National Consumers League

The right to know is a winning proposition


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By Teresa Green, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow One of my colleagues votes in California and so, along with her ballot, she received a booklet entitled “Official Voter Information Guide.”  This booklet includes arguments for and against each ballot initiative. The initiative we are most interested in here at NCL is Proposition 37, an initiative that would require genetically engineered foods be labeled. NCL is a proud member of a group called “Just Label It,” which argues that consumers have the right to know whether the foods they eat contain genetically engineered foods or not. Why is the California ballot initiative so important?  The reason is that if Proposition 37 passes in California, it is likely to have a nationwide impact.  This is because food companies are unlikely to produce one label for California and another for the rest of the country.  Instead, they are more likely to produce one label which meets the California law and thus provides more information to consumers across the country. The ballot initiative has gotten both sides of the issue energized.  Unfortunately for proponents of the measure, the food industry, Proposition 37’s major opponents, has vastly outspent pro-labeling advocates.  Total spending by food companies has been around $45 million.  This infusion of cash into the state has paid off; while polls earlier in the year indicated popular support for the measure, more recent polls show that support has dropped by 17 percentage points since September alone. Whether the measure passes or not, labeling of GMOs will continue to be an important issue and one that we predict will not be tabled even if Proposition 37 is defeated in California this election.