I’m in favor of labeling genetically engineered (GE) foods. And so I’m voting for California’s Proposition 37, the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” in November. Prop 37 calls for the labeling of all whole (GE) foods, like Monsanto’s GE sweet corn currently being sold at Wal-Mart, and processed foods with GE ingredients like corn syrup and soy lecithin sold in grocery stores in California. I’m voting for it and I’m posting the “nut shell” version of why I’m voting for it (that I recently composed in response to a family friend’s request for background information related to Prop 37) below.
But first, in the interest of full transparency, I want to disclose that am working on the Prop 37 campaign. I’ve written a couple of op-ed pieces, I’ve met with editorial writers from a couple of California newspapers, and when newspaper or radio reporters ask Prop 37 staff for the name of a scientist they could talk to about genetic engineering technology who is not a “zealot” in favor of it and who, therefore, might be able to provide a more balanced explanation of it, the staff often send them to me. I am a volunteer; I receive no payment of any kind for my time and effort in connection with the Prop 37 campaign.
In a nutshell:
“I’m definitely voting “yes” on Prop 37. Citizens in a capitalist democratic society like ours have the right to know what’s been added to their food, and there are laws on U.S. books indicating the same. The foreign protein in the GE tomato I helped bring to market was regulated as a food additive but after officially approving that GE food FDA came out and declared that no other GE food need be regulated similarly; currently, the FDA does not require regulation of nearly all GE foods. (One exception is when a foreign gene was obtained from an organism known to cause allergies in humans.) In fact, it’s possible to create a GE food that doesn’t require regulation with any U.S. agency, FDA, USDA or EPA, so no, you can’t trust the FDA to ensure that the foods produced using this powerful technology are safe.
One source of risk with these foods is that the process(es) for introducing the genes into the crops is [not under the control of the genetic engineers] and the foreign genes often, at rates as high as 40-60% of the time, land in a plant gene disrupting and mutating it. Therefore, regulation is necessary on a case-by-case basis.
Also, the tomato I worked on was labeled in grocery stores and they flew off the shelves. (In Davis the owner of the store rationed them, two GE tomatoes/person/day.) I think not labeling just makes people distrust the technology.
But, safe or not, Prop 37 is about having the right to know what’s in our food and how it was produced. And I believe we should have that right in the U.S. These companies label their products for sale in other countries, they should label them for us as well.”
To conclude, if you’re a registered voter in California, I urge you to vote “yes” on Prop 37 in November’s election.