Proposition 37: Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods (GMOs)

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Genetic engineering started in the early 1980s. DNA from various species like a bacterium, plant, or animal is injected into another species to get a desired product or trait that would not naturally occur. This technique can produce  pesticide-resistant crops and increase yields. Monsanto, a tremendously powerful stakeholder, introduced “Bt” bacteria into corn which kills corn-borer insects upon ingestion, igniting torrential controversies.

Proposition 37 is a California initiative requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (Genetically Modified Organism) foods. It was defeated in November 2012 after agribusinesses, chemical companies, and prominent corporations like Monsanto, Dupont, and Pepsico dominated funding against it due to “no scientific justification for labeling modified foods” according to statements from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Medical Association (AMA).

Stakeholders against Prop 37 argue that grocery costs and law suits will increase.  Major supporters like the Organic Consumer Association, Joseph Mercola, and Kent Whealy stand firmly on the grounds of consumer’s right to know, protecting family’s health, and labeling not increasing  costs.

Over 80% of corn and soybeans are genetically engineered in America. Although Proposition 37 mandates labeling, it has several exclusions. $45 million in opposition funds ruled against the $9 million donations from supporters.The battle for transparency continues. Initiatives progress in Washington, Connecticut, and Vermont in hopes of achieving mandatory labeling like 60 other countries. Whole Foods recently announced labeling all genetically engineered foods by 2018.

America was founded on principles of civil liberties. If companies have the “right” to produce foods with various technologies that cross-breeds of species, then Americans have the “right” to know what they are buying and eating. Consumer’s concerns of unintended consequences on their health is valid. A handful of powerful agribusinesses should not monopolize the food industry or encroach upon citizens’ rights to know how their food is produced.

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