Pro & Con: We have a right to know what’s in food

September 28, 2012 

The issue: Proposition 37 is an initiative to require food manufacturers and retailers to label fresh produce and processed foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

Click here to read a viewpoint in opposition of Proposition 37 »

In the upcoming election, we have a chance to make history by voting “yes” on Proposition 37 for our right to know what’s in our food. Millions of Californians can unite and say: Tell us whether the food we eat and feed our families has been genetically engineered.

Proposition 37 is a common-sense ballot measure that would require companies to add a few simple words to their labels, along with calorie counts and allergy information that lets us know whether our food contains genetically modified organisms, also called GMOs.

GMOs are plant or animal products that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants or animals to create combinations that don’t occur naturally. An example is Monsanto’s sweet corn, on sale as of this summer at supermarkets like Walmart. The corn has been genetically engineered to contain an insecticide within the corn itself, but consumers don’t know because it isn’t labeled.

We need labels so we can make informed choices and decide for ourselves whether we want to eat genetically engineered foods.

The Food and Drug Administration does not require safety tests, and no long-term studies have been conducted to determine the health effects of eating genetically engineered foods. Numerous peer-reviewed animal studies link GMOs to allergies and other health risks.

In addition, there are many unintended environmental problems related to genetically engineered crops, including an increase in pesticide use, weed resistance, unintentional contamination of non-GMO crops, and harm to bees and other wildlife.

There are many reasons people are concerned about GMOs, but it’s important to note that Proposition 37 isn’t a ban. It’s a simple label saying: Let’s give consumers information so we can choose for ourselves what we eat and feed our families. Consumers in 50 other countries — including all of Europe, Japan, China and Russia — already have this right, and we deserve to have it here in California , too.

It costs nothing for companies to give consumers information about what’s in our food. So who could be against this simple label for genetically engineered foods? The big, out-of-state pesticide and junk-food companies are spending more than $30 million to fight our right to know. They are spreading misinformation through advertisements, trying to convince us that labeling is too costly, scary or invites litigation.

We’ve heard these sky-is-falling stories before. Don’t believe them.

Here are the facts: Adding a few words to a label does not increase costs, so there will be no increased costs to consumers. There are no incentives in Proposition 37 for lawsuits, and there is no reason to assume that companies will violate the labeling law. The exemptions we keep hearing about are common sense. The law is simple, straightforward and easy for businesses to follow.

When you hear the scare stories about Proposition 37, remember who is behind them. The two largest funders to the opposition are Monsanto and DuPont, the same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe. These companies have a history of misleading the public, and now they don’t want us to know what’s in our food.

It should not be up to corporations to decide what we get to know about our food.

Label GMOs, and let us decide for ourselves. Please vote for our right to know. Vote “yes” on Proposition 37.

Kalila Volkov is a resident of Morro Bay. She is trail host at Point Buchon Trail in Los Osos and a member of SLONightWriters.

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