covering our community

Right to know

Photo credit Kate Stringer

Photo by Kate Stringer
Numi Rooibos tea advertises that it does not contain genetically modified ingredients

When I first heard of the defeat of Proposition 37 in California, I was shocked. Consumers were finally given the opportunity to know exactly where their food came from and they opted out. Why?

Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics pointed out that the power of media sponsored by large companies played a huge part in influencing voter opinion. Seeing as the undecided voter is the best place to influence change, I think she’s got a point.

If you’re a California native and happened to turn on the television, read a newspaper, or even glance through your voters’ ballot during the past election season, you may have encountered the words “genetically modified” or “prop 37 right to know”.

If you were an undecided voter during the 2012 campaigning season, perhaps advertisements with words like “know what’s in your food” or “your right” had an impact on your voting.

Or perhaps other words were more influential in your decision; “complex bureaucratic proposition”, “increase costs by billions”, and “California farmers are threatened” might have swayed you to vote no on proposition 37.

In November, California had a proposition on its ballot that, if it had passed, would have required labeling of food with genetically modified ingredients.

But what is a genetically modified ingredient and why is it even significant?

Food that is genetically modified has been altered at the DNA level for many reasons: to make it easier to grow, resist certain diseases that typically wipe out crops, or to have nutrients it would otherwise not have.

Great, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that long term studies have not been conducted on the safety of genetically engineered food. The problem is that there’s no way to control the spread of genetically modified seeds or cross pollination from a GM plant to a regular plant. The problem is that by the time we realize there’s a problem, it might be too late to do anything about it.

GM foods could have positive impacts on countries that have difficulties with food production because of drought or disease. It could provide substitute nutrition to people who can’t get enough protein or carbohydrates.

But regardless of the negative or positive implications of GM food, it is a consumer’s right to know what they are putting in their mouth.

Other states are considering legislation similar to Proposition 37. Initiative 522 is set to be placed on Washington State’s November ballot.

When you vote, research; be informed.

Know about your right to know.

Kate

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