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The Washington Legal Foundation, a D.C. nonprofit group organized around pro-business and free market principles, has released two recent op-ed pieces questioning the wisdom of California’s Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of food products whose manufacturers knowingly use genetically modified organisms in the production process, and would prohibit such products from being labeled as “natural.”

Compelled Speech: Is California the Too Much Information State argues that labeling of products has gone too far. For example it points to California’s Prop 65, which requires that signs be posted in many public places informing consumers of the presence of known cancer-causing chemicals. Anastasia Killian, writing for the Foundation, says that the measure “has wrought a cottage industry built around strike suits under the act’s private attorney general provisions.”

Killian also points to the recent defeat of the city of San Francisco in a bid to mandate disclosures regarding a supposed risk of cancer linked to cellular phone emissions. Both a lower court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the disclosures “misleading and controversial,” and thus undermined the First Amendment rights of cellular phone vendors.

She further argues that, per the federal Supreme Court, any government mandated disclosure must be “purely factual and uncontroversial.” Using this logic, because a controversy exists over whether or not genetically modified foods are safe, food manufacturers could not be forced to disclose their presence.

Mandated Biotech Food Labeling Proposal: Regulate to Eliminate, penned by Glenn Lammi for the Foundation, begins with a Reuters news service quote related to a new French study of genetically modified corn that erroneously states that “opponents of genetically engineered foods in California are fighting to have all GMOs removed from the food supply.”

Lammi suggests that while Reuters got the facts wrong, they may have accurately stated the ultimate goal of proponents of labeling lab-engineered foods. Polling data among food producers supports his claim, strongly suggesting that many fear consumer rejection of their products if they were to disclose modified content, and would rather switch to costlier non-modified ingredients than label their packaging using existing ingredients.

Some supporters of Prop 37 are openly admitting that they see consumer disclosure as a means to curtailing the use of genetically modified products entirely. Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, cited by Lammi as the second largest supporter of the Yes on 37 campaign, told the New York Times that “if a company like Kellogg’s has to print a label stating that their famous Corn Flakes have been genetically engineered, it will be the kiss of death for their iconic brand in California,” and that if the initiative passes “we will be on our way to getting GE-tainted foods out of our nation’s food supply for good.”

The Organic Consumers Association, per the California Secretary of State, has provided about $550,000 in funding to the Yes campaign, while top donor Joseph Mercola, an Illinois-based alternative health promoter, has spent $800,000.

Most funding for the No campaign has come from outside the state as well, with the two largest contributors, Monsanto of St. Louis and E.I. DuPont of Washington, D.C. pouring over $12 million into the campaign as of mid-September.

Lammi closes with a warning: “The suffering you’ve felt from drought-related food price increases this year will feel like a minor bump in the road compared to the cost ramifications of eliminating biotech-derived ingredients,” he says, and tells voters that “without biotechnology, it will be impossible to feed the world’s growing population.”

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Comments

JRuss Oct. 3, 2012 @ 3:01 p.m.

Should foods containing peanuts not be labeled? Should foods containing wheat not be labeled? Just as some people are allergic to peanuts or wheat, I am allergic to GMOs. More specifically, I believe I am allergic to the Bt-toxin. It made me very sick. It made my dad very sick. And it made my oldest son very sick. But then I read a blog by a lady how had the same symptoms as I, and she had made a stew for her husband. They ate and gave the rest to their dog. There dog almost died. She found out the corn she had been genetically modified to make the Bt-toxin. My avoiding the Bt-toxin, my dad and I recovered. But it was too late to save my son who died of cancer. You cannot live on "fast food" because most of it has been genetically modified to be deficient in metal nutrients [RoundUp Ready] and to contain the Bt-gene that makes the Bt-toxin that causes stomach and gut problems. Since most GM foods are deficient in chromium, and chromium is needed to activate insulin, I believe consumption of GM foods [without supplements] is a major cause of type 2 diabetes. Since most GM foods are deficient in cobalt, and cobalt is at the center of the vitamin B-12 molecule, I believe GM foods [without supplements] can lead to lack of growth. That very much affects pregnancies. YES, I strongly support the labeling of GM foods just as there is labeling of foods containing peanuts. And that labeling should not cost any more then the labeling of peanuts. i.e. just a trace more ink on the label. I believe what Monsanto is scared of is us finding out why the United States is ranked 17th of industrial nations in health. I suspect that most of the cost of non-trauma health care in the United States is due to reactions to GM foods.

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chezron Oct. 3, 2012 @ 3:18 p.m.

Studies at Emory University show no cost increase associated with labeling GMO. The companies that produce food know where it comes from. All they have to do is add an extra "ingredient" to the label. I am all for it. Every time an initiative for food labeling comes up for vote, there is cries of, "it will raise food prices", it never does, and it will not now. It is inconceivable to me that in this country we do not have full knowledge of we are eating, especially in light of recent studies showing GMOs can really hurt our health. I say label it, just like many countries have already done.

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Claudiagm Oct. 3, 2012 @ 3:59 p.m.

I support Prop 37 and the labeling of GMO foods. As a mom, I want to know what's in the food that I'm feeding my family. I don't think it is possible to have "too much" information when it comes to the health and well-being of my family. Let us know what is in our food and let us decide, based on that knowledge, whether we want to buy it or not. It is deceitful to try scare families with the threat of higher food prices, when there is not any factual information supporting that statement. In countries where mandatory labeling is already required, there has been no increase in the cost of food. How simplistic to believe that GMO food is the solution to sustain the world's population and solve the issue of hunger in the world.

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MAK Oct. 3, 2012 @ 8:31 p.m.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List 1. Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption. 2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed on soybeans alone 3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, genetically-modified sugar beets were introduced to the U.S. market in 2009. Like others, they’ve been modified by Monsanto to resist herbicides. Monsanto has even had USDA and court-related issues with the planting of its sugar beets, being ordered to remove seeds from the soil due to illegal approval.

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CindyFuchser Oct. 3, 2012 @ 10:58 p.m.

How can knowing what is in the food we consume be considered "going too far"? Rather I think it has been reckless for the food industries to sell GMO products without full disclosure of their contents. Shame on them!

When one discusses the need for these food products in order to feed the growing world population, I want to scream. Have you looked around lately, Americans are growing fatter everyday on these cheap calories that fatten us up but do not provide adequate nutrients. I do not wish that on the rest of the world. Cindy Fuchser, RN

http://sandiegoreader.com/users/photos/2012/oct/03/32831/

http://sandiegoreader.com/users/photos/2012/oct/03/32832/

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farrarserv Oct. 4, 2012 @ 2:51 a.m.

I urge everyone to stand up for their right to know what’s in their food and Vote Yes on Prop. 37. The well-funded opposition is dispensing disinformation such as the notion that only a small “fanatic” minority objects to Genetically Engineered (GE) foods. A recent Mellman Group poll found that 90% of mothers and 88% of fathers favor mandatory labeling of GE foods. More than 50 countries have banned or restricted GE foods for good reason. Significant adverse health effects including allergies and reproductive and digestive tract disorders have been reported in humans and animals after just 14 days of consuming Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). GE seeds are not sold alone but are bundled with sales of pesticides made by the same corporations that are genetically engineering food crops. The planting of GE crops has increased US herbicide use by more than one-half billion pounds in 16 years. Monsanto is the worst of the biotech bunch. The FDA and USDA have abrogated their responsibility to determine the safety of GE crops due in part to corporate henchmen such as Michael Taylor, former Monsanto VP, recently promoted from US Food Safety Czar to Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the FDA.

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