Having moved from California, I did not have the privilege of voting on any of the propositions this past election. Of particular interest was Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in food. Specifically the proposition stated:
- Requires labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
- Prohibits labeling or advertising such food, or other processed food, as “natural.”
- Exempts foods that are: certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.
It would seem pretty straightforward that consumers would want to know what is in their food. Consumers are concerned about the calories, fat content, and other nutritional facts. Why not include whether or not it contains GMOs? Some countries mandate, prohibit or restrict the use of GMOs. According to the opposition, new labeling would be an exorbitant cost and there is no scientific data to support that GMOs had any health detriments.
Prop. 37 isn’t a simple measure, like promoters claim. It’s a deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme that would add more government bureaucracy and taxpayer costs, create new frivolous lawsuits, and increase food costs by billions—without providing any health or safety benefits. And, it’s full of special-interest exemptions. (Prop 37 opposition)
With all the exemptions mentioned above, there may be a valid point on costs, if legislation was not clear. The opposition further claimed:
Biotechnology, also called genetic engineering (GE), has been used for nearly two decades to grow varieties of corn, soybeans and other crops that resist diseases and insects and require fewer pesticides. Thousands of common foods are made with ingredients from biotech crops.
Prop. 37 bans these perfectly safe foods in California unless they’re specially relabeled or remade with higher cost ingredients.
The US Food and Drug Administration says such a labeling policy would “be inherently misleading.”
Respected scientific and medical organizations have concluded that biotech foods are safe, including:
- National Academy of Sciences
- American Council on Science and Health
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- World Health Organization
What does the science say? Most studies do not seem to find health issues associated with genetically modified food. However, GMOs were only introduced in the 1990s, so long-term health effects on humans are difficult to determine. Now, according to Wikipedia, 90% of US soybean crops (85% of the world’s crops) are Genetically Modified, and 86% of the US maize crop (32% of the world’s crops). I realize the studies seem to show no ill effects from GMOs. I did find one very interesting chart I wanted to share. I share this with the caveats that I am not trying to draw a scientific link or even try to claim GMOs are responsible. However, I did find the correlation of the acceleration of the overweight population, beginning in the 90’s, and the introduction of GMO’s to be a notable observation.
The Proposition did not pass. Perhaps the label that says “does not contain GMOs” may begin to mean more. Instead of forcing companies to disclose GMOs, companies could market it as a positive attribute to have a “no GMOs” label. I realize that many labels can become crowded (no GMOs, no antibiotics, no pesticides, etc.). An organic label generally covers all of those, but sometimes something may be all natural but not quite organically certified. It is important to know your source and trust their methods.
Incidentally, our products work with GMO crops, however, older food-plant varieties seem to have stronger responses (greater dependency) to mycorrhizae on their roots. We do not use GMOs and do not plan to in the future. Our philosophy is to try to increase yields and disease resistance through natural methods.