After returning from the Fall Break Food Justice Retreat, I was inspired to blog about the issue of labeling genetically modified organisms in this election through California’s Proposition 37. The proposition would mandate the labeling of genetically modified organisms in raw and processed foods and prevent foods from being deceptively labeled as “natural,” but has some problematic exemptions. For example, meat from animals fed genetically modified organisms is not required to be labeled.
I have always been conscious of the food I eat, so I immediately assumed I should support Prop 37. However, after seeing all of the negative ads, I decided to look into the Proposition in greater detail and GMOs in general. After all, I have learned never to blindly trust political ads.
The most telling evidence I found as to why I should support Prop 37 was the list of who is against the proposition and who is in support of the proposition. Of course, large food corporations that have factory farms and use genetically modified organisms would be against the proposition in fear that it would hurt their profits. And those groups, with large quantities of money available to invest in negative ads, make up the majority of the opposition to Prop 37.
In the words of Dave Murphy, the founder of Food Democracy Now!, “the opposition side is funded by the same corporations and run by the lobbyists that claimed that cigarettes, Agent Orange and DDT were safe. Now they want us to trust them on the safety GMOs?” Clearly it isn’t in the corporations’ interests to support Prop 37, but isn’t it in the consumers interests? As we learned from watching The Corporation, corporations do not have consumer interests in mind; they only operate to maximize profits.
So once again I was convinced: opposition from Prop 37 was merely the work of large corporations, not the work of concerned consumers. But I was confused once again after attending the Prop 37 panel with professors from Oxy’s campus. A professor from the Biology department argued that labeling genetically modified food implies a certain risk associated with it, when there is not necessarily convincing evidence of risk or safety.
But if we don’t know the true risk of what we are eating, then shouldn’t we have the right to know what we are eating so that as consumers, we can decide whether or not we want to take the risk, rather than corporations making that decision for us? Also, if genetically modified foods have a negative environmental impact (which they do), then shouldn’t consumers also have the choice of being a more environmentally friendly consumer?
Decide for yourself on the issue of Prop 37. Personally, I think knowing if my food has been genetically modified is no different from knowing the ingredients of my food. I should decide the health and environmental risks I want to take. I do not want either of these things in the hands of corporate power. Do you?