California's failed prop 37 demanded that every food containing GMO's had to be labeled but left the door open for organic foods, alcohol, certain retail meats, cheeses, dairy products and eggs. Food served in restaurants and baked goods were also exempt. What little was left, mostly pre-packaged foods in the supermarket perishables sections, had to be labeled.
Jumping into the battle, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technologies (CAST) issued a new report titled “The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Foods in the United States,” which examines the scientific, legal and economic impact of GMO labeling.
CAST concluded there is no scientific justification for mandatory labeling. The authors thought voluntary labeling programs, such as the Non-GMO Project, provided consumers with adequate information to help them select non-genetically engineered foods. Government regulations were not needed.
CAST rightfully claimed that state-based labeling laws will run into a barrage of special interest groups' legal challenges about unfair restrictions to interstate commerce and international trade, long standing federal authority, and the First Amendment's protection of “commercial speech.” The American Meat Institute and other meat industry groups have already used that First Amendment argument in their legal challenge to Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).
The report asks for "independent, objective information to be provided to consumers and legislators on the scientific issues, legal ramifications and economic consequences of mandatory labeling, especially in states that now have labeling initiatives on the ballot."
Alison Van Eenennaam, geneticist and Cooperative Extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis, and lead author of the CAST report, explained it this way: "Mandating process-based food labeling is a very complex topic with nuanced marketing, economic and trade implications depending upon how the labeling laws are written and how the market responds.”
The nuance that counts, though, is the public's fast-growing desire to know what they are putting on the dinner table and even faster-growing distrust of those twin faux monsters, Big Ag and Big Food. The anti-GMO crowd has done an excellent job with their "What are they trying to hide" argument. Their straw dog follow ups, playing imaginary 'what if' games is winning public sentiment. In an era when real science is becoming increasingly under attack by voodoo science and professional fear-mongering, maybe the correct course of action is transparency? Just label it and be done with it.