Prop 37: The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

Photo courtesy glue & glitterThe highly-anticipated California ballot initiative known as Right to Know has been assigned a number: it is Prop 37.

Expect to see plenty of "Yes on 37" stickers and signs at your local farmers' market between now and November -- and even more "No on 37" commercials on TV.

If 37 passes, food products using genetically modified ingredients would be labeled as such. Hence the "right to know" moniker: you'd probably be surprised to see how much food you consume was created, at least partly, in a lab.

The companies like make GMOs, particularly Monsanto, have incredibly deep pockets and the best marketers money can buy, so the passing of Prop 37, even in a consumer-friendly state like California, is not a given. And as with any controversial proposal, there is disagreement among the ranks. Some believe that Prop 37 doesn't go far enough, as it won't require labeling on all GMO-adjacent food products, such as beef that was fed modified grains.

We'll keep you updated on any Prop 37 developments and news from now until November. In the meantime, tell us in the poll how you think you'll vote.


See the complete list of California props here, and for a list of Prop 37 donors, click here.

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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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Regulation of this kind should be reserved for things that actually represent health or ecological risks, neither of which applies to GM products. What this proposition attempts to legislate is consumer preference, not science. If folks want to eat exclusively non-GMO foods, the best place to start is by telling the companies that they buy from.

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Karl says: "Regulation of this kind should be reserved for things that actually represent health or ecology risks, neither of which refer to GM products."

90% of US citizens want labeling of GM foods. When something is so novel and new it can be patented, people need to be given a choice, until it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that no harm will occur. Fifty countries world-wide have labeling, but in the US we have been purposely kept in the dark. The US is the last big market for the bio-tech crops and if they lose us ( and they know they will if they label) they have virtually nowhere else to unload their billions worth of unwanted goods. Not even countries in Africa have been eager to accept GMOs even with their food scarcity problems.

As to the contention that GMO foods and crops pose no risk to health or our environment--I offer these websites to those who want to decide that for themselves:
www.ucsusa.org
www.earthopensource.org (see GMO Myths and Truths)
www.organicconsumersassociation.org
www.labelgmos.org

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Karl, GMOs have been shown to produce allergic reactions in humans who are exposed to a food they were not allergic to before genetic material from another food product was spliced in. There have been soybeans recalled which contained a brazil nut protein that caused an allergic reaction in humans who were not allergic to soy but were allergic to brazil nuts. Medical professionals need to be able to track where potential health concerns are coming from for public safety, and people with sensitivities should be able to find a label. It's no different from labeling food which has been produced in a factory that also processes peanuts and shellfish, for example.

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I can only help but wonder if the previous commenter "Karl" works for the biotech industry. There is an absolute abundance of independent science that shows GM products, specifically those which people are referencing when they talk about GMO's which is products that come from plants which are designed to contain a pesticide (as it is the case for more than 99% of cultivated commercialized GMOs), are NOT safe for human consumption (ie - a health risk) and post great ecological risks, not the least of which would result from one of two giant corporations controlling the vast majority of the food supply. We know that is Monsanto's end game. I would suggest Karl read Jeffrey Smith's new book "Genetic Roulette" which gathers together just about all the the studies I am referring to, or perhaps takes a look at the new report "GMO Myths and Truths" which can be found here - http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58

The studies that were used to get GMO's into the food chain in the first place were all done by the biotech industry, and were eventually approved when Michael Taylor, former VP of Monsanto (Washington) was made head of food safety at the FDA. The revolving door in full effect, and the fox guarding the hen house. How anyone could find that acceptable is beyond most people's logic.

Here is a look at the revolving door between the federal government and Monsanto alone - http://www.occupymonsanto360.org/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/monsanto-in-government1.jpg

We know that GMO crops fail in the long run, we are now seeing super weeds and super bugs. Farmers are reporting having to use three times as much RoundUp as they previously used, the soil is deteriorating more and more each year. The IAASTD's global report has shown that in 20 years GMO's have done nothing for world hunger and nothing to increase crop yields. In each and every case conventional breeding has beaten GMO crops to the finish line, whether for pest resistance or drought tolerance. The way to feed 9 billion people is organically, where every farmer owns their own food, has soil that is alive and has full carbon-absorbing properties intact (read the Rodale Institute's Farming Systems Trial) and can save their own seed without being sued out of business by the worst company to grace our planet over the last 100+ years.

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Actually, GMO's do have both health & ecological risks. They were never tested thoroughly before being approved. Since being approved, tests have been done that show health problems & death in rats. Subsequently, all of Europe & most western nations require labeling, and GMO's have all but disappeared in those nations. Due to Monsato's huge $ and lobbying, the issue was never addressed in the US, and it needs to be. All labeling does is allow people with legitimate concerns to choose not to buy GMO food. Without labeling we can't choose, we don't know. 70% of processed food in the US is GMO, but not labeled as such. Organic food is NOT GMO. Choice is a good thing.

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When I find the article on the costs in the EU of labeling foods that have GMOs, I will post the link. If my memory is correct it was .01%; that would be 1 penny for every $100.00 dollars, if my math is correct. So it would probably be a dime here in the US, but that's another story. We collected 971,000 signatures to get Prop 37 on the ballot here in California. When we got around 450,000 the paid signature gathers were released. VOLUNTEERS all over the state gathered the remaining 521,000 and probably a majority of the 450,000. I am glad we have the opportunity to put things on the ballot when our elected do not do the will of the people.
And Karl, if the food is labeled you can make the choice to eat GMO products. It is not an attempt to legislate behavior, the behavior is to avoid GMO and with the label we can.
10 years from now scientist can gather those who have avoided GMO and the other Karl's in California and study if there is any difference in health of the groups.

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I'm sorry when I clicked "Submit" I got a broken link message and clicked again. Administrators can you remove the duplicate post?

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Karl, I prefer not to buy gmo's. In order to do this, I've got to have them identified. I am pretty informed about the issues, and evenso, I am guessing at the store some of the time. Once they are labeled, I intend to tell food companies that I don't want gmo's by voting with my dollars. I will therefore vote to label them in November. I will also start a letter writing campaign to tell companies that I don't want to eat gmo's because they are either 1)producing their own pesticides in every cell (the case with bt corn) or 2) full of glyphosate (the case with round-up ready soy which is not killed by round-up, but instead absorbs it, survives, and then finds it's way to your dinner plate.)

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Karl, GMOs actually represent health and ecological risks, both apply to GM products. I am a science teacher, first woman to graduate from my college with a BS in my field. The best place to start is by labeling the product because lawsuits are placed against companies wishing to label nongmo.
There are too many ecological risks to mention, but here is one story from a farmer: Canadian geese feed on GMO canola seed in Canada and fly South, dropping seeds as they go. One canola plant has 400,000 seeds. Once the plant spreads its seeds, it cannot be killed by Roundup but must be hand pulled. Remember, GMO seed is Roundup-resistant. They are called 'Superweeds.' So the USDA is NOW approving 2,4-D resistant crops, you remember that is half of Agent Orange, so that crops may be sprayed and kill the superweeds. That is 30% of the land in the US which may be cropdusted or hand sprayed with Agent Orange. Now we all know how transparent and accountable the Agent Orange folks are. At least our Vietnam Vets, many of classmates with cancer and heart problems.... the page of illnesses caused by Agent Orange is 6 pages long in the officers manual. We all know the story of the Vietnam villages born without legs and other deformities, unclaimed by the responsible chemical companies. Is this a risk to now spray on our homeland? Karl thinks not. Maybe Karl, you might like to live next to the field and be cropdusted like my children were by unregistered pesticides that nurseries are allowed to use. The land is available? Not wishing to live there? Maybe a bit riskier to your health, and more of an ecological risk than you wish.
"A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
-John F. Kennedy

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As a public scientist interested in the environment, food equity, worker safety and so many other food-related issues, I am sad to read this thread. Karl is spot on. Transgenic technologies have an outstanding safety record and have kept literally millions of tons of insecticides and nasty herbicides out of the environment.

Here everyone posts what they learn to say from websites and anti-GMO talking points. Karl writes a factual statement that represents the scientific consensus. He's discounted as a dupe for some company, and I'm sure you will say the same about me.

You need to learn how to think critically and consider real science, not just anti-GMO websites. You are no different than those that come up with every bad argument against human-induced climate change. The scientists know that humans affect climate. But others fight it, denying real science. The anti-GMO movement is the same thing- denying science.

70% of food has a transgenic origin. It has been used for 15 years and there are no signs of problems from the PEER REVIEWED literature. That's what counts, not what some knucklehead at Natural News thinks. So folks, get with science here.

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As a public scientist interested in the environment, food equity, worker safety and so many other food-related issues, I am sad to read this thread. Karl is spot on. Transgenic technologies have an outstanding safety record and have kept literally millions of tons of insecticides and nasty herbicides out of the environment.

Here everyone posts what they learn to say from websites and anti-GMO talking points. Karl writes a factual statement that represents the scientific consensus. He's discounted as a dupe for some company, and I'm sure you will say the same about me.

You need to learn how to think critically and consider real science, not just anti-GMO websites. You are no different than those that come up with every bad argument against human-induced climate change. The scientists know that humans affect climate. But others fight it, denying real science. The anti-GMO movement is the same thing- denying science.

70% of food has a transgenic origin. It has been used for 15 years and there are no signs of problems from the PEER REVIEWED literature. That's what counts, not what some knucklehead at Natural News thinks. So folks, get with science here.

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@Jessica. I adore science teachers. However, I absolutely cannot tolerate those that teach what they think and not what is fact. In your comment above you start out saying that you have a BS and are a teacher. Shame. Look at the insane, non-scientific junk you write in that next paragraph!

What is your source on this Canadian Geese/Canola link? Plus, canola can grow outside of a farm, but does not compete well against natural weeds etc. Herbicide resistance is useless in the absence of glyphosate herbicide. And not all GMO seed is glyphosate resistant as stated.

2,4-D is NOT Agent Orange. 2,4-D is one of the oldest and safest herbicides. It is a synthetic auxin, a mimic of a natural plant hormone that causes the plant to basically grow to death and causes other plant developmental problems. Agent Orange contained 2,4-D, but the toxic component was 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, a contaiminant of a related compound 2,4,5-T. Not 2,4-D.

So you are spreading nonsense like "30% of the land in the US which may be cropdusted or hand sprayed with Agent Orange".

Shame. And a teacher. Do you teach creationism too? That the climate is not getting warmer? Sorry, but this makes me so mad to hear that a science teacher does not critically think about science and follows misinformation.

Here are the facts about the Agent Orange connection:
http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/04/agent-orange-monsanto-and-little.html

And if you want to talk pesticides, look at how much pesticide was NOT used because of Bt corn-- 2.5 million pounds per year!

http://12.000.scripts.mit.edu/mission2014/genetically-modified-crops

I'd rather be helpful than hostile, so if you'd like to learn more I am happy to guide you to real sources of information that can help you make more informed statements.

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I don't understand why pro-biotech people are getting so worked up about this. Think about it: a pack of cigarettes has a very clear warning that usage may cause cancer, but that doesn't stop people from smoking. Chances are, many people will buy GMO products regardless of a label (which, might I add, isn't a warning label but merely a statement). My family and I will be voting yes as we simply respect access to choice. Should you wish to support the biotech industry, just buy the labeled products. And Monsanto makes millions, a few less bucks shouldn't rile them up.

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@Sam, Don't worry about those shills too much. It is just their kick-backs talking through their remotely controlled puppet mouths. GMO's have been not one, but thousands of experiments run on the public at large with newly patented and scarcely tested products. I don't believe that generally genetic modification of foods is necessarily bad. But releasing them on the public without telling anyone what they are eating or even running extensive human trials is potentially tantamount to genocide should anything go wrong.

Not to mention that I have read many peer review journals that among other horrific side effects have caused test animals to become completely infertile within three generations. That sounds like some serious human time trials that have not been run.