manufacturers Association. They argue that labeling is extreme, costly and unnecessary. Karen Batra of the Biotechnology Industry Organization said, “This isn’t even about labeling. It is about disparaging mainstream agriculture, scaring consumers into paying a premium price for organic products.”
A “yes” vote is expected to reverberate throughout the agricultural industry because companies may not want to initiate separate labeling for food sold just in California. GMOs now lurk in an estimated 70 percent of what is on grocery store shelves nationwide.
Roughly 50 other counties already require labeling of GMOS, including all the nations in the European Union, Japan, China, Brazil and Australia.
Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine.
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