A closer look at California's Proposition 37

Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food

BAKERSFIRLD, Calif. - A food fight is under way that surrounds your dinner table, and now it comes down to the hands of California voters in a few weeks.
Most people may have not even heard about Genetically Modified Organism, but the fact is, they are out there in the food supply.

According to the Institute For Responsible Technology, currently commercialized GMO crops in the U.S. include soy (94 percent), cotton (90 percent), canola (90 percent), sugar beets (95 percent), corn (88 percent), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50 percent), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres).

The products derived from the above list, including oils from all four, soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup among others, all contain GMOs. There are also many "invisible ingredients," derived from GM crops that are not obviously from corn or soy.

Proposition 37 will make it mandatory for manufacturers to label foods that contain GMOs, but opponents say it's a deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme.

"When we are talking about GMOs we are talking about seeds and the products of seeds that have been genetically engineered in a lab," said Cydney Henderson, food activist.

Farmers who do not use organic methods depend on GMO seeds to grow crops that use less sprayed pesticides. The initial objective for developing plants based on GM organisms was to improve crop protection.

"These are seeds that are designed for better growth and also resist disease for food safety, so that's good for the community," said Ben McFarland, of the Kern County Farm Bureau.

Proponents say GMO seeds produce fruits and vegetables that have an internal insecticide. If a bug eats GMO corn, they say, the bug will die. The whole idea behind Proposition 37, supporters say, is to give consumers the choice.

Health experts say ever since GMOs were first used in the mid-1990s, autism and food allergies have skyrocketed. Additionally, genetically modified foods have been linked to toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.

'It makes sense, if the GMO plant is meant to kill bugs; it can't be healthy for us. You would be crazy to stand in a field that was being sprayed with pesticides, so why would you go out and buy food that has an internal pesticide?" asked Tom Gooden, consumer.

However, opponents of Proposition 37 say there have been no verified reports that GMO foods are harmful to humans.

"If there is something in there that has the risk of negativity affecting the health of my family, especially my son, I want to know what is in my food," said Arthur Manalac, consumer.

This food-fight battleground lies somewhere between the crop growing in the field to the isle of your local grocery store where consumers get to decide what they want put on the label before it gets to their table.

"As far as I'm concerned, God created the seeds, now man has modified it. I don't want to eat Franken-food, said Brian Ash, consumer.

"I want to know so I can do my own research and make the decision for myself," said Manalac.

Opponents say, the Right To Know Campaign would add more government bureaucracy, taxpayer costs and create frivolous lawsuits.
Additionally, they say, it forces farmers and food companies to implement costly new labeling, packaging, distribution, record-keeping and other bureaucratic operations that will cost billions of dollars to implement.

"Prop 37 is misguided, it's all about litigation and it will increase your food cost," said McFarland.

Proponents say over 40 countries already have similar labeling in place, which, they said has only increased the food cost by 2-10s of 1 percent.

"One line about genetic-engineered ingredients on the label is not going to cause a lot of cost increase in food price," said Henderson.

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