This November, the State of California may become the first state to require labeling of all foods that contain genetically modified organisms or GMOs. A genetically modified crop or plant has been altered to either produce pesticides on its own or become resistant to certain herbicides. The debate stems from whether the foods containing these ingredients are safe for human consumption. The Proposition 37 “Right to Know” campaign, backed by organizations like the American Public Health Association and California Certified Organic Farmers, has attracted over 2 million followers to date and is gaining ground. Prop. 37 is strongly opposed by the food industry’s so-called “Big Six”, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngerta. The opposition has contributed over $13 million, with Monsanto leading the charge, in order to stop GMO labeling. This issue affects many facets of the American food industry, as almost 90% of popular crops including corn, soy, beets, cotton, potato, alfalfa, wheat, tomato, and canola are genetically modified organisms.
Some genetically engineered plants produce Bt toxin to kill insects that would otherwise destroy crops.However, these insects then develop a resistance to the toxin, creating what are called “superbugs.” Genetically modified plants should require less pesticide use but amounts are increased after the presence of “superbugs.” When people consume foods with genetically modified ingredients they receive a dose of the Bt toxin, which is known to destroy human cells.
Other crops are modified with bacteria that make the plant resistant to herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup. However, like the issue with “superbugs,” weeds become resistant to herbicides like Roundup and this requires farmers to use higher doses of the toxic herbicides.
The opposition to Prop 37 claims that there is no scientific research supporting the idea that GMOs are unsafe for human consumption and even claim Prop 37 conflicts with science. However, scientists from Earth Open Source released a report last year stating that Monsanto-produced Roundup causes birth defects and reproductive issues in humans.To read more, click here…
So what would labeling these items actually do? Well consumer watch groups believe people have the right to know what they are consuming and more than 40 other countries agree. Countries like China, Russia, Australia, and all of the European Union have mandated the labeling of genetically modified organisms and Switzerland even banned genetically modified plants and animals.
The attacks on Prop. 37 and their rebuttals include:
1) Use of Taxpayer Money
The opposition claims that taxpayer money will pay for the regulation and monitoring of thousands of food industry labels.
Fact: According to the CA Right to Know campaign: “The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act will have no cost impact on consumers or food producers. It simply adds a label to genetically engineered food. Companies change their labeling all the time.”
2) Lawsuits due to GMO Labels
Those against Prop 37 claims that this act will open food industry companies up to many lawsuits due to the confusing requirements of GMO labeling.
Fact: Other labels like “no artificial preservatives” or “fat free” do not cause lawsuits or increased food prices so the “No GMOs” label should be no different.
3) Change in Food Prices
The opposition believes that food prices would increase because companies will have to pay for new labels or switch to non-GE food.
Fact: As stated earlier, companies – especially the ones leading the opposition to Prop 37 — change their labels all the time so it would not take much effort for them to add a line stating, “contains GMOs.” For example, many of the companies opposing this act changed their entire labels just for the Olympics. There would also be no reason for these companies to switch to non-GE foods if they are as safe as the opposition claim.
As one who supports sustainable, organic, eco-friendly foods and food producers, I personally support CA’s Prop 37. I believe the public has a right to know what has been done to the foods we consume daily and people should be able to educate themselves on how biotechnology affects our lives. Biotechnology has been extremely helpful for the American food industry and I am not against someone’s right to eat genetically modified soybeans or corn. However, the only reason there aren’t already labels for GMOs is because highly influential interest groups backed by multi-billion dollar corporations like Monsanto have done a very good job of blocking any laws that would make consumers more aware of what is actually in our food. These same corporations have spent millions to oppose this act and yet claim they can’t afford to relabel their products…seems a little off to me. I simply believe companies owe it to American consumers to label the GMOs…if they can label their products in Europe why not in their own country?
The links below provide further information and my source articles:
GMO Label Opponents Spend Millions To Fight Prop 37 As Advocates Cite Rising Pesticide Use, Health Risks (Huffington Post, Peeples)
CA Right to Know Campaign
No on 37: Stop the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme
Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World’s Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say (Huffington Post, Graves)
You can avoid GMOs without the labeling (Examiner, Greene)