LA Times encourages California voters to reject Proposition 37

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California voters will have the opportunity next month to vote to require some, but not all, food sold in the state and produced with genetic engineering be labeled as such. (There are exemptions for milk, restaurant food and other products.)

California’s Proposition 37 has received much national attention due to expectations that similar laws might proceed elsewhere if it were approved by Golden State voters. The ballot initiative has also garnered significant attention because of the large amount of money spent on advertising by both sides of the issue. In mid-September it was estimated that the two sides had already amassed more than $30 million to sway voters.

Opponents to Prop 37, however, welcomed support from California’s largest daily newspaper this week, The Los Angeles Times. The paper endorsed a “no” vote on the issue yesterday, calling the proposed law “problematic on a number of levels.”

That’s not to say the editors at the LA Times don’t harbor some doubts about genetically engineered foods. Specifically, the paper claims America “rushed headlong into producing (GM food) with lax federal oversight, and although many studies have been conducted over the last couple of decades, a 2009 editorial in Scientific American complained that too much of the research has been controlled by the companies that create the engineered products.”

But the LA Times finds a laundry list of reasons to reject Proposition 37, and calls the proposal “sloppily written.” The paper cites the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office claiming the language in Proposition 37 “could be construed by the courts to imply that processed foods could not be labeled as ‘natural’ even if they weren’t genetically engineered.”

Additionally, the paper noted that “most of the burden for ensuring foods are properly labeled would fall not on producers but on retailers, which would have to get written statements from their suppliers verifying that there were no bioengineered ingredients – a paperwork mandate that could make it hard for mom-and-pop groceries to stay in business. Enforcement would largely occur through lawsuits brought by members of the public who suspect grocers of selling unlabeled food, a messy and potentially expensive way to bring about compliance.”

But the most important reason to reject Prop 37, according to the LA Times, is that there is “no rationale for singling out genetic engineering” as the agricultural practice for which labeling should be required. “So far,” the editor’s wrote, “there is little if any evidence that changing a plant’s or animal’s genes through bioengineering, rather than through selective breeding, is dangerous to the people who consume it. In fact, some foods have been engineered specifically to remove allergens from the original version.”

To make their case that genetically engineered foods should not be the only foods under label requirements, the LA Times wrote: “By contrast, there is obvious reason to be worried about the fact that three-fourths of the antibiotics in this country are used to fatten and prevent disease in livestock, not to treat disease in people. The rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria from overuse of pharmaceuticals poses a real threat to public health. So why label only the bioengineered foods?”

Those claims about antibiotics in food animal production have been widely disputed by producers and veterinarians, but apparently accepted as fact by the editors at the LA Times.

However, the LA Times offers one suggestion on which both producers and consumers can agree: “What’s needed is a consistent, rational food policy.”

Defining “rational,” however, may be a challenge.

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c. andrews    
chicago-kansassanitation  |  October, 05, 2012 at 09:19 AM

sanitation and scource far exceed genetic engineering. Do away with genetic engineered now super planting seeds and starve the global population.

October, 05, 2012 at 09:22 AM

In the words of KSU's Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh-"If you are anti-biotech, you are pro-starvation." We will not be able to feed this world without raising more crops on the same amount of farmground.

Washington  |  October, 05, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The main reason gmo's exist is to sell more round up. There was a recent study done by an independent group of scientists in France...the first not funded by the big bio-tech companies. It was also the first study done longer than 90 days. Conclusion? GMO's cause cancer and reduce fertility. So, you may be feeding the world, but you are also causing cancer and reducing fertility....Oh yeah...and you won't be able to save your own seeds to grow your own food...

Joe Dairy Man    
USA  |  October, 05, 2012 at 10:24 AM

GMO don't cause cancer! The only reason Organic folks want everything labeled is so they can can force the conventional products be as expensive as Organic! Last thing we need is a paper trail like Organic which is a Joke. We been geneticly modifying corn since Columbus discovered corn in America. We been picking the seed from the best kernels and saving them for the next crops for 100s of years. Now we have been able to speed this up! Without current technologies we would have been worse off with the drought. These people that want to stand still in time by ending modernness advancements are plain stupid. Every one wants modern phones & technology. But the farmer will keep farming with a donkey, wheelbarrow and a shovel????

California  |  October, 05, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Pnw: have you ever bit into a banana seed? Or grape seed? How about seedless water melons? That's because they are Geneticaly modified to not produce seeds and grow larger than the wild varieties. And they are grown without Round-up! Get your info from a reputable source.

Petaluma  |  October, 05, 2012 at 11:13 AM

The difference is taking the short view versus the long view. Yes - we can produce a lot of crops using GMO seeds. But - what exactly is the health risk involved - truth= no one knows yet. THey haven't been around long enough. And what is the impact of seedless crops - when we all know that nature is really the one in control - and or crops that have pesticides in their dna structure. It isn't that these aren't great ideas - is that the downside - due to lack of evidence and testing - can be catastrophic for all of our natural resources. Dying off of insect populations - which flows up the food chain, and cross pollination with other crops - leading to infertile crops altogether - leaving farmers dependent on seed companies and evolution that nature wasn't ready for. Interdependence, biodiversity, and planning for the seventh generation of our human population. That is what I will be thinking about when I go to the polls in November. And hopefully on the next ballot we will have an initiative about the use of antibiotics in livestock use. Just because this bill isn't perfect - doesn't meant it isn't a step in the right direction.

California  |  October, 05, 2012 at 11:38 AM

In an age when farmers are feeding arsenic to chickens and Bt corn to cattle, I am not surprised that farmers oppose Prop 37. In addition to GMO labeling, I sincerely hope that it will soon be mandated that farmers must list everything toxic that is sprayed on crops or fed to animals. If you feed chickens arsenic, that is an ingredient. It should be listed. If you douse your soy with Roundup, that's an ingredient. List it. People value their health and they want to know what is in their food. Prop 37 should pass.

October, 05, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Saving the best seeds to use the next year is NOT genetic engineering. It is selective breeding. Genetic engineering often injects substances into the genetic material of a plant to produce seeds that contain whatever it is the growers want/need. The wheat we eat today is NOT the wheat we ate in grandma's time. We now have stronger, dwarf wheat that has been genetically modified to be stronger, etc. However, no one knows the risks yet. It will take generations, probably, before that happens. The big biotech companies are also (in some instances) suing farmers because natural pollination (due to wind, birds, etc.) have blown patented seeds/spores into a neighboring farmer's field and affected that farmer's crops. Now big biotech wants to sue the farmer for the fact that his corn (or whatever crop) has been pollinated without their express permission. Is this crazy or what?

Joe Dairyman    
USA  |  October, 05, 2012 at 05:03 PM

We need to be optimistic and move forward. We have the safest food supply. We are the envy of the world when it comes to food production. People are living longer than ever. The population continues to grow. There isn't any more land. We have no choice but to get more efficient in food production. The countries that have not progressed are hungry and poor. Countries like the US that have braced modern technology are in the for front. We use the least amount of our income for food. That's why we are successful country with plenty to eat.

PNW  |  October, 05, 2012 at 09:41 PM

Bananas and grapes are not genetically modified -- they are hybridized, a vast difference.

ND  |  October, 05, 2012 at 10:49 PM

If you want to know what's in your food, grow it yourself. You have access to the safest, cheapest supply of food in the world, yet you are not thankful. We farmers are producing more food with greater regulations than ever before. Keep it up and you may just tip the scales and watch the people complain when the grocery stores are empty. Easy to sit back and criticize and be an "expert" on the subject when you have no skin in the game. I work 365 days a year trying to make a living and reading these comments just shows how little people truly understand about agriculture.

manhattan, ks.  |  October, 09, 2012 at 06:16 PM

Kathleen, your comments are so silly I don't know if youre serious! Should we list sunlight, water, soil, insect damage, growing degree days etc? Even your beloved organic farmers use "organic" pesticides that are toxic, get a clue or an education. You also have no idea what the half-life of round-up is, or that any residues degrade by just being exposed to the environment, its basic chemistry. Please read and educate yourself on farming practices before you make such unfounded and generalized comments about agriculture.

manhattan ks  |  October, 09, 2012 at 06:21 PM

THere is NO GMO wheat sold by any company on Earth, dwarf varities were selectively bred from the old "turkey" wheats so you wouldn't have lodging in the field and lose a crop. Biotech companies only sue farmers when they retain seed to sell as a labeled variety without paying royalities (breaking the Plant Variety patent) , your pollination story is a lie.

manhattan, ks.  |  October, 10, 2012 at 04:26 PM

Toby- I completely agree with you! It diffcult to bust your butt year around to bring in a crop or care for livestock only to see people with soft hands and clean shoes tell you, youre doing it wrong and they know better. I wish as farmers and ranchers we could boycott consumers for a year just so they realize how easy they have it. I would much rather grow food for some starving kid in a third world country then for ungrateful ingrates in the US. Keep on complaining with your belly full, there might be a day it won't then you'll shut your mouths.

manhattan, ks.  |  October, 12, 2012 at 07:23 PM

Yeah ok, considering about 75%of the GMO's focus on disease and agronomic traits not pesticide resistance traits. Yes, Monsanto sells alot of Round-Up Ready seed, but many companies offer Bt Corn for natural insect resistance, drought tolerance, nematode resistance etc. You know what else causes cancer and infertility? Poor diet, too much sunlight exposure, exercising too much, improper birth control use, along with a couple thousand more things, and the rates used in that experiment were not even close to normal exposure levels unless you regularly go swimming in pesticide tanks full of Round-Up. Oh yeah, you can actually seed your own seeds depending on the variety, just a clue!

Ventura,CA  |  November, 05, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Yes I have but into a banana sees. You do every time you eat a banana. They are in the center of the banana and almost unnoticeable. As for seedless grapes Thompson seedless grapes existed long before GMO technology existed. These were bred this way, not genetically modified using gene guns armed with bacteria and viruses to change the genetic code. Sometimes using animal DNA. Genetically modified isn't what you think. Read about it.

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