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California GMO Labeling Bill Fails; Means Win for Consumers

June 5, 2014
Patrick McGreevy of The Los Angeles Times reported on SB 1381, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. This bill would establish a requirement for companies to disclose if foods sold in California are “genetically engineered” (for raw commodities) to “produced with genetic engineering” or “partially produced with genetic engineering” (for processed foods).

McGreevy reaffirmed that the California GMO labeling bill failed in the Senate, 19-16, “just two votes short of the majority needed for passage, after some Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.”

In November 2012, a more complex, yet similar labeling initiative, Proposition 37, was rejected by California voters. It’s troubling to see that a similar bill resurfaced especially when economic analysis behind California’s Proposition 37 estimated annual food costs for an average-income family would increase by approximately $400.

State Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) sponsored SB 1381, stating that “it’s about consumer choice and information….If the product contains GMOs, label it. We shouldn’t be hiding ingredients.”

However, her “right to know” argument is weak. Consumer choice already exists in the market place. They can choose “organic” or “Non-GMO”.

Additionally, GMOs are safe for consumption. Scientific authorities such as the National Academies of Science, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of science have looked at HUNDREDS of scientific studies and have concluded that foods with biotech-derived ingredients do not pose any more risk to people than any other foods.

Lastly, genetic modification isn’t an ingredient, it’s a (farming) technology just as organic is a (farming) technology, both regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has also held that “…there is no significant difference between foods produced using bio-engineering, as a class, and their conventional counterparts.”

It is important to the look at the bigger picture which The Los Angeles Times caught as it quoted Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) who notably said that the bill is “overkill, and would undermine worldwide efforts to develop crops and other food to prevent starvation in developing countries.”

Closing his piece, McGreevy reported how Senate action was welcomed by Cynthia Cory, director of environmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation, who greatly amplified the true messaging strategy behind anti-GMO activism, “We're pleased the Senate did not fall for the proponents' scare tactics and that they rejected this unnecessary, misleading and costly bill that would increase food costs for consumers.”