Prop 37 – The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

The debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been raging for some time now. However, the mainstream populace seems to know nothing about it. As students of food and nutrition, it is our duty to be up to date with the latest information on our food supply. Are we feeding the world with these “improved” methods, or are there harmful consequences of messing with nature?

Those against labeling GMOs have tried to persuade consumers that Prop 37 is a “deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme that would add more government bureaucracy and taxpayer costs, create new frivolous lawsuits, and increase food costs by billions.” The No on Prop 37 website (www.noprop37.com) focuses purely on the cost to consumers. Activists supporting the proposition claim it “is a common-sense November ballot measure that will help consumers make informed choices about the food they eat”. The California Right to Know website (www.CArighttoknow.org) requests focusing on liberty; the freedom for consumers to purchase products based their ingredients.

But what about the true pros and cons of genetically modified organisms? Let’s dig deeper to the fundamental issue.

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), potential benefits of GMOs include a stronger, more resilient, more nutritious food supply all while lessening the impact of farming procedures on the environment (To read more about the benefits visit http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/focus/2003/gmo7.htm).

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies three main issues pertaining to human health: allergenicity (the tendency to provoke and allergic reaction), gene transfer (the genetic material inserted into the GM food transferring to the cells of the human body and possibly adversely affecting human health), and outcrossing (genes from GM foods mixing with conventional crops, or even their wild counterparts, potentially threatening food safety and security). The WHO identified several other issues regarding environmental concerns, these include: “the capability of the GMO to escape and potentially introduce the engineered genes into wild populations; the persistence of the gene after the GMO has been harvested; the susceptibility of non-target organisms (e.g. insects which are not pests) to the gene product; the stability of the gene; the reduction in the spectrum of other plants including loss of biodiversity; and increased use of chemicals in agriculture”.

With clear pros and cons, it is up to the people to decide what to do from here on out.

According to the California Voter Information Guide, prepared the by Attorney General, Proposition 37:

  • 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, or other processed 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.

I encourage you to be open-minded in this debate, always remembering there are two sides to every argument. Research the facts from credible sources so that you can fully understand the concerns from each side. Once you feel knowledgeable on the topic, you can be a beacon of light for consumers amidst the foggy political jargon.

Sources:

WHO – http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

FAO – http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/focus/2003/gmo7.htm

No on Prop 37 – http://www.noprop37.com/facts/

CA Right to Know – http://www.carighttoknow.org/facts

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