Election 2016

Unfounded Fears About California's Prop 37 Which Would Label Genetically Modified Foods

Don't let industry's $40 million in advertising be your decider.

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

This political season it should come as no surprise to anyone that paid television advertisements don't necessarily contain (ahem) the truth. Although deep pocketed industries spend millions to win our vote, our loyalties, our buy-in's to their agendas, more and more people have developed the ability to think critically and avoid succumbing to their influence.

But the insidiousness of much paid-for-by-vested-interest advertising is that it makes people second guess their own gut level instincts--often by making things more complicated than they really need to be. Take the California Labeling Initiative--Proposition 37--which over a million California's petitioned to get on the ballot for a statewide vote.

Voting Yes on Prop 37 will give Californians a right to know what's in their food, something that studies show that 90% of of people across the political spectrum want. But certain companies including Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsi, ConAgra, Dow Chemical and others (detailed here) have spent over $40 million on ads against the Labeling Initiative, according to Dave Murphy, the co-chair of Prop 37, the California Right to Know Campaign and the founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!

Overall, their aim is to cast doubt on the initiative through evoking the following Unfounded Fears Over the Labeling, which I survey here:

UFO 1: Labeling Will Increase Your Food Costs

Truth: A recent studyfound that "consumers will likely see no increases in prices as a result of relabeling" by manufacturers." Since large supermarket chains will be required to change some store placards to disclose GMO products, there will be a one time per household cost of $1.27 for the passed-on costs of the new signage. 

UFO 2: Small Stores Will Need to Spend $$ to Comply

Truth: It's manufacturers, and large retailers, not small retailers who will be responsible for labeling and allied costs. Relabeling will be a one-time expense. 

UFO 3: What's the Big Deal about Labeling? Just Avoid Corn and Soy

Truth: Over the years since GMO foods were developed, food geneticists have introduced many additional foods that contain it-- with more and more every day. Ths makes them harder to avoid and there's no reason to assume that eating more and more of them won't increase their effects. See the Non GMO Shopping Guide for an up to date list. 

UFO 4: Labeling Will Mean More Taxes for You

Truth: The California Legislative Analyst estimates costs no higher than .0007% of the whole state budget for monitoring and enforcement.

UFO 5: How Bad Can GMOs Be if We've Already Been Eating Them?

Truth: The Union of Concerned Scientists listnew allergens, increased antibiotic resistance, and novel toxins as some of the health risks. Since no studies were done prior to GMO introduction, its use constitutes an uncontrolled health experiment. But recent animal studies(done on rats) show worrisome effects. Scientists do animal studies because the results often apply to humans. Now it's time to do the human studies. But none have been funded or undertaken so far.

Supporters of Proposition 37 includes the Consumer's Union, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Working Group, and many more reputable groups, as well as thought leaders like Michael Pollan, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Dr. Joseph Mercola, John Robbins and Lawrence O'Donnell. Host of the MSNBC show, "The Last Word."

In voting by ballot live this past week on his show, O'Donnell voiced what many consumers feel, "I sowant to know." If today California voters overcome the UFOs I've detailed here, they will get to know what's in their food, kind of a simple thing really. At the same time the California Right to Know Vote will bring people in every state of the union one step closer to attaining the same right. If this happens, the U.S. will join the nearly 50 countries, including Japan, Australia, and all of Europe who share the same natural concerns and right to know what's in their food.

Learn more about GMOs by listening to Connect the Dots on the Progressive Radio Network for my interviews with Dave MurphyandJohn Robbins. You can also see John Robbins at Green Festival San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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Alison Rose Levy @alisonroselevy writes on health, food and the environment. Her website is healthjournalistblog.com and her weekly radio program on Progressive Radio is Connect the Dots.