Prop 37 Cheat Sheet: Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods


As consumers, we already eat (and have been eating for decades) genetically engineered crops such as corn and soy, as well as the products made from them. We just don't know when we're doing it. Prop 37 aims to change that by requiring a label on these products (you'll alternately hear them referred to as genetically modified organisms, or GMO's). Prop 37 would take the added step of prohibiting such products from being labeled "natural."

The text of the proposed law does include several exemptions, including foods that are certified organic, contain only small amounts of genetically engineered material, or are sold for immediate consumption (as in, at a restaurant). These exemptions are the source of complaints that Prop 37 serves certain special interests.

While the measure itself only addresses whether or not to label, a key point of contention between supporters and opponents is whether genetically engineered foods are safe for human consumption. For now, there does not appear to be a scientific consensus on the matter, though the World Health Organization claims that no effects on human health have been reported in any country where they are consumed. The WHO has a helpful fact sheet explaining what a genetically engineered food is and outlining the debate.

What Your Vote Means:
Voting YES would mean that genetically engineered foods and food products have to be labeled in California.

Voting NO would mean no change to existing law. No labeling would be required.

Who & What It Affects

Consumers: Consumers are currently armed with information about the foods on the shelf at the grocery store, including the nutritional content and whether a product is certified organic. Prop 37 would give them one more layer of information. Opponents of the measure claim, however, that such knowledge will come with a cost, as food producers raise their prices to compensate for labeling or using more expensive non-GM ingredients.

Food Producers: Some farmers and food producers will be required to print new labels. They may also have to decide whether to make big changes in how they grow or produce their food in order to avoid getting slapped with the label.

Fiscal Impact
According to the legislative analyst's office, the cost to the state of administering a labeling program could be as much as $1 million a year. That's because the Department of Public Health would have to monitor food producers to determine whether they are complying. The LAO also predicts an unknown but "potentially significant" cost for the courts, the Attorney General, and district attorneys to handle lawsuits arising from violations.

Who's Behind It?
According to the committees backing it, Prop 37 got its start when Pamm Larry, a "grandmother from Chico," woke up and decided it was her duty to lead the grassroots effort to make labeling of genetically modified foods a reality. Since then, a swarm of individual small donors have joined the cause, enough to attract the attention and support of big-money backers like Dr. Joseph Mercola, who runs a popular alternative health website. Other major donors include:

  • Organic Consumers Fund
  • Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps
  • Nature's Path Foods
  • Lundberg Family Farms
  • See the fully updated list here

Who's Against It?
Among those lined up to oppose Prop 37 are major farming associations, food and beverage companies, a litany of chambers of commerce and other business groups, and biotech organizations. The list of big money donors to the anti-37 camp includes:

  • Monsanto
  • Dupont
  • Council for Biotechnology Information
  • Grocery Manufacturers Association
  • PepsiCo
  • Coca-Cola
  • Kraft Foods
  • Kellogg Company
  • See the fully updated list here

Arguments Being Made For:
Labeling will allow you to know which foods have genetically engineered material so you can decide for yourself whether to eat them.

Having such information can help you protect yourself and your family -- some physicians and scientists say such foods have been linked to allergies and other health risks.

More than 40 other nations currently require such labeling, including "most of Europe, Japan, and even China and India."

It will cost nothing to include this information on a label -- manufacturers will have time to phase in new labels or decide to change their products so they can avoid the labeling requirement.

It will prevent misleading use of the word "natural" on genetically engineered foods.

Arguments Being Made Against:
It will add more government bureaucracy and increase taxpayer costs because of the need to monitor "tens of thousands of food labels."

It will lead to more lawsuits and create "a new class of 'headhunter lawsuits' allowing lawyers to sue family farmers and grocers without any proof of harm."

It will increase food costs by billions as farmers and food companies are forced to implement "costly new operations" or switch to the more expensive, non-genetically engineered foods. That cost will be passed to consumers.

It is full of special-interest exemptions. Exemptions include milk and dairy products, alcohol, and meat.

Scientific and medical organizations have concluded biotech (GMO) foods are safe. Organizations include the National Academy of Sciences, American Council on Science and Health, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the World Health Organization.

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article noted, incorrectly, that genetically engineered wheat has been available for public consumption for decades. In fact, it is not being grown commercially anywhere in the United States.

Top Photo: Scientists from the John Innes Centre, UK have genetically engineered tomatoes to contain very high levels of the cancer-fighting antioxident 'anthocyanins', which as a result have turned the usually red fruit into a deep purple. | Credit: John Innes Centre UK via Getty Images

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California’s Prop 37 will require labeling of foods that contain GMOs. To help it pass on Nov. 6th, artists in Sonoma County will create a unique art form called “Sidewalk Storybook.” The 200-foot long story and illustrations will be drawn in chalk on sidewalks in three cities. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/162223

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If those companies stand by their products, agree that there is nothing wrong with gmo's and it will cost basically next to nothing to add this info to the label, why would the cost of food increase?

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All these companies have ties or are founded by the families that own Chase, Bank of America, Citicorp. Which also own Monsanto, Chevron/Mobile etc...

Scientific and medical organizations have concluded biotech (GMO) foods are safe. Organizations include the National Academy of Sciences, American Council on Science and Health, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the World Health Organization.

Nuff said.

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Yes!!!!! I'm happy to see so many others are informed and awakened!!! Power on sister!!!!

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Check out "Robyn O'Brien's speech" on YouTube or google her. It's a must see! Also Dr. Gary Null's recent documentary, The War on Health. Guge eye opener. Big Agro & big money (one in the same) corporations will go anything for another 100 billon in profits, even allow products that can make you sick; get cancer, allergies, even make you sterile. Yes sterile as in cannot reproduce. It depends which doctors you ask because it depends who they report to. When you get away from nature, it's always a back thing with sevete consequences. Don't be an ostrich.

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This sounds like it was conceived by the 'Birkenstock' crowd & I'm sure have the trial lawyers salivating! NO! on 37! People, accept responsibility for yourself & stop the 'Nanny State'! I'm 75 & Big Agro hasn't killed me yet!

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I watched Genetic Roulette, but was disappointed with the movie's logical fallacies and dubious links of GM food to all manner of ailments including autism and "leaky gut syndrome" (which is not even an established diagnosis; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaky_gut_syndrome). I was disappointed because I think the case for better oversight of the GM food industry could be made without resorting to such claims.
On the other hand, I've read the highly suspect Academics Review website. This site is critical of the film while attempting a thin veil of scientific objectivity, yet it's only two topics are Genetic Roulette and a paper that makes claims of negative health impacts of glyphosate (Roundup) use. Hmmm, I'm sure it's mere coincidence that the only two topics Drs Chassy and Tribe (the website's founders and sole contributors) address are near and dear to Monsanto's heart.... A careful review convinced me these academics are anything but objective.
Here's the deal. Prop 37 takes no position about GM food. Its about transparency, and Consumers are entitled to be fully informed about the ingredients in our food. The efficacy and safety of Genetically Modified Organisms is a separate issue. The arguments against Prop 37 ring hollow, and in fact defy common sense (producer costs would increase only if consumers demand more expensive ingredients as a result of labeling, and only for those prefering those alternatives... so what's wrong with that?).
C'mon Monsanto et al., if you're so confident your products are safe, come out of the closet, quit hiding behind Chassy & Tribe, and fly your GMO banner with pride! Heck, you should be REQUIRING food producers to give you due recognition on their labels for the products you patent and so vigorously defend. Instead, you're spending $30M to keep your consumers ignorant. That, for me, is reason enough to vote in favor of Prop 37.

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I could not care less what government agency says screwing with nature is safe (they said agent orange was safe too - ha!). I do not want to consume GMO and the best way for me to avoid it is through labeling. YES on 37!

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They forgot to mention that MONSANTO contributed the most $$$ to no on 37---- $7,100,000. I say follow the $$$ and you'll know what to vote for or against.
see link below if you want to check it out for yourself.

http://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/California_Proposition_37,_Mandatory_Labeling_of_Genetically_Engineered_Food_(2012)

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I received a flyer in the mail today saying Prop. 37 would increase the food cost by $400 a year per household. The truth is the cost of transgenic food will go down- the lack of labeling functions as an artificial price support, with transgenic food in the USA now getting the same price as non-transgenic food, while in other parts of the world non-GMO (conventional) food sells for more than GMO food. Monsanto, Dow and the food processors are not spending +-35 million on this intitative to save you money on your grocery bill. They are spending this much money because they know if they label it, fewer people will buy it (particularly if it is the same price) and they will lose money. There never was any consumer demand for genetically engineered food, and for the consumer there is only risk. It has nothing to due with saving consumers money or being a poorly writtten law as the biotech companies would still oppose a well written labeling law, or one that cost nothing. They don't want labeling or any type of informed consent with respect to consumers because they do not want to be accountable. If they were responsible they would voluntarily label it and conduct really safety tests. The entire brochure carefully avoided any discussion of GMO safety or whether they should be labeled and instead reframes the arguement via hypothetical future lawsuits, onerous recordkeeping and potential consumer "confusion." Over 50 countries currently require GMO's to be labeled, and they have not seen increased costs & lawsuits. Due to a lack of GMO labeling, the USA is a captive market with no transparenc and little to no regulation. Biotech companies need to be accountable for their DNA cocktail creations- and both required safety studies and labeling will help remedy the current dangerous biotech/nanotech free-for-all.

The brochure also talks alot about lawsuits- Monsanto who has sued +- 150 farmers in the USA because GMO seeds blew into their fields, and also left a trail of human and environmental health problems (and lawsuits) with DDT, PCB's, 2,4-D, is complaining about lawsuits? That pretty funny given they are extremely litigious in protecting their plant patents. And they certainly have been sued many times for damages caused by their products: not exactly a great track record for these chemical companies. Yes, Prop. 37 is enforceable, but there would only be lawsuits if food processors and growers cheat or ignore the law.

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They forgot to mention that MONSANTO contributed the most $$$ to no on 37---- $7,100,000. I say follow the $$$ and you'll know what to vote for or against.
see link below if you want to check it out for yourself.

http://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/California_Proposition_37,_Mandatory_Labeling_of_Genetically_Engineered_Food_(2012)

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I am torn between wanting labels on all GMO-containing foods, and wanting a law that actually delivers that instead of this half-hearted attempt that is more a sop to label advocates on one hand, and agri-business opponents on the other (with the only winners being the lawyers who stand to gain by suing).
Not a surprise since many lobbyists are lawyers who write legislation, then present what they want to the legislators and their aides.

The problem for me is that it's almost harder to TWEAK a bad law once it's on the books than it is to get a prop on the ballot and passed. Once that law is passed and signed, people are going to have a FALSE sense of security that their food will be identified as GMO. The fact is, very little will be.
Please read the exemptions in the actual bill. Processed foods - most of what's contained in the center aisles of supermarkets - will be exempt for the most part.
I hate to side with Monsanto on this but the exemptions gut the intent of the bill. I don't even know why Monsanto opposes it since animal feed (so much of their seed goes into that) will be exempt so eggs, cheese, milk, poultry and meat will not be labeled. And while soymilk and other soy products aren't labeled, organic ones already are and we all know that, if not grown organically, all soy is being grown with huge amounts of herbicide even if it's not GMO/roundup-treated.

The article also has a "correction" posted at the end that says that GMO wheat is not being sold anywhere in this country. The fact is that the wheat being planted and harvested and sold in this country is NOT the same wheat that was used for centuries before geneticists started playing around with it to increase yield, allow for easier threshing, and make it easier to machine harvest. Wheat now is a dwarf plant instead of the tall, waving fields of grain the song writes about.
Some suspicion exists that the enormous spike in gluten intolerance we're seeing today may have some roots (pardon the pun) in the manipulation of wheat DNA through hybridization.
So while Monsanto and the gene-splicers haven't manipulated it into what we call GMO now, wheat definitely is among the most altered and manipulated foods we consume.

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I will be voting Yes on 37! As I believe that I have the RIGHT to know! For anybody intrested in reading the truths behind why Prop 37 was written the way it was please refer to this website, as I believe they explain it well.

http://lagreenmachine.org/2012/11/01/prop-37-label-gmos-addressing-44-million-in-lies-yesonprop37/

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For the most detailed analysis of the policy and science revolving around Prop 37, including source citations for ALL of the work check out: http://politomuse.wordpress.com/propositions-nov-2012/proposition-37/ - The most comprehensive, unbiased, analysis I've found.

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GMO should be labelled since we have the right to know what's in the food we eat and feed to our children. If we can't stop GMO food production then just label them and let the customer's decide themselves. By not passing this law we are just forcing everybody to have this hazardous GMO food. No wonder so many people are mentally and physically ill. Leaky gut, inflammation and allergies have all been affected. Even the meat that we eat is fed with GMO contaminated foods and it's incredibly detrimental to the whole system. These problems affect everyone and everything. Let's all educate ourselves with the GMO food documentaries here.

http://www.rosebudmag.com/truth-squad/gmo-documentary-films-educate-yourself-about-gmo-foods-debate

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I don't understand what you are talking about in the "For the record" section at the end. Commercial GMO wheat is grown everywhere in the US. In fact Japan recently halted its US import of wheat because GMO wheat was found in our deliveries to them.