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Know which foods are genetically engineered

Know which foods are genetically engineered

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We are writing to encourage everyone to get behind the “yes” on Proposition 37 campaign to require the labeling of genetically engineered food in California, which will be voted on this November.

Over the past decade, polls have consistently shown that about 90 percent of Americans want genetically engineered (GE) foods labeled and that a majority would prefer not to eat them.

Because the government has failed to require such labeling and due to the lobbying efforts of large biotech corporations that have developed and profited from this technology, citizens in California have led a grassroots effort to bring this issue directly to the voters, bypassing the government and its corporate influence.

In the past, the biotech industry has claimed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has thoroughly evaluated GE foods and found them to be safe; this claim is untrue.

FDA documents, made public from a lawsuit, reveal that in the early 1990s FDA scientists warned that GE foods could create toxins, allergens, nutritional problems, and cancer, which might be difficult to link to GE foods, especially if they are unlabeled.

Nevertheless, political appointees at the FDA, with strong ties to industry, ignored their own scientists; and, still to this day, official FDA policy claims that GE foods are “substantially equivalent” to natural foods and do not, therefore, require safety testing or labeling.

The fact that Monsanto Corp. is the main producer of GE foods and is responsible for ensuring its own products’ safety is even more disconcerting, since claims of its earlier products’ safety (Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT) were later found to be untrue.

Furthermore, based on animal feeding trials that have been done linking GE foods to health problems (allergies, gastro-intestinal problems, toxicity to the liver and kidneys, and infertility), in 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine began recommending that people avoid eating GE foods, which would be possible only if they are labeled.

That organization, as well as the American Public Health Association, has endorsed Proposition 37.

During this campaign, surely the opposition will say that mandating the labeling of GE foods will cause food prices to go up — a fear it knows will resonate with people during these hard economic times. However, the initiative was written to be of no cost to the state.

It does not limit, but also does not require that the government enforce the law. Instead, it gives citizens and non-governmental organizations the right to bring an action in superior court, and allows the court to impose an injunction restraining any person from violating the law and to award all reasonable costs of investigating and prosecuting the action.

In addition, about 50 countries already require that GE foods be labeled, including major U.S. trading partners, such as the European Union and Japan, as well as Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, India, and many others.

Major food suppliers already know which food is GE and which is not as they already have to label it in these countries; proponents of Proposition 37 merely want that same right — the right to know if a food product has been genetically engineered or contains a GE ingredient so they can avoid it if they so choose.

If you would like to get more involved in this campaign, please consider going online to endorse, donate money to, and/or volunteer to help with Proposition 37 at carighttoknow.org, or join our local Facebook group at facebook.com/ groups/labelgmosnapa.

Martenson and Nichols are co-coordinators for California Right to Know Campaign, Napa Group.

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