The California proposition we should all be aware of, Republicans, Democrats, and everyone else, is prop 37. Prop 37, despite claims to the contrary, is simple: if a food product is made with ingredients that came from a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), the label should say so.
This seems so simple, so obvious, so harmless, and so clearly a good idea that I can’t understand how anyone could oppose it. But the corporations that profit from the genetic manipulation of our foods have geared up the public relations powerhouses to protect those profits.
The main argument put forth against prop 37 by the likes of Monsanto corporation (including Eli-Lilly, American Cyanamid, Dow, and UpJohn corporations) is that the it’s labeling requirements are “illogical.” In TV commercials, they show things like meat and milk and alcoholic beverages and say that they are “exempt.” Well, prop 37 doesn’t require labeling of the upholstery in you car either. The food-biotech industry may have unwittingly shot themselves in the foot with this one…
Prop 37 calls for labeling of foods that contain genetically-modified ingredients. That is to say, foods that contain ingredients which have, themselves, been genetically modified. But let’s look at milk, for example. Milk is, for better or worse, pretty much the stuff that comes out of a cow, possibly with a vitamin or two thrown in. The mild itself has not, to this point, been genetically modified. The cow, however and in most cases, has been modified, or at least it’s milk production has.
Cows (not the ones that produce organic milk) are, in the majority of cases in our wonderfully modern country, injected with hormones, specifically to make them produce more milk or just grow faster and bigger. The hormone for increased milk production is recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), also known as recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST). This and other hormones given to cows are synthetic versions of natural bovine hormones.
This process is not covered by prop 37. I would say that situations like this would be a great next step. But it’s logical, practical and much more politically feasible to start with GMOs.
Another argument from the Monsanto PR machine is that labeling foods as genetically modified would be “misleading.” This is claim is due to the ironic idea that people will interpret the GMO label as meaning that it’s something bad. That’s pretty interesting. Maybe we should stop labeling food period. Sugar content? It’s OK, all you need to know is that our government has determined that it won’t kill you… today. MSG? Sodium nitrate? FD&C red #40? They have all been determined to be “safe.” So you don’t need to be informed, just eat up! Only a small percentage of you will get sick or die, and that’s perfectly acceptable – on a statistical basis.
The anti-prop 37 commercials also claim that people’s food bills will go up if the bill is passed. The “research” that came to this conclusion was done by, you guessed it, the biotech industry. It’s not an independent study and not from a credible source. Food companies will have to change the labeling on processed food packages, it’s true. But, as it is, these labels change all the time anyway. In fact, I often see the same product on a shelf in the store with two different labels. The only difference is a different color or typeface.
This whole issue is incredibly simple. We, as citizens of the United States of America and as human beings, have the undeniable right to know what’s in our food, period. We also have the right to know when we are eating something that has been produced in a way that could threaten our environment and future food production, as many of these “Frankenfoods” are doing.
And as for the claim that prop 37 is a “complex set of regulations,” it’s only complex if you can’t read very well. If you are interested in reading the actual text of prop 37, you may do so here.
Prop 37 is a stand against the people being turned into Guinea pigs. Vote “Yes” on prop 37, and call your friends and make sure they will, too.
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.