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The Case for Proposition 37: GMO Labeling

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our California News page.

In America we hold a consumer's power of choice at the checkout line nearly as sacred as that of a voter at the ballot box. In November, California voters will be asked to protect the right of food buyers to make informed purchases.

Passing Proposition 37 could change the future of food in this country. The initiative is rooted in a simple premise: Consumers have the right to know if their food is produced using genetic engineering, which manipulates DNA or transfers it from one organism to another. Any plant or animal food product with genes that have been engineered would be so labeled.

This isn't a radical new idea. It's been standard practice in all member countries of the European Union for years. The latest published research shows that 61 countries have some form of mandatory labeling for foods containing genetically modified crop ingredients.

The companies that sell genetically modified seeds and manufactured foods argue that American consumers don't need such detailed labels. They say, "Just trust us."

That is a lot to ask. Product labels are the front line of consumer protection. Research and development on genetically engineered products (also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs) are largely done by private sector, not public sector, scientists because companies very aggressively protect their patents. According to the Center for Food Safety, as of January 2010, Monsanto had filed 136 lawsuits against farmers for alleged violations of its technology agreement or its patents on genetically engineered seeds. These cases have involved 400 farmers and 53 small-farm businesses. The level of secrecy and the combative nature of the industry fuel public distrust.


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