Efforts to require labeling on genetically modified foods failed in California this year. Proposition 37, a California ballot initiative, was defeated in the November 6, 2012 general election. The final vote tally was 53 percent opposed to 47 percent in favor. Called “Right to Know,” the initiative garnered much attention in the media and general population. If it had been successful, California would have been the leader in such labeling requirements for foods sold in that state. It also would have prohibited labeling or marketing products as “natural” if they contain genetically modified ingredients.
Genetically modified soybeans, corn, or other crops are used in most processed foods sold in the USA. The DNA of these crops has been spliced with other species’ genetic material. Such methods have been used for 16 years. These modified crops are able to survive despite applications of weed killer. They are even toxic to the bugs and insects which eat them.
Genetically modified foods are already required to be labeled in 50 countries, including:
Supporters of the California initiative believe that citizens have the right to know whether their food has been genetically modified. The issue has forced attention on the value of sustainable farming and humane treatment of animals. Consumer groups instigated grassroots activities, and were joined by the organic industry.
Opponents cited increased food costs to consumers. They called labeling “deceptive” because they say science has not shown modified foods to be harmful, according to major medical groups. Those opposing the measure included well-funded agricultural and industrial interests.
Next steps are already being planned.
- Similar petitions are planned next for California’s neighbors to the north: Washington State and Oregon.
- Supporters will also attempt to force change at the federal level in Washington, D.C. The primary agency for food and food additives regulatory oversight is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Strategists had hoped that a victory in California would ease the uphill climb in D.C., but it was not to be. However, state passage is not absolutely necessary for legal strategies concerning the FDA.
A citizen’s petition with over one million signatures is pending with the agency.It demands that the FDA re-examine its policy that foods containing genetically modified ingredients do not have to be labeled.The petition points to FDA’s failure to mandate pre-market safety testing and its permissive labeling policy. Supporters suggest that this effort could bring about a federal lawsuit naming the FDA.
reported by Irene Vashdi, a freelance journalist and natural health advocate. Ms. Vashdi’s work has appeared in newsmagazines, blogs, and sites like this.