A proposed California ballot proposition to mandate the labeling of genetically modified foods (GMO’s) is now circulating for signatures in the state. The grassroots campaign known as “The Committee For The Right To Know” is leading the effort and must now collect 504,760 signatures of CA registered voters in order to qualify the measure to appear on the 2012 presidential ballot.
The proposition would require raw and processed foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such. This would apply to all food sold with the exception of alcoholic beverages, food sold for immediate consumption in a restaurant, administered for a medical treatment, or for animals fed or injected with genetically modified organisms but not genetically modified themselves. Therefore, under this proposed law nearly all grocery store products containing GMOs would be labeled.
GMOs are food that contain organisms that have had their genetic material changed in a way the could not happen in nature. The most common example is genetically modified corn, where genes from pigs have been implanted in the corn’s DNA in order for corn kernels to produce their own pesticide. There is also widespread use of GMO soy, cotton, alfalfa, beets and other crops. GMOs have been under fire from activists and the organic food industry for a number of reasons. Many organic farmers complain that their crops have been cross contaminated by pollen from neighboring farms, causing their fields to become GMOs and leaving them subject to legal issues. This is because genetically modified seeds can be patented, therefore farmers who plant their crops using GMO seeds are not allowed to use the seeds produced by their current crops for the following harvest. They must pay the company who holds the patent every year in order to keep the farm up and running. If a farmer’s crops are found to contain GMOs, even if it was through cross contamination, they are subject to patent infringement. Additionally, organic standards bar the use of GMOs, so a cross contamination onto an organic farm can be a threat to losing USDA organic certification.
Other issues such as GMOs made to withstand the pesticide known as RoundUp (aka Agent Orange), both made by Monsanto, the arch nemesis of anti-GMO activists, destroys eco-diversty, kills beneficial organisms in the soil, leads to mono-crop farming, and decreases crop yields over time (something that was claimed to be the opposite when seeking approval for their use). There is also no evidence that GMOs are safe for human consumption, as the FDA and USDA do not require extensive safety studies for approval, and the studies are left up to the companies themselves. In fact there is emerging research that hints towards an increase in food allergies as a result of GMO consumption. Furthermore, the FDA is currently hearing arguments for the approval of GMO salmon, potentially the first GMO animal to be put into the wild and into the food supply.
GMOs have many negatives, however the effort is being characterized as a right to know issue, not a pro vs. con argument over the merits of genetic engineering. The organization believes that people should have the information available in order to choose whether or not to consume these products. They ultimately believe that the consumers will decide, and demand food without genetic engineering. It also seems that the public is on their side as a new public policy poll released last week indicates that over 90% of Californians support mandatory labeling of GMOs. The European Union and many other countries have also passed laws for requiring labeling, with France now pushing for an all out ban, in addition to large scale protests and voluntary GMO crop destruction in countries like Haiti and Turkey. For more information visit LabelGmos.org.
Disclaimer: Modern Serenity enthusiastically supports this initiative.
Update 6/18/12: The initiative has been officially qualified to appear on the November 2012 presidential election ballot by the California Secretary of State.
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