In November, Californians will have the opportunity to require food manufacturers to tell you whether the foods you purchase contain genetically modified ingredients. Proposition 37, if approved by the voters of California, will have the following effects:
- It will require food manufacturers to label raw or processed foods sold to consumers if they contain genetically modified ingredients.
- It will prohibit the use of the label “natural” on foods containing these GMOs.
- It will exempt certified organic foods, those unintentionally produced with genetically engineered ingredients, alcoholic beverages, and restaurant foods.
At its heart, Proposition 37 is a right to know law. According to the Center for Food Safety, approximately 70 percent of processed foods available at the grocery store contain at least one genetically modified ingredient. Currently, no laws exist in this country requiring food manufacturers to disclose on labels or otherwise whether their products contain genetically modified ingredients. The California law is the first of its kind, and has implications for other states hoping to follow suit.
In the United States, we’re behind the rest of the world. According to the Proposition 37 campaign, 50 countries already require labeling of genetically modified foods. So we’re not just behind…we’re super behind (Beauty Detox readers in other countries, see what your country’s policy is!). This law would require food manufacturers to do in the United States what they do elsewhere around the world: inform their customers they are purchasing foods with genetically modified ingredients.
Current labeling laws make it difficult for consumers to discern whether the foods they purchase to feed their families contain genetically modified ingredients. One of the Proposition’s provisions is a prohibition on use of the word “natural” on package labels of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Back in April, “natural” food giant, Kashi, came under fire because they labeled products as “natural” in spite of the fact many of their products contained genetically modified soy. The use of the term “natural” misled consumers into believing they were purchasing unadulterated products with wholesome ingredients.
Because the term “natural” isn’t regulated by the USDA, many food manufacturers use it with impunity, implying their products contain only wholesome and healthful ingredients. Proposition 37 would require manufacturers to drop claims of “natural” from their labels if the product contained genetically modified ingredients.
Biotech Giants Support and Fund “NO” on Prop 37 Campaign
While Proposition 37 has tremendous grassroots support among the people of California, the no campaign has multiple heavy hitters in its camp who have donated millions of dollars to defeat the proposed legislation. Here is a list of the top financial backers of the no campaign:
- Monsanto Corporation $7.1 million
- EI Dupont De Nemours & Co. $4.9 million
- Dow Agrisciences $2 million
- Bayer Cropscience $2 million
- BASF Plant Science $2 million
- Pepsico, Inc. $1.7 million
- Nestle USA $1.17 million
- Coca-Cola North America $1.64 million
- Conagra Foods $1.08 million
These massive amounts of campaign money come from some of the largest corporations in America, which have a tremendous financial stake in you not knowing what’s in your food. In fact, funding for the Yes on Proposition 37 campaign is just shy of $4 million, while funding for the No on Proposition 37 campaign exceeds $32 million.
Why It Matters
It’s all about choice and the ability to make informed decisions in your own best interests. Regardless of one’s personal feelings about the safety of genetically modified foods, you have the right to know what you are feeding your family. Only with the knowledge of the ingredients your food contains can you make informed decisions. Once you know what’s in your food, you can research its safety and determine for yourself whether it is something you wish to consume and feed to your family. The giant biotechnology corporations such as Monsanto and Dow want to keep you from doing just that, lest you choose to opt out of purchasing what is, for them, a huge source of profits.
The opposition to this beneficial proposition has a huge war chest. Who’s donating money? You might be surprised to learn that a number of organic brands have large corporate parents fighting proposition 37 and donating to defeating it, which include Naked, Odwalla, Kashi, Morning Star Farms, Larabar, Muir Glen, Silk and Horizon among many others. Support comes from smaller organic producers without giant corporations behind them, such as Nutiva, Amy’s, and Nature’s Path.
Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe?
Genetically modified foods have been appearing on supermarket shelves since about the mid-1990s. With a track record of less than 20 years, it’s impossible to determine the long-term effects genetic modification of our foods will have on human health, but many early studies are disturbing.
- A study in the August 2012 Food and Chemical Toxicology linked genetically modified corn to premature death, liver problems, and mammary tumors.
- A Chinese study found rice microRNA in the organs and blood of humans who ate genetically modified rice. This microRNA affected the cholesterol function in humans.
- A 2002 study showed that consumption of genetically modified soybeans altered the rodents at the cellular level.
For a more in-depth discussion about the safety of genetically modified foods, read The Scary Truth About Genetically Modified Foods and What You Should Do on the subject.
While research remains ongoing, there appear to be some pretty scary consequences to widespread consumption of genetically modified foods. Likewise, with the relatively short history of human consumption, it has been impossible to evaluate the long-term safety of such foods. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be someone’s test subject.
While Proposition 37 is on the ballots in California, it’s success or failure will determine whether other states consider similar ballot measures. By banding together and passing the law in California, other states can also begin to demand honest labeling of the foods they eat.
What You Can Do
The No on Proposition campaign has a huge war chest funded by giant corporations that only care about profits. If you care about honest labeling on foods, however, you can fight back. Spread the word to everyone by sharing this blog post and other information about voting yes on Proposition 37 with everyone you know via social networking, email, and other avenues. In order to defeat these industrial giants, we need as many people talking about the issue as possible, regardless of whether they live in California or any other state. It’s time we stop allowing corporations to mislead the public in the name of profits. And if you do live in California? Be sure you make it to the polls in November so your voice can be heard.
For more information, visit the Yes on 37 website.