Label GMO Food

Thursday, October 18, 2012
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Proposition 37, which requires labeling of genetically engineered food, gives us the basic right to know what we’re eating.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are widespread in our diet – for example, in most corn, soybeans, and canola – are formed when genes of different species are combined using molecular DNA technology. For the first time in history, animal genes, bacteria, and viruses can be spliced into the food we eat.

This is playing God. Such unrelated species would never mix naturally, and to insert foreign DNA into crops can have unforeseen consequences.

Crops have mostly been engineered to either withstand herbicides or to have built-in pesticides. For example, agribusinesses can spray herbicide all over crops genetically engineered to be resistant to it. Then they don’t have to hire people to remove weeds. But many scientists, including scientists from the Food and Drug Administration, have warned about the dangers of eating such food. (The FDA scientists were ignored by their Monsanto-appointed bosses.) To hear their testimony, go to and find out about the effects on lab animals and humans from eating GMO foods.

Personally, I don’t want to eat this kind of food. All Proposition 37 does is require a simple label if food is genetically altered. It gives us a choice.

Europe, China, Japan, and many other countries require such labeling. Monsanto and other chemical companies and businesses who profit from genetic engineering are spending much money to defeat this initiative.

Bryan Rosen is the director of Concerned Citizens for Environmental Health


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Yipes! Immediately remove all of the porcine heart valves from the millions of human that were saved by medical researchers and surgeons playing God!

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2012 at 8:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't be confused by comments such as Italiansurg's. The process of genetic engineering is the insertion of DNA from one organism into the DNA of another, creating a new organism. The creation of transgenic species and the medical use of organs taken from species other than human.are different topics.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2012 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

When the science is against your position, all you can do is sow confusion. Everyone eats. Therefore everyone is affected by this initiative.
If you want to gamble the health of your unborn children, your children and your own life on the reassurances of the out of state biotech corporations in Switzerland (Syngenta), Germany (Bayer) and St. Louis (Monsanto), then by all means ignore this issue and vote no in response to the Million and a half dollars that these corporations are spending in California per day.

This video is the best information out there:

Watch it then look at the no side's website.
Then make up your mind.

MaryLouise (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2012 at 12:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

My first thought was Prop 37 seems like a reasonable proposition. I certainly would like to have the option not to eat GMO food, and the only way I can do that is if the food is labelled.

But I noticed the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, LA Times, and Sacramento Bee have all come out against Prop 37:

Here's the text of the proposition:

Having read all of the above, I think Prop 37 is well intentioned but poorly written and needs to go back to the drawing board.

If you only have time to read one opinion, check out the SF Chronicle's No on 37 endoresement.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2012 at 1:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I enjoy agreeing with EastBeach.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2012 at 4:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)


The same hedge funds/holding companies that own those newspapers own most of the Monsanto/Syngenta/Bayer stock. Don't be so gullible. This is one reason I love the Independent, because it is!

The No on 37 campaign is desperate and has no science or studies behind their claims of safety. If you think they do, post a link to a peer reviewed human or lifetime animal trial that demonstrates safety.
They now have been caught lying and breaking federal law:
The No on 37 campaign affixed the FDA’s seal to one of the campaign’s mailers. Section 506 of the U.S. Criminal Code states: “Whoever….knowingly uses, affixes, or impresses any such fraudulently made, forged, counterfeited, mutilated, or altered seal or facsimile thereof to or upon any certificate, instrument, commission, document, or paper of any description….shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”

The letter also provides evidence that the No on 37 campaign falsely attributed a direct quote to FDA in the campaign mailer. The quoted attribution, which appears below, is entirely false and fabricated. FDA did not make this statement and does not take a position on Prop 37.”

MaryLouise (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2012 at 3:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)


While I don't doubt your sincerity, I'm afraid you have it wrong on many counts.

Shame on them, but I don't care what dirty tricks some No on 37 backers may have pulled. What matters to me is whether Proposition 37 as written will make a good law.

I believe most folks want GMO food to be labelled, but we have to do it with a law that puts a good enforcement process in place.

Enforcement under Proposition 37 is based on Proposition 65 which passed in 1986. Take a look at Propostion 65 and you'll see it created a huge cottage industry for 3rd-party litigation. I am all for the ability of ordinary citizens to stand up to large corporate interests if need be. But we can't have loopholes in the law that allows "Bounty Hunters" to become parasites in the enforcement process:

Bottom line, we need to take the good parts of Proposition 65 and fix the bad parts before applying it to a GMO labeling law. This in general is the problem with using the initiative process to create regulatory legislation ... as painful as it may be, I agree with the SF Chronicle that the better way to craft such laws is through the legislative process.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2012 at 5:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for your reply. The legislature has had an entire generation to do something and has not.
Now the people of the state are doing something and suddenly there is this alleged clamor for a perfect law that will never happen.

It's about freedom. The freedom to know what you are eating. My son is fighting in Afghanistan to protect our freedom.

At a million and a half dollars per day...number of days from time of filing of initiative divided by the amount that Monsanto and other companies are spending, you can buy a lot of confusion, lies, stalling and fake experts.

Why don't you watch this video and then refute some of the points in it? I'll listen.

MaryLouise (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2012 at 5:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"The same hedge funds/holding companies that own those newspapers own most of the Monsanto/Syngenta/Bayer stock. Don't be so gullible."
-- MaryLouise

Do you have anything to back that up? My research indicates your claim to be not factual ...

San Francisco Chronicle - Owned by the Hearst Corporation, a privately held multimedia company.

Contra Costa Times - Owned by Media News Group, a privately held media company that also owns the San Jose Mercury. One of MNG's large non-majority shareholders is a hedge fund, but that fund does not appear in the list of Top 10 institutional shareholders for Monsanto, Syngenta, or Bayer.

Sacramento Bee - Owned by the McClatchy Company, a publicly traded publishing company that also owns Knight-Ridder. One of the Top 10 institutional holders of McClatchy (Blackrock Institutional Trust) is also a similar holder of Monsanto (2.96% and 2.79%, respectively). Given the popularity of those two stocks, this coincidence is hardly a surprise. If you're going to accuse a highly regarded newspaper like McClatchy, which has multiple Pulitzer Prize writers on staff and is a winner of the IF Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence, of collusion, you'd better have some proof!

Los Angeles Times - Owned by the Tribune Company, a privately held multimedia company that also owns the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando Sentinal. Tribune is in Chapter 11 reorganization. I checked the list of senior debt holders and none of them are major shareholders of Monsanto, Syngenta, or Bayer.

Top shareholders of Monsanto, Syngenta, and Bayer AG (Bayer is a German company but available to US investors via ADR's):

I've showed you mine, now show me yours?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2012 at 6:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"The legislature has had an entire generation to do something and has not."

OK, that's an interesting comment. What is the legislative history of attempts to pass a GMO labeling law in CA? Has anyone even tried to write a bill? And how many initiatives related to GMO labeling have been brought before voters ... isn't Prop 37 the first?

"Why don't you watch this video and then refute some of the points in it?"

You have not been reading my posts carefully. I am not questioning the motivation behind Prop 37. All your video talks about is the risks of GMO food, but it says nothing about Prop 37. Its says nothing about the legislative history of food labeling laws in California. The video doesn't help the video understand whether Prop 37 is a well-written initiative or not ... those are the issues I've been talking about.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2012 at 7:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The isn't working. Maybe it's busy or has been hacked. There is a lot of money to defeat this initiative. Something could be up; for that amount of money to be spent, i.e. public interest/environment may not be a priority. And corporations funding the no campaign are also producing both the gmo seeds and the herbicides. Gene insertion for resistance to chemicals seems much different than cross-pollination or artificial selection to produce a better food. Leaning toward a Yes on 37 because it is a good start and because corporations love lawyers except when scapegoating trial lawyers.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2012 at 11:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

genetic roulette is back up/
To be told what we are being fed isn't too much to ask.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2012 at 3:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

KV-since you are a member of a small group of reasonable people that comment let me ask you a simple question: why are propositions like 37 and 30 so poorly worded?
I am all in favor of labeling food as accurately as possible, just as I am in favor of funding public education, but a lack of diligence and attention to detail seems to get in the way of practical solutions at every juncture.
Telling us that evil corporations are against 37 or that education will tumble into the sea if 30 fails do not address basic and obvious flaws of these initiatives and these voids in logic seems intentional.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2012 at 8:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think because nonwriters write them, specifically politicians in most instances. Then they also have no "Editor" overseeing so they write their first "good ideas" down on a napkin, have somebody type it up and voila new Prop.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2012 at 10:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A potential drawback with using the initiative process to craft regulatory laws is that if they're not written well in the first place, or if you find there's a problem down the road, repealing the law requires another state election. Initiatives can be static shotgun approaches when detail and flexibility matters.

A better way to do it is the regular route ... have the Governor or Legislature create a regulatory agency that makes the rules, does enforcement, and monitors issues that may require changes in rules and enforcement.

I believe this is a much more flexible and smart way to go, especially when you're trying to tackle a *relatively* new and complicated issue.

I haven't been able to find any bills equivalent in scope to Prop 37 (AB88 was a bill to regulate GM salmon but never made it out of the Appropriations Committee earlier this year). We should be giving the legislative approach a decent shot before resorting to the intiative process. I'd rather wait a year for a decent solution than take a defective one now.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2012 at 1:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here's an example I just thought of ...

Let's say an organic farmer doesn't realize some of his fields have been inadvertantly cross-pollinated by a field of GM corn a few miles away (a real possibility when it's windy).

According to Prop 37, if there's more than 0.5% of GM material in the farmer's crop, it can't be labeled organic and it has to have a warning label. Because Prop 37 effectively outsources regulation to third-parties, a "Bounty Hunter" law outfit can go after that organic farmer and sue him. That bounty hunter's only goal is to win the lawsuit and make money, just like all the Prop 65 bounty hunters that came before him. That's not fair.

Conversely, if a state agency is doing the regulation, the organic farmer could be given a chance to recall or relabel his product, and at the same time work out the root of the problem, which was cross-pollination from that nearby field of GM corn.

The latter is a much more reasonable approach to regulation, given how widespread the use of GM seeds are these days.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2012 at 1:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken beats me to the punch but I'll reiterate: If this is simply about being told what we are being sold, I'm for the proposition.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2012 at 2:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And that's the problem billclausen. The regulatory part of the proposition is flawed in my opinion.

I suspect 37 will pass, but not because it makes for good law. The Devil is in the details, but few American voters pay attention to details.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2012 at 3:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I surprised that our yahoo scientist/engineer commenter EastBeach isn't taking a more studious, less personalized approach to this subject.

After switching to the an updated player I was able to view the video It was fairly compelling although seemingly anecdotal.

Mary Louise has provide other links previously I'm not so sure corporate influence hasn't effectively and for the long term squashed science on this subject. And we're all aware of corporate influence and the negative effects of lobbying in our democratic republic.

It seems strange that all these "news"papers are seemingly in lockstep editorializing a no vote. The arguments are similar. The text of the law is perhaps flawed but what law isn't. There are no punitive results for casual avoidance or in the case accidental cross-pollination. And what law doesn't have complainers.

The official opponent of prop 37 is using typical conservative push button hyperbolic phraseology of "facts." That is a red flag for me. I suspect that something is up with their argument.

I keep my ballot until the last moment possible so as new information arises I'll feel better about voting. But from everything I've read so far I'd prefer to avoid gmos and I think I'd like food labeled. I think it may just be our right to know.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2012 at 6:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And how is your analysis more "studious". DonMcDermott?

Did you take the time read the text of Prop 37?

Did you take the time to sample analyses from major CA newspapers with editorial boards across the political spectrum?

Did you take the time to debunk MaryLouise's false claim that major CA newspapers coming out against Prop 37 have conflicts of interest?

The argument that there are large self-interested corporations backing No on 37 is really a red herring. Do you expect them to do anything less? Of course not. But that says absolutely nothing about whether Prop 37 is the right regulatory vehicle for getting the labeling you and I want.

Consider this DonMcDermott ... my understanding is Prop 37 says up til 2019, foods with 0.5% or more GM content will need to be labeled. After 2019, the requirement drops to 0% (ZERO!). And this can't be changed unless 2/3rds of the voters pass an amendment.

I think this creates problems:

(1). Portions of an organic farmer's field can be inadvertantly cross-pollinated on windy days by a nearby genetically-modified field (cases have already been found). With threshold levels of 0.5% and 0.0%, that organic farmer is now wide open for a lawsuit. Remember that there have been over 16,000 Prop 65 lawsuits ... some are legit but others are filed by specialty law firms only for profit, not as a public safety service.

(2). We may find later that the 0.5% and 0.0% threshold levels are impractical from a real-world viewpoint (due to cross-pollination in windy fields, contamination on food handling machines, etc.). But Prop 37 says you need to have a 2/3rds vote to change anything! Hardly anything ever passes with a 2/3rds vote at the state level.

(3). Considering (1) and (2) above, we may end up labeling almost *all* foods just because we can't get around the 0.5% and 0.0% threshold tests. At that point, it will be like Proposition 65 ... those tiny labels are everywhere and totally useless (mom & pop grocery stores use them to avoid being sued when they sell bottles of motor oil, etc.). At that point, people who want to avoid GM food will be sorely dissappointed because labeling won't mean anything.

(4) As near as I can tell, Prop 37 requires the label to state GM material is in the food. But the label doesn't require you to say how much. So if foods have 80%, 25%, 5%, or 0.1% GM content, they all use the same label. I think that's stupid. The label should state the percentage the same way fats, carbohydrates, calories, etc. are quantified on food labels today.

DonMcDermott, one of your arguments for Prop 37 is "no law is perfect". Are you willing to give these flaws a pass?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2012 at 4:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I claim a better way to get GM food labeling is for the Governor to create an agency under the CA Department of Health (they are responsible for food safety).

That agency's job would be to set up labeling requirements and enforcement. This is the normal way regulation is done in the state and is a better informed, more flexible, approach than using the rigid initiative process.

Given that the rest of the nation will follow CA's lead whatever we do, I think we have to get it right.

In summary:

1. Does GM food represent a health threat?

I honestly haven't made up my mind. It's a bit like the Smart Meter controversy, full of emotions and claims on both sides. But this is really irrelevant to me (see below).

2. Is labeling of GM food a good idea?

I think so. Consumers should have this kind of information. But as I stated previously, Prop 37's labeling requirements don't make sense. Food with 90% and 1% GM content get the same label, near as I can tell.

3. Is Prop 37 the right way to regulate & enforce labeling?

I think not. You only realize the flaws when you dive into the details. I've tried to describe them in previous posts. We can do much better for consumers.

Disclaimer: I don't own any stock in GM food companies. Prop 37 was my "homework assignment" to study for this election.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2012 at 4:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't think percentages matter if someone doesn't want GMO food. It's like asking a Vegan if they want beef gravy on their potatoes.
Food makers know their own recipes, they know if its two parts corn and one part peas. It shouldn't be a big stumbling block.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2012 at 5:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken_Volok is correct. For various reasons, allergies, ethical, dietary, religious reasons, let alone anecdotal health concerns, any/all may be enough for people to want labeling.

The one thing that really bothers me about the gmo proponents is that they never address the first question accurately. How is time tested cross-pollination and selective breeding ever like inserting a gene from a fish into a tomato. The comparison is ridiculous and is not answered for well over two decades. The response is something simple and dismissive like 'humans have been manipulating genes forever.' Again GMO is not like the process of cross-pollination or selective breeding in order to develop a certain trait. GMO is accurately called Frankenfoods (i.e. Frankenstein.)

My b.s. meter has pegged pretty high for some time on EastBeach but the previous response is TDC; complete b.s. And yes I have read the entire text of the ballot measure.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2012 at 9:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The no campaign is spending a million and a half a day to defeat something put on the ballot by almost a million Californians. The money comes from out of state.

It's about putting a small line on processed food labels just like fat and nutrition content, not banning GMOs, not taxing them etc.Those that vote no can then eat only GMOs that way. Those that vote Yes can avoid them. That's freedom.

If GMOs are so great, so allegedly beneficial, so wonderful, why are they so interested in hiding their presence? Why are people willing to gamble their unborn children' health, their own health and that of their family to protect some foreign corporation?

Here's the answer to a lot of the questions posed above:

MaryLouise (anonymous profile)
October 22, 2012 at 6:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here's who is employing some of the people who are coming up with "carefully researched rebuttals" to Prop 37:

What do a former mouthpiece for tobacco and big oil, a corporate-interest PR flack, and the regional director of a Monsanto-funded tort reform group have in common?
They’re all part of the anti-labeling PR team that will soon unleash a massive advertising and PR campaign in California, designed to scare voters into rejecting the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act....
It’s estimated that the opposition will spend $60 million - $100 million to convince voters that GMOs are perfectly safe. They’ll try to scare voters into believing that labeling will make food more expensive, that it will spark hundreds of lawsuits against small farmers and small businesses, and that it will contribute to world hunger. None of this is true. On the contrary, studies suggest just the opposite.

Here’s what is true: The opposition has lined up some heavy-hitters and industry-funded front groups -- masquerading as “grassroots” organizations -- to help spin their anti-labeling propaganda machine.

You have the right to know what’s in your food. You also have the right to know who is working tirelessly to prevent you from ever having that right – and who is signing their paychecks. Here’s a partial lineup of hired guns and organizations behind the anti-labeling advertising blitz soon to hit the California airwaves:

Tom Hiltachk: Monsanto’s Man in California

Tom Hiltachk is the PR gunslinger behind the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition (CACFLP), an anti-labeling front group. A partner at the Sacramento-based lobbying firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, Hiltachk is no stranger to front groups. With a little help from his friends at Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, he helped organize the Californians for Smokers’ Rights group to fight anti-smoking initiatives in the 1980s and 1990s. He also helped form the Californians for Fair Business Policy – a so-called “grassroots” organization, but actually a front group to mobilize business opposition to anti-smoking initiatives. That organization was funded by an “academic” front group – the Claremont Institute – which was in turn funded by tobacco companies....

MaryLouise (anonymous profile)
October 22, 2012 at 7:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It may be poorly written but it's a start. We (the concerned consumer) gotta start somewhere and as far as I know, the big chemical companies have successfully fought against any GMO labeling laws in other places. They've succeeding in striking down similar efforts by other states (legislative bodies) to get labeling on packages of GMO foods. I'm not entirely against GMO foods, as I've been eating them since their introduction into the food system here somewhere back in the 90's. But, what makes me laugh and what seems inconsistent is that when we buy clothes, the manufactures have to put exactly what the material is made from. It has to be labeled. When you buy any product it has to tell you where that product came from. We want to know with a simple label if the food we're buying is made from scientifically altered sources. The language could be questionable. There might be frivolous lawsuits as a result of this prop passing. Surely Dow, DuPont, or Monsanto will sue the state once it does pass, but we've got to take a stand and start somewhere with the process. Otherwise we'll end up in a zombie state. And that won't be good for this clever video illustrates.

sbsurfguy (anonymous profile)
October 23, 2012 at 4:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Lawsuits? You want to see a lawsuit?
Look at this one: this tells you all you need to know:

"Percy and Louise Schmeiser have celebrated over 55 years of marriage. In addition to operating a farm equipment dealership in Bruno, Saskatchewan Canada, they have farmed for close to 60 years. Almost on the verge of retirement, they decided to not back down to Monsanto's threats and intimidation.."

MaryLouise (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 4:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"My b.s. meter has pegged pretty high for some time on EastBeach but the previous response is TDC; complete b.s. And yes I have read the entire text of the ballot measure."
-- DonMcDermott

OK DD, then pick one of the points I made in my 4:43pm post and debate it rationally if you can. So far, you've made no attempt.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 11:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"I don't think percentages matter if someone doesn't want GMO food."
-- Ken Volok

I give you credit for being the only one who isn't talking *around* my points and is willing to discuss one.

I think you're right, people who don't want GM ingredients in their diet likely don't care about percentages on labels. On the other hand, consumers who are willing to accept some GM ingredients would probably care a lot about seeing percentages on labels.

That's why my guess is that many Prop 37 backers are not really voting for it because they want labeling, its because they want a complete ban on GMO food, period. They know that a warning label with no numbers on it looks just as bad on a product with 95% GMO as on a product with 0.1% GMO.

I wonder if that's what Prop 37's author really had in mind? I suspect he knew that if Prop 37 was written as a *ban* on GMO food, it's odds of passing would be much lower. Considering GM drought-resistant corn, the voter would then be faced with a pocketbook decision given that droughts are only going to get worse with our man-made climate change.

That's why I favor GM food labels that have percentages. If we can come up with safe GM drought-resistant corn, for example, it would gain more acceptance if consumers could see the amounts.

But my main point still stands, I think the intiative process is a poor way to enact regulatory laws and Prop 37 is a prime example. Voters just don't pay attention to the details that are so important in regulation.

Incidentally, Warren Olney discussed the "abuse" of the CA initiative process this week on his "Which Way LA Show":

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 12:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with EastBeach that the initiative process is a poor way to make regulatory law, and there are many egregious examples. Still, better labeling on food is vital and I am a strong Yes on 37, despite the poor wording.
urgs. it's laughable when you wrote "just as I am in favor of funding public education" -- this is utterly untrue at least based on your many posts vs. Prop 30. Oh yeah, you studiously note, "you are for kids" but you always find flaws with any tax measure aiding public education and children. Shame on you: don't lie in your posts; and you "aren't a member of a small group of reasonable people that comment" in these threads.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 2:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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