Prop 37: We deserve to know what’s in our food

by Leslie Fulbright

This November, California voters have the chance to make history with an issue that affects us all: our right to know what’s in our food.

Proposition 37 would require companies to label foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. Also called GMOs, these plant and animal products have been altered in a lab to combine DNA from one species with another to create combinations that can’t occur in nature.

Most Americans want to know if their food contains GMOs. More than a million people have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label, and 19 states have tried to pass labeling laws. They’ve all been stopped because of the influence of huge pesticide companies like Monsanto.

Here in California, the people can prevail. The voters have a chance to support this homegrown movement and win the right to know what’s in our food.

Proposition 37 would require companies to label foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, also called GMOs.

An estimated 50-80 percent of the food currently sold in California grocery stores – from breakfast cereal to cooking oil to soy milk – contains genetically engineered ingredients. But that information is hidden. This prevents consumers from making informed choices about what we eat.

There is growing concern about the safety of these foods, and that makes Prop 37 even more pressing. Just recently, the first ever long-term, independent health study of GMO corn was published in a peer-reviewed journal.

This study linked this GMO corn – the same corn in a lot of the food sold to consumers – to tumors, kidney and liver damage, and premature death. A growing body of science also suggests that they may be contributing to rising rates of allergies, especially among children. And Black children are more than twice as likely as white children to have sensitivities to foods that commonly cause allergic reactions.

More than a million people have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label, and 19 states have tried to pass labeling laws. They’ve all been stopped because of the influence of huge pesticide companies like Monsanto.

The FDA does not require health studies of genetically engineered food. They ask us to simply trust the massive pesticide and food companies who have spent $32 million on deceptive TV and radio ads that tell voters that labeling is too costly, scary or invites litigation.

Here are the facts: Adding a few words to a label does not increase costs, so there will be no increased costs to consumers. There are no incentives in Prop 37 for lawsuits, and there is no reason to assume that companies will violate the labeling law. The law is simple, straightforward and easy for businesses to follow.

When you hear the scare stories about Prop 37, remember who is behind them. The two largest funders to the opposition are Monsanto and DuPont, the same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe. These companies have a history of misleading the public.

It should not be up to corporations to decide what we get to know about our food. Consumers in 50 other countries – including all of Europe, Japan, China and Russia – already have the right to know if their food contains GMOs, and we deserve it here in California, too.

Adding a few words to a label does not increase costs, so there will be no increased costs to consumers. There are no incentives in Prop 37 for lawsuits, and there is no reason to assume that companies will violate the labeling law. The law is simple, straightforward and easy for businesses to follow.

As Congresswomen Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, U.S. Sen. Boxer and other members of Congress recently wrote: “At issue is the fundamental right consumers have to make informed choices about the food they eat … Providing basic information doesn’t confuse the public; it empowers them to make choices. Absent labeling, Americans are unable to choose for themselves whether to purchase GE foods…. We urge you to fully review the facts, law , and science and side with the American public by requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods as is done in nearly 50 countries throughout the world.”

When you hear the scare stories about Prop 37, remember who is behind them. The two largest funders to the opposition are Monsanto and DuPont, the same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe. These companies have a history of misleading the public.

We Californians have a tremendous opportunity this Nov. 6. We can be the first state in the country that requires food companies to label genetically engineered food. If you think we deserve this information, please vote yes on Proposition 37.

Leslie Fulbright is deputy media director of the California Right to Know campaign. To learn more and get involved, go to http://www.carighttoknow.org.