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Freak Foods

GMO labeling seems like a no-brainer, but opposition to Prop. 37 does exist



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This year, Henson predicts, "[the opposition] will say the labeling will drive up prices, scare jobs out of California and create other concerns related to our tough economic times. It'll be the biotech companies for sure, and they'll be hiding behind [people who] will look like citizens. But the folks in Right to Know have been doing a great job getting the word out about what the initiative really does."

"In this day and age, two issues are helping people decide what to eat," explains Paul Wallace, manager of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at the Petaluma Seed Bank. "The first is a tough economy. People become more conscious about their dollar and what they spend on food. Families are growing more of their own foods like lettuce or cauliflower, finding it more economical. The second is because people are becoming more conscious about what they're ingesting. In the youth right now, the instance of diabetes and other health problems has never been higher, and people are wondering why. They're reading the food labels, and they're determining what is best to feed their families."

The Petaluma Seed Bank, which prides itself for carrying non-GMO seeds, is one of several local businesses supporting the Right to Know campaign. The Seed Bank, together with Baker Creek Seeds, puts on the National Heirloom Exposition, a three-day event in September featuring educational speakers, classes and events in order to help people understand the issue.

Currently, 27 nations, including Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, China and many in the European Union, mandate the labeling of GMOs. What were the results of labeling elsewhere?

"If 5 percent of consumers stopped purchasing genetically modified foods, stores would stop carrying those foods," states Hudson. "That was the tipping point in Europe." A key difference, she suggests, is that manufacturers could switch from using high fructose corn syrup, a GE product, to cane sugar.

In a research paper analyzing the effects of mandatory labeling in other countries, Colin Carter and Guillaume Gruère of UC Davis make a case that, as opposed to resulting in simple consumer choice, retailers have eliminated GE products from their shelves due to perceived consumer aversion to them.

As for the threat of increased costs to the consumer, Hudson says the labeling might cost approximately 3 cents per person each year.

"This is nothing," Hudson argues. "Three cents compared to knowing what you're feeding your family. That's priceless."

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