With the conclusion of election night, the very important GMO labeling bill, Proposition 37, did not pass in the state of California. A little over 53% of California voters have voted against the bill that would require the mandatory labeling of raw and processed food if the food contain genetically modified organisms. This campaign marks the end of a highly expensive endeavor to spread awareness about the right for consumers to know what’s in their food.
With all the commotion and ruckus about GMOs and the Prop 37 initiative in California, it’s easy to become a bit whip-lashed or confused about the campaign. There have been many false advertisements in the ‘Vote No for Prop 37′ campaign with many corporations (including pesticide and chemical manufacturers) that contributed millions of dollars to dissuade consumers from supporting the initiative. Maybe it’s time to gain a little more insight on GMOs and how Prop 37 would’ve affected the way you look at food to nourish you and your family.
What Are GMOs?
According to NonGMOProject.org, GMOs or ‘Genetically Modified Organisms’, “are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.”
GMOs were mostly engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide, pesticides, and extreme weather like drought. For years, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the safety of GMOs and whether they add any nutritional value, resistance to pests, or enhance the growth compared to conventionally and organically grown crops.
Studies and Research
The major manufacturers of GMOs and GMO pesticides (which include Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, etc.) have all argued that GMOs are safe for human consumption despite of mounting research that shows otherwise. In a recent scientific study done by the University of Caen in France, rats were fed GMO corn over a period of two years. The studies showed that the GMO fed rats died 2-3 times more faster than the control rats, developed large tumors, and suffered from organ damage. (See Picture.)
GMO Consumption and Labeling
Right now in the United States, there is no federal requirement forcing manufacturers and food companies to label their products that contain GMOs. However, GMOs are banned in over 50 countries worldwide and are even banned in the cafeteria of the GMO giant, Monsanto. It may also come to a surprise that over 85% of all corn, soy, sugar beets, and canola oil produced in the United States are GMOs . And given the fact that the majority of Americans eat products that contain some form GMO soy, corn, canola oil, etc, this is a serious issue that should be addressed.
Prop 37 was a mandatory labeling of GMOs initiative that would’ve called for:
- The labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
- The prohibition labeling or advertising such food as “natural.”
- Exemption for foods that are “certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.”
Supporters of Prop 37
Supporters of this initiative argued that they have the right to know what’s in their food and to make the decision if they want to consume GMOs or not. Supporters were asking for simple and clear labeling from retailers, manufacturers, and food companies (with specific exemptions); no loopholes, no new bureaucracy. Some of the main supporters of Prop 37 include farmers, celebrities, nurses, doctors, and the Consumer Federation of America.
Opponents of Prop 37
Opponents had a different perspective when it came to Prop 37. Noprop37.com stipulated that Prop 37 would ‘ban the sale of tens of thousands of perfectly-safe, common grocery products only in California unless they were specially repackaged, relabeled, or made with higher cost ingredients”. Calling the initiative ‘flawed’ and ‘deceptive’, opponents argued that Prop 37 would’ve added more bureaucracy and tax costs, create a new realm of ‘frivolous lawsuits’, and increase the food costs by billions. Some main supporters of this initiative were the major pesticide and food corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, Coca-Cola, General Mills, and the majority of California newspapers.
After examining the actual Proposition 37 statute, the arguments presented by the opponents of the bill were misleading and sometimes outright incorrect. The fiscal impact on state and local levels would’ve range from a few hundreds of thousands of dollars to over $1 million to regulate the labeling of genetically engineered food. Litigation resulting form the violation of the bill would be possible but not significant enough to warrant a realm of ‘frivolous lawsuits’.
Here are some more facts about Proposition 37:
- An economic study done by Joanna Shepherd Bailey, Ph.D., found that “Consumers will likely see no increases in prices as a result of the labeling required”.
- GMOs are linked to a variety of health problems like allergies, organ toxicity, and more.
- Proposition 37 would not ban GMO foods. It would merely require the labeling with a phrase like “partially produced with genetic engineering” on the front or back of the packaging. This type of labeling is similar to what’s done in 50 other countries around the world.
- Proposition 37 would have given the consumer the right to make informed decisions about the food they eat and feed to their families. It was crafted in a way that provides legal clarity for businesses and would not invite frivolous lawsuits.
- Proposition 37 applied to only GE or genetically modified foods, not other foods. Restaurant and bake sale foods, meat, cheese, dairy, eggs from animals, alcohol, micro-ingredients, would have been exempt. Meat, cheese, dairy, and eggs from animals would have been exempt unless the animals themselves were genetically modified.
It’s uncertain how far the ramifications of the passing of Proposition 37 could have went. We probably would have seen more states adopt the same legislature to empower their consumers to choose the right foods for their families. We probably would have seen a reduction in the support and manufacturing of GMO’s that have been linked to diseases and cancer. We probably would have seen the beginning of a new food paradigm, where more people are more aware of what they put into their bodies. Either way, the fight is not over. One positive ramification of this campaign has been the overflowing of information and awareness of GMO’s. And once people become aware, they become empowered. Empowerment is something you don’t want to mess with.
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Courtney Chapman is the founder and contributor of Holistic Ebony. Holistic Ebony is a website dedicated toward spreading awareness about holistic health, meditation, cultural issues, and more.
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