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As predicted by supporters late last month, opponents of Propostion 37, which would mandate the disclosure of whether genetically modified crops have been used in the production of California food products, have come out swinging.

In a recent press release, opponents of the measure predicted food prices for the typical California family would rise $350-400 per year as a result of the proposition, “while providing absolutely no benefits” to consumers.

In calculating their figures, the No crowd cites a study performed by Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants, which assumes the most likely step taken by food manufacturers and distributors if Prop 37 were to pass would be to move away from using genetically engineered ingredients, which opponents say “the majority of packaged food and beverage products contain.”

This switch would be the costlier of two potential options, with the other being to comply with the law by redesigning packaging to properly disclose the presence of genetically engineered substances, and to cease labeling as “natural” products made using laboratory-modified plant stock.

Relabeling is the less-likely outcome because both sides agree that consumers would likely avoid products with genetically modified substances were the contents of their food to be disclosed to them. From there the agreement ends, as the No side argues that ignorance as to the relative safety of such crops would be the driving factor in consumers’ decisions, while the Yes crowd says it would be because of the host of prevalent fears regarding the crops that many referred to “Franken-food” in years past as nearly 50 countries including Japan, China, Australia, Russia, and the entire European Union passed similar disclosure laws.

“The overwhelming scientific evidence has shown that foods with genetically engineered ingredients are safe, and that requiring special labels is both unnecessary and misleading. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and many other venerable and independent scientific bodies have studied genetically engineered foods and found them to be safe,” continues the statement from Prop 37 opponents.

Not so, say the measure’s proponents, who say that both the American Medical Association and World Health Organization have recommended further testing be completed on the risks surrounding genetically engineered crops, and point out that neither has ever issued a statement specifically deeming them “safe.”

Another argument from the opponents says that since alcoholic beverages, meats and seafood (which may have been produced using feed from genetically modified sources), and food prepared in restaurants would be exempt from labeling requirements, the proposal constitutes a “complex labeling scheme” that should be scrapped altogether.

Heavy advertising, with most funding coming from out-of-state interests, is expected to soon hit the airwaves. Major donors to the No campaign include chemical companies Monsanto ($4.2 million), DuPont ($4 million), BASF ($1.6 million), Bayer CropScience ($1.6 million), and Dow AgroSciences ($1 million). Other donors of $1 million or more include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, ConAgra, and Nestle USA. None of the 20 biggest donors to the opposition of Prop 37 is located within California, say backers of the proposition.

Given a considerably smaller budget to work with, the Yes campaign is counting on grassroots outreach, including a public outreach campaign that will be conducted in the coming weeks at the Ocean Beach Peoples’ Food Store and at Jimbo’s Naturally supermarkets.

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