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Prop 37 (label GMOs): Exposing $48 Million in Lies, #YesOnProp37

Prop. 37 is a well-written proposition, by a diligent group of food industry, food policy, farm, science and health experts, being distorted by a $48-million campaign of lies.

I'm dismayed to see that there's any question whatsoever about voting YES on Proposition 37 (label GMOs).  Both Conservative and Progressive groups have come out strongly in favor of food transparency to insure a level playing field for our free market economy.

There is a massive disinformation campaign going on from every outlet -- TV, radio, mass mailings -- being funded by the same folks who told us DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange are safe (they're not), and none of what they're saying is true.  Stanford University even forced them to take one commercial off the air because they represented the spokesperson as a Stanford professor, which he wasn't.  That should tell you all you need to know about the opposition's integrity.  And the latest, the opposition is falsely posing as the Democratic Party and making fake endorsements which the Democratic Party does NOT agree with.  Here are the real Democractic Party endorsements, including YES on PROP 37!  And all the overall Yes on 37 endorsements.

I've been working on Prop. 37 almost since its inception and would like to set the record straight:

Genetically-engineered food products (GMOS) defined: For one example, Bt-corn has the gene of a pesticide artificially inserted into it in a laboratory.  When an invading insect eats Bt-corn, its gut walls disintegrate until it dies from its own stomach bacteria.  Then they sell it to us as food.  The food folks at the FDA don't regulate Bt-corn, but, here's the best part, the Environmental Protection Agency DOES regulate it... as a pesticide.  And corn is in everything: corn chips, corn flakes, soda pop, candy, high-fructose corn syrup, and a massive list of additives that goes on and on.

I want the ability, through labeling, to choose not to eat a pesticide.

Health effects of GMOS - The companies who sell GMOs claim patent protection and will not allow long-term health studies to be performed by independent entities.  Beside, there is no control group.  We are all eating genetically-engineered food products without our knowledge.  The FDA and USDA have former GMO corporate execs at the helm, which is a major conflict of interest and why the federal government bureaucracies haven't moved on labeling.

Proposition 37 is a well-written, well-researched proposition, put together by a diligent group of food industry, food policy, farm, science and health experts, several of whom I know and trust implicitly.

Proposition 37 specifically only addresses genetically-engineered crops sold whole or as ingredients in other food items, to make it as easy as possible for stores and companies to comply. These crops include: corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini, and crookneck squash.  California law requires that ballot measures only address one state code at a time.  Items not included in Proposition 37 – alcohol, meat and restaurants (prepared food) – are covered by different state or federal codes and therefore do not apply.

There is a strong precedent to Proposition 37 in the U.S.:  The 2004 Food Allergen Labeling Act protects consumers by requiring labeling of possible allergens like peanuts, soy and dairy.  When Congress approved it, the same food companies objected and made the same claims, yet, when the Act went into force, stores and companies complied, prices remained stable, there was no excessive or abusive litigation, and consumers had more information with which to protect themselves (we have all seen the labels, “This product made on equipment which may have once touched peanuts”).

Proposition 37 offers no economic incentives for lawyers to sue.  The only new enforcement provision added by Prop. 37 allows a consumer to sue only for an order to force required labeling to take place – not to recover any money at all.  Consumers cannot file a class action without first giving notice, and if the defendant fixes the labels, then no class action is permitted.  Any penalties from a violation go only to the state, not the plaintiff or lawyer.

Proposition 37 does not include a “bounty hunter” provision like Proposition 65, which lets the plaintiff keep one-quarter of any civil penalty on top of an award of attorney’s fees.  The same chemical companies making claims about lawsuits are themselves suing farmers across the country for saving their own seeds.

Enforcement - The California State Department of Health would be responsible for regulating the labeling requirements as a part of their normal operating procedures.  The state Consumer Legal Remedies Act would cover individuals who bring suit on genetic engineering labeling violations.

Food prices remained stable when the European Union required the labeling of GMOs ten years ago.  Sixty-one countries across the globe either label GMOs or ban them completely, including Australia, Brazil, Japan, Peru, India, China and Russia.  Why on Earth do people in Russia and China have more rights to know what’s in their food than we do?  That’s not the country I grew up in.

Creates extra paperwork for retailers? As mentioned, there are only 8 GMO crops that retailers will have to label themselves.  Otherwise, it's up to the company producing the processed food boxes.  Besides, they already label them on the produce they sell with the PLU codes developed by the Produce Marketing Association.  So-called "conventionally grown fruit" has a label with 4 numbers.  Anything organic or genetically-engineered has an extra number.  Organic starts with a "9" and genetically-engineered starts with an "8."  Organic bananas are 94011, for example.  It's FOOD, they already keep tight paperwork.  That's how they track an e-coli outbreak back to a certain corner of a certain field.  Anyone who believes farmers who use GMO seeds don't already keep reams of paperwork to address the patent protection situation, aren't paying attention.

The grassroots effort that became Proposition 37 was started by a fearless, feisty grandmother from Chico, Pamm Larry, who couldn’t believe that genetically-engineered foods weren’t already being labeled.  She called together some friend to help, those friends became a people’s movement which gathered nearly a million signatures to get her GMO labeling initiative on the ballot this Tuesday.

If you have other questions or concerns, I would be happy to address them.  This is one of the most important issues of our time and California has the opportunity to lead the way towards greater transparency and a more level playing field (organic farmers are not federally subsidized; GMO farmers are via the Farm Bill), which is what would make the most healthy free market system.

To summarize: VOTE YES ON PROP. 37!

To learn more:

Farmers support Prop 37

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DlPm6KfLmX4

or

http://truefoodnow.org/2012/10/17/california-newspaper-editorial-boards-spread-false-claims-and-faulty-logic-on-proposition-37/

or

NY Times editorial: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/15/g-m-o-s-lets-label-em/

or

http://www.carighttoknow.org/

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

L November 06, 2012 at 05:27 PM
The anti-GMO lobby needs to own up to its own mistruths. The fact is that GMO crops do undergo testing, as evidenced by the decision years ago NOT to allow Starlink corn (a variety of Bt corn) to be used for human consumption, as an example. Studies showed that the variety of Bt protein in Starlink was not digested very well, and so its use in foods was blocked because there was concern it might be allergenic. It was not found to actually cause allergies, but as a precautionary measure, that variety of corn was banned. So it's misleading to say that there isn't any safety testing done or protective measures in place. When there are allergens present in our food products, then by all means the consumer should be informed, but there's nothing about GMO in and of itself that automatically makes things allergenic. It encompasses a wide range of traits, and the only thing unifying them is a common method of development. If you are philosophically opposed to using recombinant DNA methods to develop new varieties of farm crops, that's a perfectly valid position to hold, but it's not a safety issue and should be handled just like kosher or organic foods -- the producers of the kosher, organic, or non-GMO foods should be responsible for labeling and certifying that their products are what they say they are.
Michael Williams November 06, 2012 at 10:09 PM
L misses the point. It's not about genetically-modified organisms being allergenic. It's about creating an organism that has never been seen on the face of the Earth before - and then feeding it to millions of unsuspecting families. About 5 years ago, microbiologists at UC-Davis gene-spliced together a new bacteria that prevented frost from forming on strawberry fields. They sprayed it on a test field in the Central Valley and it worked. Good 'nuf... saved farmers (i.e. giant agribusiness) the loss of crops and revenue. We can now assume that the anti-frost bacterium are sprayed on a significant acreage of strawberries nationwide. It is an alien creature now loose within our biosphere and our bodies... with no natural enemies or defenses. Why don't you admit this, L: The happy microbiologists have no idea how this bacterium will act, change or mutate when exposed to other chemicals, environments and/or cosmic radiation over time... and no idea of how it will react with the full range of complex proteins in our bodies. For us, it's not a corporate MBA's Risk vs Reward formula. We know how that calculates... we've seen San Bruno, Fukushima, the BP Gulf Spill, the dying cattle bulldozed into the slaughterhouse. This is the food we serve to ourselves and our families, the food our lives and health depend on. We WILL have the right to KNOW what's in our food. We WILL vote YES on Prop 37.
L November 06, 2012 at 10:44 PM
When I ask people who advocate mandatory labeling for the right to know, "Do you know the difference between RoundUp Ready and Bt?", most of the time the answer is something like, "I don't know, and I don't care -- what I DO know is that I don't want anyone messing with the DNA in organisms this way." And as I said above, this is a perfectly valid philosophical position to hold. But it is not a specific health concern, and therefore should not be the subject of mandatory labeling. If there is going to be labeling, it should be done by the producers of non-GMO foods, who can then carry the liability for certifying and ensuring that the labeling is accurate. One of the very likely unintended consequences of Prop 37 is that food producers will be so scared of violations and legal fees that they will label everything "May contain GMOs", rendering the label meaningless.
Michael Williams November 07, 2012 at 12:50 AM
We'll find out in less than 24 hours whether Californians believe it IS a serious health concern... and are not willing to believe Conagra, Monsanto or Genentech that it's "perfectly safe." Not meaningless to me, L. Because further down the shelf or in the store across the street, there's going to be another product clearly and boldly labelled "NO GMOs." Then I'll vote with my own risk management formula, my shopping cart and my wallet.
L November 07, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Whoever told you Genentech is big in GMO crops was lying or misinformed -- Genentech has always focused solely on biomedical applications. This brings up an important (but largely overlooked) point -- the concept underlying Prop 37 is the "right to know" so that consumers can make informed decisions. The problem is that consumers haven't been equipped with the prerequisite knowledge needed to understand the technology. Instead they often have to rely on inaccurate or incomplete representations from third parties -- and I'm not just talking about Monsanto et al. As an example, the anti-GMO lobby often talks about how RoundUp Ready crops have led to the increased use of pesticides. RoundUp Ready crops have increased the use of the herbicide RoundUp, but have decreased the use of more dangerous herbicides by even more. And by using the word "pesticide" (since weeds are, in a sense, "pests"), they mislead consumers into thinking that farmers have increased the use of toxins that affect animals (e.g., insects). And they report on studies linking pesticides to cancer and birth defects (true) but fail to mention that these studies look at the effects of the toxins on the people who work with them, not on consumers (who often never even encounter these pesticides because they're applied to plants before the fruits or vegetables even develop). It's just like how advocates for organic fail to mention that organic doesn't actually mean "pesticide-free".
Michael Williams November 07, 2012 at 06:10 PM
L: Thanks for your clarifications. I probably should have agreed out front with one of your key positions: Genetic modification IS a major and important philosophical issue that deserves serious attention, particularly consideration of ALL its possible applications and their potential "unintended consequences." Unfortunately, crop modification has been the first, fastest and most pervasive use of GMO... so that's both the most useful, profitable and potentially most harmful issue. That's been the case in most of the extremely powerful technologies we've discovered and rapidly adopted over the past 60 years. The superhighway from university research institute to commercial application to mass distribution has full throttle, straight ahead drive - and no brakes whatsoever. So we have thousands of nuclear power plants, all high-pressure systems that are inherently unstable...and no solution for safely storing deadly nuclear waste for 250,000 years. We have billions of people worldwide walking around with cellphones pressed to their craniums... and no idea of whether low-level radio emissions alter human cell structure or brain function over time. I'm not arguing that these technologies are not useful - they are obviously useful, profitable and popular. I'm arguing that SOMEBODY has to seriously ask the "What if..." questions BEFORE we allow millions of people to be exposed to them. At least the GMO labeling proposition has put the question on the table.
L November 07, 2012 at 08:04 PM
It is my sincere hope that people remain energized enough to push for the labeling and certification of non-GMO products. FWIW, I actually buy dairy items "from cows not treated with rBST" whenever I can, and maybe the history behind that will make it clearer where I'm coming from. rBST was first developed because it was found that cows that didn't produce a lot of milk often had unusually low levels of intrinsic BST, and so rBST was supposed to bring them up to a normal level of hormone and milk production. But someone decided that they should also give it to normal cows and turn em into superproducers. This turns out to make the cows unhappy, though, and leads to all sorts of vet bills. If you're a megadairy with a full time vet, the economics pay off. But not for small family farms. So there are a bunch of really important animal welfare and rural sociological reasons to opposenthe use of rBST. Nevertheless, when it came time to mobilize consumers against rBST, instead of using these points that were strongly supported by lots of data, almost all of the anti-rBSTers came out with these ridiculous scare tactics to try to get consumers on their side ("your sons will grow breasts!"). Pissed me off to no end, and we unfortunately have seen a lot of the same tactics used in the anti-GMO movement. There are a ton of valid reasons backed by strong data to oppose specific examples of the technology (e.g., Bt resistance) but instead we get BS meant to scare people.

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