California Proposition #37

October 18, 2012
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I am reviewing the 11 propositions to be considered in California’s November 2012 election. Only 3 weeks away! For this post it’s Proposition 37.. genetically modified food labeling! Are you ready..let’s go!

California Proposition #37 – GMO Labeling

TDL Description

 Background..

Genetic modification refers to changing genetic material of organisms in order to create a desired change in the organism’s characteristics. For plants or other food materials you can change ‘ to resist pests and to grow despite being exposed to pesticides. You can also help a plant grow in increased size and number.

This tomato looks awfully red.. GE or au naturale?

Common GE (genetically engineered) crops include corn and soybeans. As of 2011, 80% of corn and 94% of soybeans were grown from seeds that were genetically modified. Other GE crops include: canola, cotton, papaya,  and zucchini.

Genetic modification is often used to make food products (or ingredients to make processed foods). Most commonly known ingredients include high fructose corn syrup. According to the legislative analysis (Download here: Prop 37 summary analysis.pdf)

Federal regulation: The USDA which works make sure that all foods (GE or otherwise), restricts the use of GE that may harm other plants.

State regulation: The CA Department of Public Health regulates the safety and labeling of most foods in California.

The Proposal..

 To change the way the state regulates genetically modified foods.

1.  Labeling of Foods: Requires that fresh produce (fruits and veggies) that has been partially or fully genetically modified to be labeled “Genetically Engineered” on the front package or label. If not a package there must be a sign on the shelf or bin.

All processed foods that have ingredients that were genetically modified must have a label that says Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering or May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.

Retailers are responsible for making sure that products are labeled. If not they have to go to the farmers, wholesale, or producers of the product for certification that the product has not been genetically modified.

ALSO, it would be forbidden for a product to use the words/phrases:  Natural, All Natural, Naturally Made, Naturally Grown, to describe the product if any part of it has been genetically modified. (What about ..Au Naturale??)

Items exempt from labeling: alcoholic beverages, organic foods, or restaurant foods that will be served immediately upon cooking are exempt. Meats like beef or chicken are also exempt even if they were fed with GE Foods.

2. State Regulation .. The CA Department of Public Health would be in charge of regulation and the steps or procedures that would need to take place to verify genetic modification.

3. Litigation to Enforce Measure. Consumers can sue against any violation under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act which allows a consumer to sue without proving that any damage occurred as a result of the violation. (For real?? Hmm…)

FISCAL Effects (to the state..)

  • California Dept of Public Health: this would increase costs to the department in order to handle regulation. $200,000 – 1M   (-)
  • Costs Associated with Litigation:  with this measure allowing folks to sue for violation, this could increase costs to the court system. Depending on how many lawsuits are submitted..the legislative analysis did not produce a number,  but did note that it probably won’t be significant in the long run.

 

PROS and CONS

 Pro

In SF Gate, Grant Lundberg (of Lundberg Family Farms)  and Kathryn Phillips (from the Sierra Club) say (not direct quote)  in November voters will decide on something that affects us all…the right to know what is in our food! They continue on to say..

  • GMO crops have led to increase usage of pesticides which leads to superweeds and superbugs which can contaminate non GMO crops and products.
  • It’s not a ban..it’s just a label. We have the right to know what’s in our food.
  • Consumers in 50 other countries including all of Europe, Japan, China and Russia already have this right.

Cons

Erik Freese, a California Farmer (I presume), says that Prop. 37 is fraught with vague and problematic provisions that would be a nightmare to retailers and those who process and grow food!

  • The peril of this being decided at the ballot is that if negative consequences arise, it can only be changed by voters.
  • The biggest problem with this law is the lawsuit provision..and we all know how crazy lawsuit junkies can get (<–he didn’t say that..my own wording, but that’s the gist).
  • This should be decided by the Legislature, where hearings and meetings and other checks and balances can be made to make sure it works well.

 So what do YOU think?

Do you care if your food is genetically modified? Are you concerned suit happy individuals will go nuts? Or do you think you should know if your Kraft Mac N Cheese is real? (I don’t think it is..but you KNOW  you love it!!)

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(don’t forget to vote!)

 

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