Prop 37, the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative, was rejected by California voters. If passed, genetically engineered foods would have had to include an identifying label on the package and whole foods would need a sign on the shelf. But, alas, Californians gave up their right to know.
I thought it was reasonable to ask for transparency in food labeling. (See my blog, What You Should Know About Labeling Genetically Modified Food.) Fifty countries, including the European Union, Australia, Japan, Russia and China (China!), already label genetically modified foods.
Genetically modified foods are made in the lab by taking genes from one species and inserting them into the DNA of another species. The genes introduced produce proteins that have some a new effect. For instance, corn hybrids contain a Bt gene, a gene from a bacterium that produces an insecticidal protein, and the Roundup Ready gene makes plants resistant to the herbicide Roundup. In the United States, 70 to 80 percent of our processed food is made with genetically modified soybeans, corn, sugar beets, cottonseed oil, and other GMO ingredients.
Prop 37 supporters argued that the long-term health impacts of genetic manipulations are unclear. In humans, they fear allergic and immune system reactions, transfer of antibiotic resistant pathogens, and unexpected secondary effects. And because weeds are rapidly becoming resistant to GMO crops, more herbicides are being used.
But opponents argued louder and spent more money to defeat Prop 37.
Big Agra actually spent close to $46 million to lobby against the initiative. They claim that GMOs are tested and safe (even though safety testing is left up to the manufactures and long-term testing does not exist), and compliance would have cost voters $400 a year in handed-down costs of label changes and lawsuits.
In the end, the voters surrendered their right to know. For now.
Your thoughts: Are you for or against Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food?