Blog: California prepares for GM labelling decision

Michelle Russell | 5 November 2012

A decision that could potentially see the implementation of the first labelling requirement for genetically modified (GMO) food in the US is expected tomorrow (6 November).

The California initiative, known as Proposition 37, could frame the growing national movement over labelling foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.

Major food and seed companies, however, may be on the verge of defeating the California ballot, after managing to sway public opinion through an opposition campaign funded by Monsanto Co, DuPont, PepsiCo Inc and others, according to Reuters.

The campaign, unleashed in recent weeks, seems to have managed to turn the tide of public opinion, the publication reported.

A poll from the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy found support has "plummeted" from two-thirds to 39% in the last four weeks, while opposition had surged to almost 51%, Reuters noted.

While some supporters believe success at the ballot box would bring one of the biggest consumer markets and food producers in the country in line with labelling laws in 61 other countries, opponents are making the case that labelling the food implies health dangers that haven't been proved.

Adverts by the recent opposition campaign claim the "badly written" initiative would increase the average family's grocery bills by $400 annually and "hobble" California farmers, Reuters noted.

Mark Kastel, co-director of The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm and food policy research group, recently commented: ""The sad reality is that the Obama administration has done nothing more to make GMO labeling happen than the Bush administration, while accelerating—at the behest of the biotech companies—the review and approval process for an increasing number of genetically modified food crops by the USDA."

The question of whether the use of GMOs in food production is safe has exercised producers, retailers, consumers, campaigners and politicians for more than two decades.

Under certain conditions and contingent on testing, the technology is increasingly being used in food production but campaigners would suggest the questions over whether GM is safe to eat or is safe for the environment, have not yet been comprehensively answered.


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