Prop 37: Food Labeling for GMO

The proposition requires any raw foods that are genetically engineered to be labeled (on the shelf or otherwise), processed foods made with genetically modified parts to be labeled as “partially produced with genetic engineering,” and GE/GMO foods to be prohibited from being labeled as “natural,” “naturally made,” or “all natural.” The primary shortfall of the bill is that it does not affect the labeling of alcohol, organic, or animal products.

Additionally, the current labeling for produce will be simplified to two categories: “organic” or “GE/may be produced with genetic engineering.” It’s especially important to note that several dozen countries already have labeling laws regarding GE/GMO foods and they have been successful, especially in Europe and Australia.

So is this bill worth it?!

Firstly, it’s important to understand what GMO/GE foods are. GMO foods are foods that have (scientifically/intentionally) altered genetic make up. Although this is traditionally done to make crops herbicide and insect resistant, this can be done for other reasons such as improving nutrients, appearance, and even growth potential (which allows produce to be widely available year round). We see this primarily in soy and corn products and as a result in our meats (as animals eat these cheaper products). These modified crops are massively produced to make more inexpensive foods that we eat everyday. Literally, so much of the food we consume daily has been genetically modified. As daunting as this all sounds, there are a lot of positives about GMO/GE foods, primarily increasing food availability to struggling populations. Where food scarcity/famine can render a community vulnerable, this type of food science has made strides to provide food to the masses and reduce cost.

It begs the question: is GMO/GE food bad for me? That has yet to be determined with scientific research. Many things like this take decades to fully understand the consequences and effects on our bodies. It has often been compared to the misunderstanding of trans fats/hydrogenated fats (which was glorified when it first came out until it was determined to be difficult to metabolize). Many attribute the increase in food allergies to GMO/GE foods. This also has yet to be substantiated.

Opponents to this bill include many producers of GMO/GE produce. They say that the law is confusing (it’s not really…is your food GE or not?) and that this will increase food costs (potentially true because less cheap GMO/GE foods will be produced!).

Proponents of this bill are excited about one thing: properly informing the public. The question of whether GMO/GE foods are good or bad is irrelevant. Shouldn’t we know what we are consuming? (Definitely.)

That’s a mini recap of what Prop 37 is. I hope that simplifies the proposition to a more understandable level. Personally, I don’t think that this prop is perfect, but I definitely think it’s a positive step forward. I’m all for us, as consumers, to know as much as we can about the products we buy and eat. I’m voting Yes on Prop 37.

Special thanks to Ashley F for sharing her thorough research on this important bill.

Thomas Ngo
Dietetic Intern
NASM Certified Personal Trainer

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