notogmo's picture
Why are many of the founding members of this website against Prop 37? Don't you believe the public has a right to know where their food comes from and how it was created?

A:Expert Answer

This seems to be a fair and reasonable request―to know how our food was created.  Food is already labeled with its ingredients when it has been processed, and warnings are sometimes included on labels.  So why not let the consumer know if any of the components of the food were GMOs? 


The reason food is not labeled as containing GMOs is that mandatory food labeling is used only to provide information that may be important for consumers to make food choices regarding ingredients known to affect their health.  Many studies and years of experience with people's consumption of GMOs indicate there is no credible evidence that there is a health risk associated with eating GMOs.


The most consistent association between health and consumption of GM food is a beneficial one that comes from GM maize with Bt protein, which has significantly reduced levels of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by fungi that are known to cause serious health problems when consumed.  GM maize modified to contain Bt protein has much lower amounts of mycotoxins than do non-GM maize plants, since the Bt protein reduces insect wounding of maize; the wounds provide entry points into plants for invasion of the fungi that produce the mycotoxins. 


GMOs are created by taking specific genes from one organism and moving them into another.  Most often a naturally occurring gene transfer system is used under carefully controlled conditions to move a desirable gene into a new organism.  We know exactly what is transferred and where it is within the genome of the new GMO.  This is in contrast with traditional breeding techniques, where genes of two different individuals are mixed together and result in a cacophony of new individuals that, like a GMO, are new to nature. A major difference between the two methods used to create these new individuals is that we know much less about the genetics of the organism created using traditional breeding methods than we do about the one created using modern gene transfer methods.  The mixing of gene variants by breeding can result in major changes, as we have learned from the breeding of dogs.  We have benefited enormously from traditional breeding methods to create the diversity of foods on our tables.  But we can never predict how mixing these gene variants together may affect our health when they are eaten — something that is much easier to predict for the individuals created using modern gene transfer methods.  Furthermore, new GMOs are specifically tested for their effect on our health, while no such testing of new individuals created by traditional breeding methods is done. 


Is it then fair and reasonable to require mandatory labeling to warn consumers that food contains GMOs, when this labeling system is used only when health-risk choices must be made by consumers?  We should not compromise the integrity or credibility of our food-labeling system by requiring a warning, when there is no credible scientific evidence of adverse health effects associated with the consumption of GMOs.


Foods can be and are labeled to help consumers make choices, but such labeling is voluntary.  Common examples are kosher and halal labels, which help consumers select or avoid foods based on their belief systems. 


rickspalding's picture

Because more consumers would be aware of what is in their food. Not saying GMO is good or bad, but most consumers have no clue. It may look like some organic companies were against Prop 37 but that is not the true answer. Many organic companies are subsidiaries of larger companies like Pepsi and COke, General Mills which have an abundant use for GMO's. They want to keep their marketing niche of creating a value if people want organic, the consumer will pay more for it. It's about profits, not the consumer.

jenagles's picture

Many of the companies represented on the OTA board are owned by. Pepsi, General Mills & Heinz - they are choosing to fight labeling laws that will hurt their bottom line and yet they are still able to sell their products in Europe because they are LABELED (or banned).

Heading up the cam­paign against labeling are the same folks who, backed by Big Tobacco, fought anti-smoking ini­tia­tives in California. They are the same peo­ple who, with a lit­tle help from Big Oil, tried to repeal California’s clean energy and cli­mate laws. The $25 mil­lion that has so far poured into the “No on 37” cam­paign comes from huge biotech, chem­i­cal and food pro­cess­ing cor­po­ra­tions (Monsanto, DuPont, Dow AgriScience, Pepsi, Coca-Cola). These are all com­pa­nies whose pri­mary moti­va­tion is profit, not the pro­tec­tion of con­sumers or farmers.

A GM label should become another indicator, not unlike the organic label, that consumers would use to process their decisions. Sure, some might stop buying anything with a GM label, but how many? The food industry should pour on more information, not less. It should make transparency its friend and cease playing defense to a motley collection of activists. Consumers are hungry for more information.

Community Manager's picture

Just to add to the convo: here's some info on labeling from our site:

Community Manager's picture

From this link:
"It is the long-standing policy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that special labeling of a food is required if the absence of the information provided poses a special health or environmental risk. The FDA does not require labeling of a food based on the specific genetic modification procedure used in the development of its input crops. Legally mandating such a label can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers."

buelldm's picture

This is not an issue of being innocent until proven guilty.

Its a matter of not knowing, so don't assume.

Has there ever been a case study that shows 3 generations of GMO food consumption in humans is ok or not ok? You dont know and we wont until for another few generations.

To not label the food when we go as far to push this through with as much energy as we do, deserves to be respected when it comes to the unknown and our food.

Pritty✧Brains's picture

You say that mandatory food labeling is only used to provide information that may be important for consumers to make food choices regarding ingredients known to affect their health. Is this why food is labeled 'organic' or not? And if so, is that because non-organic food is hazardous to our health so we need to know the difference? Labeling GMO food is the same thing as labeling organic food.

The bottom line is this, if Monsanto has nothing at all to hide and nothing to fear, then labeling their GMO foods should not be an issue at all anymore than it has been for farmers, etc to label organic food.

If Monsanto, really cared about the people who purchase their products then they would at the very least 'humor' them and at the their very best RESPECT what the people want and label their products simply because it's the right thing to do. Ethical.

Speaking of ethical, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), its responsibilities include “protecting the public health by assuring that foods are safe, wholesome, sanitary and properly labeled.” This responsibility entails regulating a large number of companies producing this nation’s food, making appointments to the high-level positions within the agency very important.

Most high-level FDA employees have a background in either medicine or law, but one of the largest private-sector sources is the Monsanto Company. Over the past decades, at least seven high-ranking employees in the FDA have an employment history with the Monsanto Company. So how can we trust the integrity of the FDA? Simple: We can't and don't.

So when the FDA tells us that they're not going to label our GMO food because it doesn't appear to be harmful, we know they are not telling the truth because there is a huge conflict of interest between Monsanto and the FDA.

The close relationship between Monsanto and the FDA, their lack of honest transparency and their refusal to heed to the will of the people who buy their products is proving all around to be very unethical.

Cathleen Enright's picture

Dear Pritty Brains,
We agree with you completely. Labeling GMO food is the same thing as labeling organic food. The labels on organic food are voluntary. They are used by food manufacturers to promote their organic products in the marketplace. For example, the USDA organic label tells consumers that the seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides used to produce the product are those approved for use by the USDA National Organic Program. And while we support voluntary labeling for food product promotion, we believe mandatory labeling should not be used as a marketing tool. We believe mandatory labeling should continue to be reserved to convey safety and health information.

Transparency's picture

In an interesting turn of events, it appears the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has made a possible turnaround and is now validating Seralini’s research methods, so much so that the EFSA appears to be adopting some of them and making them official standards for modern food safety. Seralini, as we know, has been widely criticized for his rat study which linked tumors to GMOs. I believe this turn of events opens up the discussion for mandatory labeling of GMOs for safety. It does seem the book is far from closed on this matter, and further discussion and testing is warranted. Many feel the FDA has lost its credibility due to conflict of interest. If people cannot trust the FDA, then they will look to other countries for better understanding of GMO research.

Community Manager's picture

Thanks @transparency for your comment and question on the European Food Safety Authority's position on the Seralini study, which is posted here:
One of our experts is reviewing and will get back to you soon.