Proposition 37 aims to require new labels identifying all foods made from genetically engineered material. It will give consumers more knowledge about the foods they eat and will, for the first time, allow each California citizen clarity in their right to choose between genetically modified foods or organics.
Prop 37 initially seemed to me like a logical new addition to the California health and safety codes. However, the fevered rhetoric propagated by the prop’s opponents would have you believe this legislation adds to an already bloated set of bureaucratic regulations.
I’ve seen televised political attack ads accusing this prop of increasing taxpayer costs, and raising the price of food. The opposition also claims the proposed legislation is poorly written and unfair to food producers.
Attempting to cut through the rhetoric, I more thoroughly researched Prop 37 as my journalistic and civic integrity demands. It’s become clear to me the opposition’s claims against Prop 37 are all baseless.
In fact, the labeling mandated by Prop 37 will cost consumers nothing. The prop gives manufactures ample time, until July 2014, to phase in the new labels or to change their products to avoid the labeling requirement. More importantly, if Prop 37 passes, it will clearly illuminate the extent to which genetically modified foods have infiltrated our daily diets.
According to the center for food safety, up to 85 percent of corn produced in the US is genetically engineered, as are 91 percent of soybeans. For the average consumer, this means that an estimated 60-70 percent of all processed foods contain at least one genetically engineered product.
That’s a lot of food. This includes all food and drink that’s been artificially sweetened by high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, and almost all foods that use a corn or soy base. In simpler terms, this means that almost all pre-packaged food products, be them from a grocery store or a fast-food chain, contain genetically engineered material.
Therein lies the frenzied opposition to Prop 37. According to KCET, corporations who engineer the modified seeds and corresponding pesticides such as Monsanto, Dupont and Dow have contributed over $14 million to the opposition, which is a drop in the proverbial bucket when compared to the over $40 million total raised, in opposition, by corporate interests such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Morton Salt, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Kraft Foods, Goya Foods, Kellogg, General Mills, and Pepsi, to name a few.
In this context, the multimillion dollar opposition makes much more sense. Altogether, sales from the pesticides, genetically engineered seeds and fresh and processed foods industries equate to a multibillion dollar industry.
Moneyed interests and rhetoric aside, Prop 37 is simple. A no vote saves corporate interests the trouble of having to label their products slightly different. A yes vote empowers consumers, and makes what’s in the food we all eat a little more transparent. Vote yes on Prop 37.