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Editor’s note: A version of this op-ed originally appeared on the author’s blog, Munchie Musings.
Until about 15 years ago I was a Canadian, and so I couldn't vote here in the United States. I successfully ignored politics for that reason. But now I'm an American citizen. I'm still not well versed in politics, and so I tend to avoid political discussions. This post is not going to be preachy. I'm just going to lay down a few of my thoughts on why I will be voting yes on Proposition 37.
Prop. 37 is the one that requires labeling food that contains a genetically modified ingredient (GMO). GMOs are when scientists take the DNA of an organism and tweak it for what they think is for the better. Some examples would be making grains more drought-tolerant or pest-resistant.
Now, I'm also not a religious person, so regardless of messing with God's creations, I certainly am against tweaking Mother Nature. I don't think we have any business messing with DNA. That's how we get zombie/vampire viruses and deadly pathogens that are going to wipe out the human race. Even if that's an exaggeration, I still think it's dangerous. Just because you tweak one gene to be more pest resistant doesn't mean it isn't also related to some other function you aren't aware of.
That aside, if you are going to tweak my food, then I have the right to know it! That way I can avoid it. It's a basic human right – freedom of choice – and I choose to know what I'm putting into my body.
Now, those that are against Prop. 37 will say it is flawed and that's why shouldn't pass it. Guess what? Most laws that get enacted are flawed and end up getting tweaked later to correct an error. I'd rather we pass the law now and then worry about cleaning up the loopholes or messes. You have to move one step at a time, and step one is labeling the foods that contain GMOs.
Another argument is that Prop. 37 will cost too much money to implement because the manufacturers would have to start creating new labels for California. I think we Californians know that many times laws we pass get copied by other states – we lead the nation. I also think the manufacturers know this. It's not a matter of labeling costs! It's their choice to make it more expensive if they chose to only label for California. Take the easier, more correct step and just label it for everyone!
TOP 10 CONTRIBUTORS TO NO ON PROPOSITION 37
($34.5 million raised in total)
Rank Contributor Name Total
1 MONSANTO COMPANY $7,100,500
2 E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & CO. $4,900,000
3 BASF PLANT SCIENCE $2,000,000
4 DOW AGROSCIENCES LLC $2,000,000
5 BAYER CROPSCIENCE $2,000,000
6 PEPSICO, INC. $1,716,300
7 NESTLE USA, INC. $1,169,400
8 COCA-COLA COMPANY $1,164,400
9 CONAGRA FOODS $1,076,700
10 SYNGENTA CORPORATION $1,000,000
Anti-Prop. 37 folks have spent millions of dollars in advertising to get you to vote no. That's because they have deep pockets and a lot to lose if it passes. They tell you there's too many foods to be labeled. True – if all you eat is processed, packaged food. Not true if you eat healthy, whole foods, because vegetables, fruits and meats are not genetically modified.
The problem lies with the crops that are being modified that are used in so many processed foods. So if you buy anything packaged, like a sauce, cereal or frozen dinner, then it's bound to have an ingredient that has been modified. The biggest crops that are modified are wheat, soybeans and corn. And guess what? Soy, wheat and corn and their byproducts (oils, corn syrup, etc.) are in almost every processed food made. (List of GMO crops with comments.)
Most other First and Second World countries already have GMO labeling laws, and yet we Americans are left in the dark. But we all know that there's been a food revolution for some time now. We want to know where our food comes from, how it is handled and what's in it. GMO labeling is just part of that movement for food knowledge. We have a right to know, and to do so we need labeling.
Catherine Enfield is a downtown Sacramento resident and the publisher of food blogs Munchie Musings and Sacfoodtrucks.net. She is a co-founder of SactoMoFo and the creator of the Sacramento Food Film Festival.