Three Things I Learned When I Started Researching Proposition 37
The bill doesn't propose to ban genetically engineered foods, only label them -- and more than 40 countries already have this requirement in place.
The U.S. is one of the only developed countries in the world without this labeling -- the list of countries that require it includes Australia, Brazil, China, India, Russia, Japan, and members of the European Union, which has had this measure in place since 1997. The legislation proposed in California is based on the EU standards -- and the so-called "special-interest loopholes" named by the No on 37 campaign, such as beef from cows who have eaten GM corn, stem from Europe. (If the cows themselves were genetically modified, as may someday be the case, the beef would be labeled.)
Flickr/sbassi Some products already have GMO labeling.
Opponents of the proposition also claim that this labeling scheme is a starting-off point to ban GMOs entirely -- and that labeling food with no proven health risks is akin to fear-mongering -- but supporters of the proposition say that it's just about more information for the consumer to make their own food choices, like listing ingredients or calorie information. "This is an opportunity for a precedent to be set for more transparency, and you have to start somewhere," says Kirsten Bourne of Bi-Rite Market.
Pollan agrees. "People, it seems to me, have the right to have the information to make an informed decision," he says. "I don't think that a label implies that there's a risk. If we know there's a health problem with this, we don't label it; we take it off the market."
Next: The cost to consumers, growers, and the state.