Dave's Case For Proposition 37!

Categories: Food Politics
Yes on 37 - CA Right to Know
Proposition 37, the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Food Act, is one of the more controversial items on this Tuesday's election slate; the whole foods movement and a whole slew of chefs and food industry people support it, and the "no" side is funded by large companies like Monsanto and Hershey.

Californians deserve the right to know whether their food contains genetically modified organisms (GMO); currently, the default assumption has to be that it does.

What's the big deal about genetically modified food?

Monsanto and their ilk would have you believe that genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our food are there to improve the taste and quality of the food. After all, if a strawberry is tasty, a strawberry genetically modified to be sweeter and juicier would be better, right?

The truth, however, is that food, particularly base-line grains like maize (corn), soybeans, and wheat, is genetically modified mostly to make it productive on a massive scale. Think about the strawberries you buy in a grocery store versus the strawberries you buy at the farm stand. The grocery store strawberries have been modified to withstand long-distance shipping, and to withstand onslaughts of airborne pesticide that make it easier (read: cheaper) to control pests. Corn seed is sold as "Roundup Ready", meaning that it has been genetically modified to withstand glyphosate, sold as Roundup, a powerful herbicide. It's daunting to think that a plant has been genetically fortified to withstand a product whose sole purpose for existence is to kill plants.

No, it's clear, taste is eleventh on a list of ten reasons seed companies modify the genes of their seeds. American farmers are growing crops bred to produce as much as possible without any regard for whether the farming techniques used are safe, or whether the genetic modification causes other issues.

That just means that consumers should buy organic, right? Organic food must be non-GMO, right? After all, it's organic, which is a secret hippie code word for "okay to eat", right?

Sometimes. The USDA allows several different kinds of "organic". If it says it is 100% organic or has the USDA organic seal, it means that in addition to being free of added hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides, it is also completely GMO-free. If it merely says "organic", however, up to 5% of the ingredients by weight may be conventional or GMO. If it says, "made with organic ingredients", the allowable weight of non-organic or GMO ingredients goes up to 30 percent.

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