Surprising many, California defeated the GMO label requirement

GMO-modified plum

Before we move on to really serious matters - like does a turkey really need to be brined? - we did want to note one U.S. election result that impacts the world of food. In California, Proposition 37 was defeated fairly soundly. For those who were not aware of it, Prop. 37 required that any food that had been genetically modified carry a label to that effect.

The proponents of Prop. 37 blame the loss entirely on heavy advertising by such corporate giants as Monsanto and Safeway; per one of the organizers, ""Unfortunately, Proposition 37 was defeated by a wildly deceptive smear campaign financed by Monsanto, DuPont and other industry opponents of the public's right to know."

However, others note that were some serious concerns with the proposition. In fact, most of the major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle  advocated a "no" vote based on the wording of the proposition which, they argued, would add more confusion than clarity. And, as the Salt reports, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the country's largest science organization, also opposed it on the grounds that "Proposition 37 and other labeling propositions 'are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually danger­ous,' wrote the AAAS board of directors. 'Indeed, the science is quite clear: Crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe."

Overall, we believe that there are one major takeaway from these results. Genetically modified food is a complex topic, not the least of which is the problem of actually defining GMO. The people of California voted for less emotionally charged political  arguments and for more rational discussions of the merits and counter-merits of GMO-based foods. We think that was the right approach.

3 Comments

  • Bonnie  on  11/10/2012 at 7:53 AM

    The objections to GM foods are not necessarily focused on potential dangers to human health; the chief concern is political: are we going to let mega corporations like Monsanto monopolize the source of much of our nourishment and force farmers into economic dependency while further marginalizing the efforts to maintain diversity of the spectrum of available plants, including their ability to mutate naturally as they adapt to different conditions? As a means of bringing these issues into discussion, I'd say the campaign was at least a partial success.

  • Queezle_Sister  on  11/10/2012 at 8:12 AM

    GM foods is a complex issue. One problem is that we generally do not know the history of our foods, and how GMOs compare. Recommended reading: Nina Federoff's "mendel in the kitchen".

  • sfcarole  on  11/11/2012 at 1:42 PM

    I was very disappointed Prop 37 didn't pass here in California. Although I'm not convinced that GMOs are dangerous, I do believe I have the right to know whether they are in the foods I buy. Water is not dangerous but it is listed on food labels. Plus I truly resent the large out of state companies spending heaps of money to influence our in-state decisions.

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