Nope, not gonna tell you anything about who to vote for, although you can probably take a wild guess who I'm voting for. I'm interesting in talking about this "Food Labeling" proposition that's on the ballot in CA. Normally, I am all for educated consumers, and knowledge is power and all that jazz. This is one case where I'm not.
Here's what the Proposition says:
"Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals
with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing
such food, or other processed food, as “natural.” Provides exemptions.
Fiscal Impact: Increased annual state costs from a few hundred thousand
dollars to over $1 million to regulate the labeling of genetically
engineered foods. Additional, but likely not significant, governmental
costs to address violations under the measure."
My suggestion on this proposition? Vote NO. Why? Well, let me tell you
1) This labeling of food is largely based on misinformation. People automatically think that "Genetically Modified" = "Bad". These are likely the same people who think vaccines cause autism. This culture of misinformation out there (and this complete lack of scientific knowledge) leads people to write ill-informed ballot propositions with little or no scientific knowledge. There are no guidelines for what is GMO and what is not. The guidelines are very very blurry, and actually won't provide the consumer much useful information.
So, what is "Genetically Modified Organism"? Let me break it down for you. Generally, "genetically modified" means that a plant or animal has DNA (genetic material) in it that is not native. What does that mean? It means that someone took DNA from another animal or plant and put it into the genetic material of the desired plant or animal. Sometimes this can change the properties of a species. For example, you can take the DNA that encodes green fluorescent protein from a jellyfish and put it in zebrafish, and the zebrafish glow. They sell these at your local pet store, I am sure. (They are, like $10 each, tho - which is a super big rip-off!) These fish are technically genetically modified since they don't normally have this protein coded in their genes. They have also done this same thing, but in cats, as illustrated below. All of this is genetic modification. As scientists, we do this all the time. We call this "transgenesis", or transgene insertion.
2) "GMO" can do GOOD. Sometimes, however, scientists actually THINK about a problem that might be occurring. Like, perhaps people in one area of the world don't get enough Vitamin A. This is a huge problem in a significant portion of the world. Scientists developed Golden Rice, a strain of rice that has Vitamin A in it. If we can utilize this kind of rice in the areas stricken with Vitamin A deficiency, perhaps that can alleviate that disease. You can also imagine that this could be done for a wealth of other Vitamins and Minerals that people might lack.
3) Everything is GMO. If you want to know what's GMO in your cupboard, it's everything. Have you seen what corn originally looked like? Do you know that our chickens are so ridiculously large compared to wild ones? Do you think that cows normally look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Are tomatoes actually that large in the wild? Have you ever seen a wild strawberry? All of our produce, all of our stock farm animals have been bred and modified to provide more food and more abundance for us. Everything. In. Your. Kitchen. There is no escaping it. Everything you buy will be GMO labeled in some form or another. What's the point in labeling everything?
4) But what about Monsanto? Yup, they're bad. I agree. They took some DNA from a bacteria and expressed it corn and soy and all those large crops grown in the middle of the country. All other plants die from the pesticide Roundup, but Monsanto based plants do not. I agree it would be nice to know when I am buying things made with Monsanto corn or regular corn. Honestly, the way around this? Buy local and buy organic. Everything processed is made with Monsanto corn or soy. Everything. And any restaurant you are going to is serving stuff made with Monsanto products. Accept it and know it. You don't need a label. Yeah, your Activia? GMO.
4) I get it, you just want to know. Much like the organic movement, or the "locavore" movement, we want to know more about our food and where it comes from. I get it, I really, really do. I think this is a situation where the letter of the law doesn't fit the spirit of the law.
5) This law is intended to trick consumers. I saw a commercial the other day about this law. It said something like, "Oh my God! Did you know that when you eat that corn, you're eating GMO DNA? That DNA can go in your stomach and get in your DNA!!!!". OK, look, people. Anything that WAS alive, that you are eating? It has DNA. Everything. You eat DNA every day, and you will eat DNA for the rest of your life. Your stomach? Full of acid. Literal acid. What kills DNA? Acid. This is no Spiderman, your DNA in not intermixing with that Lettuce DNA from lunch, and all of a sudden you might get green and leafy. Trust me on this one. The human body has been eating for a long time, it's learned how to keep the stuff you eat inside your gut, and only let the good stuff out into your bloodstream. Again, this is the misinformation I am talking about. Assuming that the general consumer will be automatically scared about GMO.
Summary: This law won't hurt big food manufacturers, which I think is what it wanted to do. This law will hurt the small farmers, the organic ranchers, by forcing them to submit to more inspections and create further labels - more than they already have. If you don't like Monsanto, then don't buy their stuff. Stop buying processed food. Stop buying things you can make on your own. Don't buy chips or candy, frozen TV dinners or McDonald's. Start visiting your local farmer's market. Plant a garden. Look, I'm not saying that GMO is all good, all the time. I'm just saying that Proposition 37 will create more problems than it will solve. Get a better worded, more focused Proposition 37 and you have my vote. Until then, I vote no.