Nov 08 2012
Ten years after Oregon’s unsuccessful attempt to pass a ballot initiative to label genetically modified foods back in 2002, Californians tried to do the same this past Tuesday with Proposition 37. With a 53 to 47 percent vote however, California voters also walked away from an opportunity to become the first state in the nation to label GM or genetically modified foods.
Had the proposition passed, it would have required food products made with plants or animals with artificially manipulated genetic material to be labeled as such. Although beef, eggs, dairy, alcohol and restaurant food would have been exempt from labeling, the word, “natural” would not have been allowed to appear on food labels that contained genetically modified ingredients.
While Prop 37 had the backing of 60% of voters according to polls taken early on in the election season, the infusion of huge sums of money by food conglomerates like Monsanto, PepsiCo and Hershey’s shifted the balance of voters who were originally in favor of the proposition. By the time of the election, the “No” on 37 vote had gathered $45 million dollars to spend on advertising, while the “Yes” campaign had only brought in about $7.3 million.
Despite scientific studies that showed how rats fed a lifetime diet of GMO foods develop tumors and organ damage compared to rats who ate GMO free foods, major scientific groups like the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Science denied that GMO crops have any effect on individual health. Mainstream media outlets like the LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle urged their readers to vote No on 37. Even civil rights groups like the California NAACP endorse a No vote. Opponents of prop 37 claimed that consumers would have to foot a much higher food bill to pay for the additional labeling requirements, even though most food companies already label GMO foods in 60 different countries around world, including Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.
Proponents of labeling are now working on a petition to press the Food and Drug Administration to take up labeling requirements. Efforts are also underway to place a another ballot initiative before Washington State voters next November. President Barack Obama had promised in 2007 to take up the fight to label genetically modified foods.
GUESTS: Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director for Center for Food Safety and Megan Westgate, Executive Director, Non-GMO Project