California voters rejected Prop 37, the ballot initiative that would mandate the labeling of foods with any genetically-modified ingredients. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the proposed labeling law is headed for a clear defeat with 94% of all precincts reporting.
“We said from the beginning that the more voters learned about Prop. 37, the less they would like it,” said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the opposition. “We didn’t think they would like the lawsuits, more bureaucracy, higher costs, loopholes and exemptions. It looks like they don’t.”
The California Right to Know campaign issued a press release today which stated, in part, as follows:
Yesterday, we showed that there is a food movement in the United States, and it is strong, vibrant and too powerful to stop. We always knew we were the underdogs, and the underdogs nearly took the day. Dirty money and dirty tactics may have won this skirmish, but they will not win the war.
Today, we are more than 4 million votes closer to knowing what’s in our food than when we started. This is a victory and a giant step forward. We are proud of our broad coalition of moms and dads, farmers, nurses, environmentalists, faith and labor leaders who did so much with so few resources to bring us to this point, and we will carry forward.
Please see the entire article from the San Francisco Chronicle here.
Please see my feature article in the August 2012 issue of Packaging Digest on the “extreme” labeling requirements that might result if California voters approve Proposition 37, also known as the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.”
In related news, various entities are awakening to the fact that the language of Prop. 37 could potentially be read as precluding any “processed food” from being labeled or advertised as “natural,” “all natural,” or “naturally made” regardless of whether it includes GMO ingredients. See here and here. In fact, the Legislative Analyst’s Office of California, a non-partisan fiscal and policy advisor, specifically found that, “[g]iven the way the measure is written, there is a possibility that these restrictions [on "natural" labeling and advertising] would be interpreted by the courts to apply to all processed foods regardless of whether they are genetically engineered.” See here. Expect this issue to be the subject of much more discussion as the election approaches.
There’s an excellent article posted today by Steve Sexton on the Freakonomics website titled “How California’s GMO Labeling Law Could Limit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor.” Here’s a snippet:
More devastating than the label itself, could be the cost of avoiding the label on non-GE foods that may nevertheless contain trace amounts of GE material. In the U.S., the highest-grade corn can contain as much as 2% foreign material, like crop residues. In Europe, a food product can containas much as 0.9% genetically engineered material and avoid a GE label. But the California law would impose a nearly twice as stringent purity standard, tolerating only 0.5% GE content in non-GE food.
Such a high purity standard would likely require farmers to invest in separate planting, harvesting, storage, hauling, processing, and packaging equipment for GE production in order to avoid revenue losses and liability from contaminating their non-GE operations or those of competitors. Because the costs of risk reduction generally increase exponentially in the level of safety, California’s stringent purity standard may be a death sentence to GE producers who could spread the high fixed costs of contamination avoidance across only the low levels of production that the market would initially support.
Please read the entire piece in full here.
Today’s New York Times includes an excellent story on the “Battle Brewing Over Labeling of Genetically Modified Food.” As the article notes:
Regulators and many scientists say [GMO ingredients] pose no danger. But as Americans ask more pointed questions about what they are eating, popular suspicions about the health and environmental effects of biotechnology are fueling a movement to require that food from genetically modified crops be labeled, if not eliminated.
Although GMO labeling bills are percolating in several state legislatures, the most significant “battle” is the upcoming ballot initative in California, discussed in a prior post. Significantly:
Biotechnology companies say that the California labeling initiative, while portrayed as promoting consumer choice, is really an effort by some consumer and environmental groups and organic food growers to drive genetically modified foods off the market.
“These folks are trying to use politics to do what they can’t accomplish at the supermarket, which is increase market share,” said Cathleen Enright, an executive vice president at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents Monsanto and DuPont.
Persons on the other side of the issue, of course, assert that they just want “transparency” in the food system in light of potential health and environmental concerns.
Please see the complete article here.