Read the label: Do Californians have a right to know if food has been genetically engineered?

Sep 20, 2012

“MON 810”, a variety of genetically modified maize (corn) developed by Monsanto Company. Credit: ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images

We’ve put “plastic or paper” to rest, but that doesn’t mean our choices at the grocery store are getting any simpler. We may soon have to decide between genetically engineered food or not. That’s if voters approve Proposition 37, or the “California right to know genetically engineered food act,” in November. The measure would require companies that produce genetically modified food products to label them as such in California.

Those in favor of the measure say we’re entitled to know if and how our food is genetically engineered because of the potential risks such foods have to our health (actual health effects have not been officially determined). Proponents also point to the fact that over 40 countries around the world have mandatory label requirements for genetically modified food products.

Detractors of the statute claim it’s a divisive food labeling proposal designed to waste taxpayer dollars, that it will inspire frivolous lawsuits and increase food costs by the billions. Food giants opposed to the measure, such as Pepsi, Nestle and Campbell’s Soup, along with bioengineering companies like Monsanto and DuPont, have raised over 32 million dollars in total campaign cash, almost 10 times the amount raised by its supporters.

Interestingly, big names in the organic aisle, such as Kashi and Horizon Organic, have also joined the anti-labeling effort. Why is so much money being spent to defeat this measure? And if it doesn’t pass, is it only a matter of time before labeling becomes a federal mandate? Do you worry about the health effects of genetically engineered foods?


Stacy Malkan, spokesperson for the Yes on 37 campaign

Greg Palla, farmer from Kern County and spokesperson for the No on 37 campaign

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