As someone who firmly believes that we have a right to know if the food we are eating is genetically engineered (GE), it is disturbing to watch Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of GE foods and had a wide margin of support, begin to slip in the polls due to a $35 million opposition campaign full of deception and lies funded by large agrichemical corporations.
In response to one television ad and mailer in particular, when talking about Proposition 37, people now express a concern about the exemptions. Therefore, it’s important to set the record straight.
Article 2, Section 8 (D) of the California Constitution states that a ballot initiative can only be about one subject, which is called the single subject rule. Far from being “illogical,” “confusing,” or appealing to “special interests” (as stated in one particular television ad), this proposition was written carefully and specifically, in order to comply with the law and to stand up to legal challenge upon passage.
It simply requires that all foods that are genetically engineered (or contain genetically engineered ingredients) be labeled, and prohibits these foods from being marketed as “natural.” It can require nothing else, thus the exemptions.
With respect to these exemptions, one of the most blatant lies is that pet food would have to be labeled, whereas meat for humans wouldn’t. What the ad fails to explain is that the pet food would have to be labeled because of the grains in the food, as many pet foods contain corn, soy, or canola, which are often genetically engineered.
There are currently no genetically engineered animals that have been approved for market, so meat for humans would not have to be labeled because it does not currently exist.
However, if in the future genetically engineered animals were approved for sale as meat, such as genetically engineered salmon that is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval, it would have to be labeled accordingly.
With respect to some of the other exemptions:
• Restaurant food is exempt, because restaurants do not label their food. However, with labeling, restaurants would be able to source non–genetically engineered ingredients and could market themselves as “GE-free.”
• Alcohol is exempt, because alcohol is not food. It is regulated under a special set of federal laws, and is, therefore, outside the domain of this ballot initiative.
• Meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed genetically engineered feed, but are not genetically engineered themselves, are exempt because (again) it is outside of the domain of this ballot initiative.
While it may not be good for them, eating genetically engineered food doesn’t make an animal genetically engineered any more than it makes us genetically engineered.
However, the feed itself would have to be labeled if it is genetically engineered, so ranchers and farmers could decide for themselves whether or not they want to feed it to their livestock.
So, who is funding this campaign of distortions and lies? The top 10 donors (in order) are Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestle, ConAgra Foods, and Syngenta.
Who supports Proposition 37? California Certified Organic Farmers, United Farm Workers, American Public Health Association, American Academy for Environmental Medicine, California Nurses Association, Organic Consumers Association, Consumers Union, Sierra Club, California Federation of Labor, California Council of Churches, and more.
Whose side are you on?
Don’t be fooled by the ads. Vote “yes” on Proposition 37.
Shirley Knight / Napa