Prop 37 and GMO food

By Dave Williams / Guest CommentarySeptember 12, 2012 

After reading about Prop. 37, I learned that 60 to 70% of all processed foods in our grocery stores contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). Genetically modified plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed and canola, have had foreign genes forced into their DNA. The inserted genes come from species, such as bacteria and viruses, which have never been in the human food supply before the mid 1990s.

Most non organic corn, soy, canola oil and sugar beets (commonly used in products today as "sugar," are genetically modified. Commercial foods which commonly contain these products include canned soups, cereals, soda pops (both diet and non diet), tomato sauce, salad dressing, chips, cookies, etc, etc. Just as food companies identify their ingredients and provide nutritional information, Proposition 37 will require them to identify GMO's in these foods.

Food manufacturers will have 18 months to add this identification to their ingredient list. Since companies typically redo their packaging every 18 months this can be done at no additional cost.

Don't we have a right to know what's in our food?

Presently over 40 countries require labeling of products containing GMOs including all of Europe, Australia, Japan and China. Yet there is no such requirement in the United States, although polls show overwhelming support for labeling GMOs.

Should consumers be concerned about GMOs?

Many of the large food manufacturers, agricultural and chemical companies claim that GMOs are perfectly safe and shoppers have no need to worry about GMOs. The FDA has approved their use and claim that there are no studies in the US which prove GMOs cause ill health effects.

Chemical companies are expected to spend upward of $50 million on 'No on 37' ads to convince you that food labeling is unnecessary, costly and their products are safe.

Looking further into this issue, I discovered an article in Scientific American (August 2009) which reported that to date there has been no third party independent testing on the long term health effects of GMOs. Test results provided to the US Government on GMO safety are done by the companies that produced them, such as Monsanto.

One is reminded of the 1950s when tobacco companies were testing the health effects of cigarettes and telling us they were safe.

In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine stated that, "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food," including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. Source: Dr. Jeffrey Smith, Institute of Responsible Technology.

Another concern is that over 75% of all genetically engineered crops are designed to tolerate Round-up or something equally potent. This has resulted in increased exposure of farmers and communities to these toxic chemicals. Studies suggest a link between herbicide use and birth defects and cancer, according to Dr. Michael Antoniou of King's College London School of Medicine.

Why is there is no independent testing?

During the early 1990s, GMO food products were introduced into our food supply. The first Bush administration released a statement that GM foods were "substantially equivalent" to natural foods and vegetables and therefore no independent third party testing was required. Documents discovered since that time show that the President's statement was released contrary to the concerns of FDA's own scientists about the long term health and environmental affects of GM crops.

Another questionable situation is that several former Monsanto lawyers or Board members have held high positions within both Democratic and Republican Administrations. For example, Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto VP, is now our food safety czar. Is the fox watching the hen house?

In summary, voters and consumers have reason to be concerned about the presence of GMOs in their food. Proposition 37, if passed, will let you decide what your family eats.

Additional information on Prop 37 and GMOs can be found at and the Institute for Responsible Technologies

To learn more about GMOs and our freedom to know and choose what we eat an informational event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Oakhurst Community Senior Center, 39800 Road 425B. The dinner is sponsored by the Yosemite Area Move to Amend group.

A non-GMO dinner will be served along with live music and a short film. Dinner tickets coat $8. Call Vic Williams at (559) 676-5287 to RSVP.

-- Dave Williams is a retired geologist, currently living in Oakhurst

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