(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2012) The California Right to Know campaign announced this week that it has filed 971,126 petition signatures for the state’s first-ever ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. The huge signature haul, gathered in a 10-week period, is nearly double the 555,236 signatures the campaign needs to qualify for inclusion on the November ballot. If passed this November, Californians will join citizens of over 40 countries, including all of Europe, Japan, and China, who have the right to know whether they are eating GE food.
â€śI am so proud of the army of volunteers, many of them mothers and grandmothers, who stood tireless in the rain and cold to gather signatures,â€ť said Pamm Larry, a former midwife, farmer, and longtime Chico resident, who initiated the California Right to Know campaign through her group Label GMOs. â€śThousands of volunteers across the state contributed to this victory. The people of California have spoken: we will have the right to know what weâ€™re eating and no one will stop us.â€ť
â€śThis bumper crop of signatures is a testament to the desire of Californians to know whatâ€™s really in our food,â€ť said Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms and a third generation rice farmer and food processor. â€śIt is a rich harvest of support for the right to know and the right to choose.â€ť
Labeling genetically engineered foods is a wildly popular idea and enjoys nearly unanimous support across the political spectrum. A March 2012 Mellman Group poll found that 9 out of 10 American voters favor labeling for genetically engineered food. â€śIn a country seemingly dominated by partisan polarization on everything from the cause of hurricanes to the state of the economy, itâ€™s hard to find issues, outside of motherhood and apple pie, that can muster over 90 percent support â€¦we found one,â€ť pollster Mark Mellman wrote in a recent article in The Hill newspaper. â€śVoters express almost unanimous support for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods,â€ť Mr. Mellman wrote.
â€śThe right to know is a fundamental right and a bedrock American value,â€ť said Stacy Malkan, media director of the California Right to Know campaign. â€śThis November, the voters of California will surely vindicate our right to know whatâ€™s in the food we eat and feed our children.â€ť
The chorus of Americans demanding that they be allowed the right to know if their food is genetically modified has been growing louder as more GE crops have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last month, over a million signatures were submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the Just Label It campaign in support of a petition filed by the Center for Food Safety asking the agency to require labeling of GMO foods.
The proliferation of GE crops, especially among corn, soybean and cotton seed varieties, has had significant adverse economic and environmental effects for American agriculture. Commodity production systems dependent on GE crops drive up the price of land and impede younger and limited resource farmers from getting started or staying in agriculture. GE crops also promote a technological dependency in which farmers must rely upon â€“and pay the price set by- a shrinking pool of multinational seed and input providers. There is also substantial evidence that the rapid and widespread adoption of GE crops is dramatically accelerating resistance among agricultural pests, while doing little or nothing to reduce the volume of pesticides applied.
The best way to avoid GE foods in the marketplace is by purchasing foods that are certified under the USDA organic certification program. USDA standards prohibit the use of genetic modification in the production and handling of organic food. This prohibition is one of several reasons why shopping for organic is the right choice for consumers. Until federal or state agencies act to implement labeling requirements, American consumers will have no assurance that the conventionally produced foods they purchase and consume do not contain GE ingredients.
For more information on GE food and crops, see Beyond Pesticidesâ€™ page on genetic engineering.
Source: CA Right to Know press release
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.