All across the country, grocery stores are participating in a scheme to keep you in the dark. Shelves are lined with products containing genetically engineered ingredients, substances that have never been tested for long-term impacts on human health.
All of that could change, though, as California residents vote on Prop 37 Right to Know legislation on Nov. 6. The proposed law would require that all food sold in California reveal its content of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on the label so shoppers have a clearer choice. Historically, consumer-friendly laws adopted in California have gone on to be adopted on the national level, too, giving hope that this could spark a major change in the food industry. Currently, the best way to avoid genetically engineered ingredients is to buy organic or Non-GMO Project Verified foods.
With all eyes on California, a new Los Angeles Times poll shows the ballot measure in a statistical dead heat, with 44 percent supporting the right to know and 42 percent opposing it. The race tightened up in recent weeks as opposition to Prop 37 went on an ad binge, scaring families into thinking the labeling law will create $400 in additional food costs for families each year. Funding for the group opposing the labeling laws comes mostly from international pesticide corporations that have a lot to lose if food manufacturers start shying away from genetically engineered ingredients. Most genetically engineered crops are modified to endure heavy chemical sprayings. Often, the company that develops the genetically altered seed also sells the chemical spray that goes with it, making these crops a profitable venture for these corporations.
Sustainable-food-industry insiders met Thursday to dispel this notion of price increases, with representatives from Whole Foods and UNFI, the country's largest wholesale distributor of natural and organic foods, saying the labeling change wouldn't cause increased costs. "As a business person, I don't see any measure that this will increase any costs or other burdens over and above what we currently deal with," said Michael Funk, chairman and cofounder of UNFI.
Following the Money Trail
Donations Opposing GMO Labeling
(All chemical and/or biotech companies except PepsiCo)
Monsanto: $7.1 million
DuPont Pioneer: $2.4 million
E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co.: $2.1 million
PepsiCo: $2.1 million
Bayer CropScience: $2 million
Dow Agrisciences: $2 million
Syngenta: $2 million
Donations Supporting GMO Labeling
Mercola.com Health Resources (natural news, supplements): $1.1 million
Organic Consumers Fund: $1 million
Kent Whealy (heirloom seed advocate): $1 million
Nature's Path: $606,000
Mark Squire (owner, Good Earth Natural Foods): $440,000
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps: $316,000
Companies will have 18 months to change out labeling, which they generally do more often than that anyway, Prop 37 supporters have noted. And while Whole Foods endorses Prop 37 and consumers' right to know what's in their food and how it's grown, the Grocery Manufacturer's Association, a trade group that represents thousands of grocery stores around the country, has contributed $375,000 to strike down the ballot measure.
To avoid genetically engineered food no matter where you live, choose organic or Non-GMO Verified foods as often as possible. Just cutting back on conventional processed food can help, as well. Most GMOs come from corn or soy ingredients, which are common in processed foods. For more information about the health impacts of genetically engineered foods, read What Biotech Pesticides Are Doing to Our Bodies.