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GMO Labeling: Does Proposition 37 Falsely Alarm or Empower Consumers?

By November 3, 2012

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Article update: Proposition 37 failed. Just under 47% of Californians voted "yes" and slightly over 53% "no."  GMO foods sold in California will not require special labeling.

On Tuesday, in addition to picking the US President, California voters will decide whether genetically modified food sold in the state needs to be labeled. Proposition 37 states that, "Any food offered for retail sale in California is misbranded if it is or may have been entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and that fact is not disclosed." It does provide exemptions, though, for food that is "certified organic," that an "independent organization has determined" is not produced from genetically engineered seed, that is "made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material," is "processed food containing less than 0.5% of genetically engineered ingredients," or is "sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant."

Last week, the American Association of Scientist (AAAS) suggested that the law would "mislead and falsely alarm" consumers."  They cite the FDA policy that, "special labeling of a food is required if the absence of information provided poses a special health of environmental risk."  Using this as the measure, they point out that the European Union has spent over 300 million Euros on more than 130 research projects for 25 years looking into the biosafety of GMOs, and found that they are not more risky than conventional plant breeding. Also, the AAAS notes that, "In order to receive regulatory approval in the United States, each new GM crop must be subjected to rigorous analysis and testing." As a result, "GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply."  Here is the full AAAS statement.

A group of 20 scientists, two associated with institutions in California, challenged the AAAS statement, arguing that it is "an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers." While they do not contest the research on the safety of consuming GMOs, they cite concerns that the, "narrow focus on GMO safety ignores the broader life-cycle impacts of GMO crops." They suggest, "herbicide-resistant GMOs are committing us to a chemical treadmill" that, "may induce detrimental health effects even at low exposure levels."  Their concern is that, "Labeling GMO products would allow consumers to make choices based on these concerns."

Of course, the scientific debate is just one component of the discussion. The proposed regulations would have certainly have administrative, enforcement, and commercial consequences. These arguments can be viewed on the websites the proponents and opponents. Also, you can see who is funding each of the campaigns and view the full text of the proposed law.  For more discussion on Proposition 37 and GMO labeling, see the previously posed article Should GM Foods Be Labeled?

Going into the last weekend before the election, the consensus seems to be going against Prop 37 by about 51% to 40% according the California Business Roundtable/Pepperdine University polls.



November 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm
(1) greyparrot says:

“In order to receive regulatory approval in the United States, each new GM crop must be subjected to rigorous analysis and testing.” As a result, “GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.”

This is the ONLY leg Monsato has to stand on when claiming that their GMO crops (especially corn) are safe for human consumption.What they (Monsanto), and the author of this article DON’T tell you is that ALL of these tests have been performed by, or funded by….Monsanto! I dare the author to come up with ONE independent study (not funded wholey, or in part by Monsanto) that shows GMO’ s to be safe.

November 3, 2012 at 10:37 pm
(2) Robert Wager says:

Sorry Grey that is incorrect. All testing is done according to international standards. Monsanto has zero say on what tests are done.

November 3, 2012 at 10:40 pm
(3) Robert Wager says:

The testing of every GM crop are done to international accepted testing protocols. Every single world food safety authority that has looked at GM crops and food ALL come to the same safe conclusion. that is why a special label will only mislead the public.

November 3, 2012 at 11:26 pm
(4) dogctor says:

The regulatory framework is based on 90 day tests on rodents.
When a medical practitioner examines the studies submitted for crop approval to the FDA, they find the study very Unreassuring.

Such as this one: http://cera-gmc.org/docs/articles/09-215-016.pdf

Since bilirubin is only reported for 22-28 out of 80 experimental rats and urinalysis results are Not reported, combined with the pathological findings reported, one can only conclude that the rats suffered from kidney and hepatobiliary disease, after eating this corn for 90 days.
No long term blinded clinical feeding trials are to be found anywhere in the literature.

November 3, 2012 at 11:39 pm
(5) 1fortruth says:

I do believe there will be a special place in hell for “Robert Wager”.

I notice he’s on nearly every blog spouting out blatent lies at every turn.

In the U.S. Monsanto does all the testing of their GMOs before the FDA approves them, in point of fact, there is no testing done by the FDA at all! The FDA says it’s the company producing the product that is responsible for making sure the product is safe for human consumption.

I am quite sure “Robert Wager is a Monsanto employed P.R. guy.

I have a question for the person behind the “Robert Wager” mask; how much of the $45 + million are you getting from the “NO on Prop. 37″ gang?

November 4, 2012 at 12:27 am
(6) seemslikeBS says:

{I do believe there will be a special place in hell for “Robert Wager”.}

Wow, to start what a shameful message! All these attacks and I was just curious why the attacks and over the top mention of Monsanto. Looks to me like these looney characters have an agenda to either hopefully benefit by Monsanto losing business, or the organic food market gaining business without really proving that GMO foods are harmful. In fact GMO foods have been proven to be safe, so why waste all the money to force many companies to put a label on these products. Will you then walk in these grocery stores and ridicule customers after they buy the GMO foods? Will you cry your eyes out when these customers still buy the GMO foods? Are these type of looney loon people that place these nutty comments on all these message boards out of their minds? What a shame!

November 4, 2012 at 2:24 am
(7) digdeep says:

It’s true that the testing is not truly standardized and mostly voluntary, by companies like Monsanto. They also have the right to withhold tests that they perform or pay universities to perform, and keep those results private. So they cherry-pick the tests they like and submit those to the FDA and the FDA has no history or background on GMO saftey so they greenlight everything eventually unless there is something in a submitted test or someone else with lots of $$ for their own tests can prove a product is unsafe. Roundup ready crops mean the farmers use way more roundup (a pesticide outlawed in many countries) in the fields. So the soil ecology gets even worse, and the various actions the GMO plants enact have very dangerous effects on all life who eat the food. Chelation of essential nutrients out of the food and our bodies. This is an experiment being foisted on the world at large and there is a good reason to put the brakes on it.
There is no reason to presume safety unless you are one of those who believed the tobacco industry for 100 years when they said that there was no evidence to suggest cigarrettes were unhealthy or could kill you.
GMO= tobacco science.
Vote yes on Prop 37 so at least people can make their own choices.
If you love GMO, then great, you can avoid all the non-GMO food and really help out in the GMO long term research.

November 4, 2012 at 2:33 am
(8) CJ says:

To seemslikeBS, you start by saying that 1fortruth statement “….special place in hell for Robert Wagner” is a shameful message. You should have stopped there, but no, you go on to label people who want labeling as looney characters, and looney loons. Can you say “hypocrite.” Shameful indeed!

Also, before I read your message, I was thinking that Wagner’s statements did sound like the kind of message a Monsanto shill would produce….in fact, maybe the two of you tag team……just sayin.

November 4, 2012 at 5:08 am
(9) cyberman says:

The Rubicon of labeling has already been crossed. Many ingredients already on food labels are safe or safe in specified quantities. Ingredients may be salt, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, potatoes, peanuts or water. It leaves it up to the consumer what they want to put into their bodies. So GMO’s are no different. Let the consumer, not corporate Monsanto and those who sell Monsanto products determine what is their choice to put into their bodies. There should be no question that we citizens have the right to know what we are eating, not Monsanto and all the other GMO related sellers. Consumers/citizens should not have to play hide and seek with the truth when dealing with commercially available products from corporations seeking their dollars. I hope California sends a message to Messrs Roberts and certain others at the supremes. Monsanto: you want to play then you play the citizen’s game with citizen’s rule – not yours.

November 4, 2012 at 8:25 am
(10) Kim ONeill says:

Why will a label telling what is actually in a product MISLEAD the public? Are we so stupid that we can’t make our own INFORMED decisions? That is arrogance beyond comprehension.

November 4, 2012 at 9:28 am
(11) Jerry says:

What the hell does science or safety have to do with prop 37?! It simplys requires full disclosure in labels. I don’t care if an ingredient has 100 studies and as many years of research behind it to back it’s safety! I don’t care if it turns me into Superman and extends my life by 50 years! I have a right to know what’s in the food I’m eating!!!

November 4, 2012 at 11:42 am
(12) Ana Beata says:

I agree with Jerry…everyone is getting off track. Research has been done on both sides. If you believe they are safe, then go ahead and eat them, if you are like millions of others that don’t want to eat them, then we want to know. It’s that simple. Food cost will not go up–companies change their packaging all the time…look how fast Gluten-free went on everything,
I want to see food packaging state if it contains GMOs just like I like to see what the nutrients and calories are. I read labels because I care what I put in my body. I don’t understand why people are afraid of a simple label. What’s the big deal? Why do over 50 other countries require them. Vote YES on Prop 37. It’s our democracy…it’s our right to know.

November 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm
(13) joro says:

If everyone is willing to pay the cost…. then let it fly. Just adds to the cost of living. More government jobs waiting to be had . Enforcement admin someone has got to take our tax dollars to earn their keep. Lawyers should be happy as well. Money to may made.

November 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(14) Nick says:

What is wrong with labeling food as GMO? These food manufacturers constantly change their labels anyway so a simple three letter word added to the word soybean, canola, beet root, alfalfa and corn are so easy to implement. If they are so proud of GMO as food, then proclaim it to the world that they uses GMO because they so believe in their products. Eat it if you like it but don’t force those who doesn’t want to eat it be mislead. I don’t want GMO on my food so label them. I support those farmers who don’t want to plant them but are getting prosecuted because their plants are contaminated with GMO not to the fault of their own. I support to stop the Monsanto and their seed police from bullying these farmers into planting their seeds and forcing them to sign contract that effectively strip them of their freedom of speech.

November 4, 2012 at 4:14 pm
(15) Joe says:

‘Robert Wager’ is almost certainly a paid shill for Monsanto. Just sayin’


November 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm
(16) Peter Bostock says:

I recently read that the Obamas, the Romneys, the Bushes, and the Clintons always make sure that they eat non-GMO, organic foods, but yet none of their policies, their administrations, or their platforms endorse(d) the consumers’ right to know exactly what is in the foods they eat. Why is this?

November 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm
(17) joanie pedele says:

Proposition 37 allows consumers the right to know that the food they are eating is Genetically Modified. It would not cost consumers any money and has the support of the Center for Food Safety, California Nurses Association. It is supported by Consumer Advocates, Makers of Organic Products and California Farmers. Don’t believe the negative ads.

November 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm
(18) MimiLee says:

Well, actually, the first long term study, published in The Food & Chemical Toxicology Journal, was recently presented in September of this year at a news conference in London. Rats fed a diet of GMO Bt corn and water with the U.S. level of permissible trace amounts Roundup in the drinking water developed a 200-300 percent increase in massive tumor growth, cancer, kidney and liver damage after only four months. This is significant, because up until now, Monsanto has only published studies with a lesser testing period of three months. Around 50 percent of the males and 70 percent of the female rats died prematurely as a result of eating only Roundup tolerant seed or drinking water with Roundup approved levels set by the United States government. Because of this study, The French agriculture minister is now asking European authorities to abandon the use of GMO crops, and the French government is calling for a health agency investigation.


November 5, 2012 at 12:24 am
(19) Biotech Guide says:

Just to briefly correct a few facts regarding MimiLee’s post above:

The study MimiLee references in the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal had real problems with its design, as noted on this blog when it was first released. It is not possible to conclude anything based on this. Accordingly, the European Food Safety Authority has already reviewed and dismissed the findings of this study due to “inadequate design, analysis and reporting.”

Also, it was not actually the first long term GMO study. There have been a dozen previous ones.

Just trying to keep the facts straight.

November 5, 2012 at 8:59 am
(20) Health108 says:

Deciding on Prop 37 is a no brainer. None of the claimed benefits of GMOs have panned out. Instead, we’re seeing all negatives in human, animal and plant health:

Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

19 Studies Link GMOs to Organ Disruption —

Monsanto’s herbicide causing Sudden Death Syndrome in plants

Doctors Warn – Avoid Genetically Modified Food

GM Crops Decimating Monarch Butterflie­s Habitats

Austrian Government Study Confirms Genetically Modified (GM) Crops Threaten Human Fertility and Health

Monsanto tried to block Austrian government research linking GMOs & Infertility

GMOs failing across America – Farmer to Farmer film reveals disastrous failure

Syngenta corporation faces criminal charges for covering up livestock deaths from GM corn

November 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm
(21) Biotech Guide says:

Just to comment on Health108′s links, I think it is important to point out that none of them directly reference peer-reviewed research. Each links to an organizations with an active interest in discrediting GMOs and their information is as unbiased as a Syngenta or Monsanto press release.

I have not seen any good science that indicates there is a negative impact on human or animal health from consuming GMOs. Frankly, though, it would be surprising if GMOs were somehow harmful. When eaten, food is digested into components parts. Genetic engineering does not introduce unnatural chemicals that we can’t digest. Genes introduced by genetic engineering are made of the same DNA as any other gene, and genes have not been introduced that make proteins harmful to humans. There has been a huge amount of research supporting this conclusion and millions of people have been eating genetically modified food for 15 years.

The impact genetically engineered crops have on farming practices and potential environmental effects, however, are more complex. In this sphere, where science, economics, and public policy overlap, there still seems to be a lot to work out. I think it is clear GMOs are here to stay. 10% of the world’s crops are now GMO.

To go back to the subject of the post, how does labeling food made from strains developed with GMO technology help address this bigger issue of regulating and managing crop and livestock development using genetic engineering?

November 6, 2012 at 7:10 am
(22) Ella Baker says:

I think its just another burden for American citizens to pay for it.

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