Organic Consumers Association

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California Newspaper Editorial Boards Spread False Claims and Faulty Logic on Proposition 37

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

Each election season, proponents and opponents of the various initiatives on the California ballot hope for the state's major newspaper endorsements. While you can't expect every paper to endorse your side, Proposition 37, which would require labeling of foods produced using genetic engineering, seems to have had a string of incredibly bad luck. So incredible, in fact, that the reasoning behind several California newspaper endorsements of a No vote has me scratching my head.

It's one thing to have a difference of opinion, but these editorials don't even get their facts straight. Even more perplexing, most of the papers acknowledged that we should have labeling for foods produced using genetic engineering, and yet they went out of their way to find excuses to not endorse a basic consumer "right to know" effort. In this light, it seemed logical to review a few of the arguments that raised questions.

The Sacramento Bee editorial board, after saying they "don't oppose labeling of genetically modified food," went on to parrot several of the opposition's talking points, but failed to back them up with any actual facts. They claim the initiative would result in "countless lawsuits against retailers," a baseless scare tactic well-honed by the opposition. The vast majority of businesses follow the law, so lawsuits will be rare.

Much has been made by the Bee and other papers about how "private attorneys and plaintiffs would have the power to enforce," demonstrating a troubling ignorance of the law. Under current California law, private attorneys can already sue food companies for deceptive marketing, so this is really no different. And unlike other laws (such as Prop 65), under Prop 37 there are no financial incentives for bringing a lawsuit. All a person can get is a court order for the company to properly label its product, which is no incentive for an attorney to bring a lawsuit. Again, it's just scare mongering from the opposition, and it's sad to see the editorial pages engage in such shallow analysis and flimsy argumentation.
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