The reason why California has some of the highest priced gas in the nation is because of the special blend of gasoline the state requires. Passing Proposition 37 will have the same impact on the price of food. Food will cost more in this state because we are the only state to require special labeling laws. Those corporations which are required to comply with the new labeling requirements will simply pass those costs on to the consumer in this state. As such, the price of our food will go up.
With this initiative, we are going to put our farmers at a competitive disadvantage to their foreign competitors. Under the plain language of this proposition, food manufacturers from another country simply need to say that their product does not contain any genetically engineered food and they are not bound by the special labeling requirements. Meanwhile, any food manufacturer who has its base in the United States will be required to dot countless “i’s” and cross countless “t’s” in order to prove that there are no genetically engineered foods in their products.
Furthermore, the exemptions to this initiative are quite numerous. For instance: milk, cheese, and meat from animals fed genetically engineered feed are exempt. Beer, wine, liquor and food sold at restaurants are also exempt. Almost two-thirds of the foods consumed by Californians are exempt, including products sold by the corporations sponsoring Proposition 37.
Proposition 37 is one of the more contentious initiatives this fall. Its theme is that “We all have a right to know.” This assumes that consumers are kept in the dark and purposely uninformed concerning the food they buy. While there are some who believe that genetically engineered foods are bad for you and should be labeled, the problem with this law is that it throws the baby out with the bathwater. It is a well-established fact that many genetically engineered foods have no consequences to your health.
One argument behind Proposition 37 is that organically grown food is more nutritious or safe than genetically engineered foods. There is no empirical evidence to support this idea. In fact, numerous studies have shown that conventional and organic foods are equally nutritious.
Major crops like corn and soy beans have been utilizing genetically engineered seeds for twenty years. These two major grains and their products are the most commonly used ingredients for the processed food industry. It will be extremely difficult for food processors to substitute ingredients that are free of genetic engineering. The only way to guarantee an avoidance of genetically engineered food is to buy organic food.
The organic food industry is very much alive and well in California. The grocery chain Whole Foods’ main claim to fame is that it has the largest selection of organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Not to stand idly by, Safeway, Lucky, Trader Joe’s and others all have extensive selections of organic foods for the discerning shopper. Most grocery stores feature organic foods but also maintain a large selection of non-organic food. The consumer already has a choice so we do not need more regulation to add to the already costly price of food.
The biggest winners in this proposition are the lawyers. The proposition was written by trial lawyers so that they will have an easy path to victory in court. Normally, damages have to be proven in order for someone to win. With the new rules, the lawyers do not even have to show damages in order to win. This initiative allows family farmers and grocers to be sued without any proof of harm. This is why a new class of “shakedown lawsuits” will now be legalized.
My position is to vote “NO” on Proposition 37. The list of exemptions makes the rules ineffective and panders to special interests. The special labeling will only increase the cost of food and open the door to litigation against family farmers and grocers. Another layer of government will only add to the cost of food. The costs are very high and Proposition 37’s largest financial backer admits it “would be an expensive logistical nightmare.” The so called benefits pale in comparison to the costs.