Three Things I Learned When I Started Researching Proposition 37

Categories: Talking Points

The bill doesn't propose to ban genetically engineered foods, only label them -- and more than 40 countries already have this requirement in place.

Some products already have GMO labeling.
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.)

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.

My Voice Nation Help


there are several erroneous things in your article but I'll just address one here.  You say that no GMO traits have value for you, the consumer.  That is simply not true.  There are two new GMO soybeans modified to have a high oleic acid profile much like olive oil that food companies will be able to use to avoid transfats.  Insect resistant corn has been shown to have less risk of mycotoxin contamination.  I'd sure prefer that for tortillas or chips.  Also, the drought tolerant lines can help keep food prices down in bad years like the last one.   Herbicide resistant crops make it easier for farmers to do "no-till farming" which is far better for the environment.


Biotech crops are just one of a host of technologies which makes farming easier, more productive, and less risky for the farmer.  You might not see that as good for you, but frankly you are dependent on this people to live, so that is good for them is certainly good for you.





A good beginning, but there's more to the discussion. The impact of GM crops on the eco-system should be part of the discussion. As should the fact that while labels are cheap, will people change buying practices if they see GMO on the label? If so, that will impact food costs... for the same reasons why organic food is more expensive.


Anna, the WHO also cites Codex Alimentarius as it's standards body for determining the maximum allowable level of chemicals in food. For example, did you know that Codex allows DDT to be in food in numerous countries? In fact, our USDA also cites Codex as its definitive source for establishing "acceptable levels of risk" for chemical contamination in food. My point is that using WHO as a barometer of appropriateness for safety, you should at least provide a rich enough context to make a very strong and effective point.

Karl Wilder
Karl Wilder

California....please lead the nation in voting for this wonderful law.


 @raypedia The 2010 National Academies of Science report "The Impact of GE Crops on Farm Sustainability in the US" clearly states GE crops have been beneficial to agriculture.

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