Food and Politics: Democracy Now Hosts Prop 37 Debate, Interviews Michael Pollan on GMO Labeling

'Yes on Prop 37' Sign

For the first time in US history, California voters this November will have the opportunity to vote for mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs. Democracy Now hosted a Prop 37 debate this week, and interviewed food writer Michael Pollan on the health, environmental, and social issues surrounding GMO labeling and biotechnology-driven agriculture. As election day nears, industry’s slick and deceptive campaign against the labeling initiative continually saturates the CA airwaves. Democracy Now’s coverage offers a grass-roots education and rebuttal opportunity: read, watch, consider, and share!

Goodman Unravels Hype, Delves for Substance

GMO labeling advocate Stacy Malkan offers compelling arguments supporting Prop 37. Agriculture professor David Zilberman argues that biotechnology is awesome, and that Prop 37 is Bad. Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman (as usual!) excels in challenging both parties to defend their respective positions.

Spoiler alert: Prop 37 leaves the fray looking pretty rosy!

Watch Video — Food Fight: Debating Prop 37, California’s Landmark Initiative to Label GMO Food

Next Goodman interviews well-known food writer Michael Pollan, delving into some of the underlying issues and possible repercussions surrounding Prop 37 and GMO agriculture. I disagree with huge tracts of Pollan food philosophy, but he absolutely excels at distilling vast knowledge about the US food system into concise and accessible overviews. Pollan’s insights here are spot-on.

Watch Video — Michael Pollan: California’s Prop 37 Fight to Label GMOs Could Galvanize Growing US Food Movement

Pollan goes on to talk about the unique value of local grass-roots initiatives like Prop 37 in shaping the national dialogue on food policy, not only on GMOs specifically but on every aspect of our food system and the politics that drive (and are driven by) it.

Watch Video — Michael Pollan: From GMOs to NYC’s Soda Ban, Local Efforts Challenge Agri-Giants’ National Control

Bottom Line: Yes on 37!

As brought to light in this series of interviews, the historic 2012 California ballot initiative known as Prop 37 could mandate sweeping changes in our food and agriculture systems, by challenging biotechnology companies to embrace transparency and defend their products in the (free market) light of day.

If you don’t think GMO agriculture is a good idea, mandatory labeling makes it easier and less expensive (since you won’t have to buy organic-only) to vote with your fork. If you think biotechnology is the absolute (pesticide-poisoned) bee’s knees, and sleep with a jug of Roundup by your bed to use in case of weed-ridden fields of dreams, GMO labeling is still a good idea: it’s the only thing that will make this industry viable in the face of growing consumer suspicion and skepticism, following decades of bad behavior by the biotech bullies.

Under increased consumer scrutiny, they’ll have no choice but to compete in an open market, like every other purveyor of every other product or chemical, earning consumer trust to the point at which people would buy GMO foods DELIBERATELY –instead of only through fierce and persistent industry insistence on consumer ignorance.

If the hypothetical research demanded by a newly well-informed consumer base — the so far strictly hypothetical UNMANIPULATED LONG TERM INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC research, not controlled exclusively by the entities with shareholder stakes in GMO products — can stand up to consumer scrutiny, then the industry will be vindicated and they could take a nice valium and calm down the hyperbolic hysterics about people knowing that they’re eating GMOs.

If not, well, then they SHOULD worry about failing, because in that scenario — if hypothetical independent replicable long-term peer reviewed research showed health, environmental, or social justice problems so far cloaked by the kind of secrecy, deception, junk science, and mandatory consumer ignorance the biotechnology industry is clearly striving to achieve in the anti-Prop 37 campaign — well, that kind of industry deserves to fail, without sympathy or support or even so much as a ‘Bless their hearts.’

In terms of citizen benefit, mandatory GMO labeling (and the accountability that will follow, by economic necessity) represents the best path forward towards positive change.

Share if you agree!

Image credit: Creative Commons photo by quin.anya.

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52 thoughts on “Food and Politics: Democracy Now Hosts Prop 37 Debate, Interviews Michael Pollan on GMO Labeling”

  1. Tanya:
    It is really getting tiring to listen to this same old dribble from the organic crowd about the perceived dangers of biotech. For your information, the Earth is round and the Earth does indeed revolve around the sun.

    I know you will not accept this conclusion from the American Association for the Advancement of Science found here Be that as it may, I also realize that the organic crowd has its own set agenda and therefore is quite bias in its viewpoints.

    Stop trying to discredit biotechnology by your scare tactics. It is through these scientific advancements that people are living longer through breakthroughs in medicines and we are feeding more people at an affordable price. It is obvious that you are outside your intellectual depth when it comes to discussing California’s Prop. 37. It is so much more than just “labeling GE foods.” And, I am smart enough to know this post will never make it on your blog. Why? Because it has a dissenting opinion. And that my dear, is the very reason that you must ask yourself if your blog site is indeed fair and balanced.

    1. Wow! What a condescending bunch of hooey.

      Ok, though, it’s your dime — we can do that if you want.

      First of all, my dear, I’ve got a master of science degree, and don’t need to cultivate any special tactics to scare anyone about the deceptive profit-driven corporate manipulation of their food supply. Simple information will suffice. There’s nothing scary about asking manufacturers to compete in a fair market — oh, well, unless I guess they know no one wants what they’re selling. I guess that’d be scary.

      I am deeply pro-science, which I can only assume that you are not — science depends on things like ‘data,’ and ‘peer review,’ and ‘unbiased investigation.’ If the biotechnology industry weren’t so desperately opposed to these things, you guys would need to waste far less time shrieking “SCARE TACTICS!!!” at those who embrace them. Just THINK of all the free time you’d have!

      I find it charmingly naive or else transparently ridiculous that you reach for health and medical treatment breakthroughs, and think somehow that supports your position against the labeling of GMO foods … that’s not suggestive of a science background, and I’d be curious as to your own professional credentials…? That’s quite sloppy logic, in fact, as joint replacements and angiograms have absolutely zero to do with Roundup Ready soybeans or Bt corn.

      Feel free to comment further at your leisure, since comments like yours speak to the absurdity of arguing against fair labeling of GMO foods. If those are the best arguments your team can muster, Prop 37 surely has a rosy future.

      Have a nice day!

  2. I thought Amy Goodman failed to provide the really important background about GMOs, and to tell the true story. First of all, the Zilberman guy was given way too much time to spout his horrible baloney. And then, Pollan actually said that, in his opinion, GMOs are not dangerous to health! What garbage… Sellouts, all!

    1. I hear you; I like Goodman’s journalism, though, and I think she was trying to give equal time to both sides. A lot of the GMO issues regarding health involve uncertainty from improper/ inadequate testing, rather than confirmed problems — that’s the catch-22 of not labeling GMOs: it’s impossible for researchers to do long term human studies even looking for correlations between GMO consumption and whatever health problem, b/c we just have no idea how much GMO food anyone consumes. Labeling makes those human studies possible… I thought Pollan was saying in his opinion they haven’t yet been proven harmful, as the research on that topic has been so paltry and incomplete — hence consumer concerns. Even if you’re not crazy about the presentation, or don’t feel like they went far enough in examining GMO problems… it seems like any (objective, non-spin) debate or discussion in the public eye is a good thing, when it comes to GMO issues. That’s my opinion, anyway… thanks for reading!

  3. Tanya:
    You’re a perfect example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
    Monsanto haters have made the general public afraid of biotechnology. Therefore, any food labeling will serve as a scare tactic so organic growers can get a leg up on the competition. Prop. 37 is supported and funded by Joe Mercola, a nut job who peddles goofy and crank home remedies and has a website that is a cornucopia of unproven, dubious, and outright nonsensical health products. Prop. 37 was written by Jim Wheaton, who wrote California’s Prop. 65 that brought in $500,000 from lawsuits in which he settled most out of court. Wheaton is nothing more than an ambulance chaser who wants to further his nest egg from lawsuits stemming from Prop. 37. If consumers want to avoid eating biotech ingredients they should buy USDA certified organic labels. Prop. 37 in completely unneccessary and should be defeated at the polls.

    1. Nope: THE BIOTECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY has made the general public afraid of biotechnology, and will continue to do so as long as it strives so feverishly for scientific secrecy and consumer ignorance — which fair and accurate labeling will begin to rectify. Food labeling will no more serve as a ‘scare tactic’ for GMO foods than it does for dairy, or gelatin, or MSG, or any other substance I personally choose to avoid for reasons that make sense to me — you don’t have to agree with my reasons, but you don’t have the right to withhold the information.

      It’s not a ‘scare tactic’ to label foods containing dairy, so that I can make that choice for my own sweet self. GMO FOODS GET NO EXCEPTION TO THAT RULE, and all the jumping up and down screaming about it just shows how sure their manufacturers are that they can’t compete in a fair and open market.

      I don’t give a flip about Dr. Mercola, or any of that other crap you’re on about: you’re throwing cow poop at the barn wall, and hoping some sticks.

      Here’s the central issue, and all your efforts to distract from it are just so much noise: people want to know what they’re eating, and the biotechnology industry simply does not have the right to withhold that information.

      The end.

  4. Prop 37 was written by the people, for the people.

    By our government allowing these foodstuffs to bypass the independent study process and completely take over our food supply and then ignore requests for transparency is paramount to a declaration of war against the PEOPLE of this country.

    If Prop 37 doesn’t pass because of corporations influence on our political system then plan B should be to burn down all the GMO crops like Haiti did when they tried to force it on them down there. If you won’t label it then we the people can just eliminate it.

    Enough said.

  5. This science or that $cience – let’s agree to disagree. However, do we agree that consumers have the fundamental Right to KNOW if the food they eat is genetically engineered? YES. I’m responsible for my well-being. Not Monsanto, Not the FDA. Not the farmers. Not ANYONE. I want to know what I’m eating. It’s my money, my body, my CHOICE. Label GMOs unless you have something to hide.

  6. I get awfully tired of hearing people like Gene call all of us here on the other side of the issue the “organic crowd.” And, I am SO sick of having people tell me, “you already have labels, just buy organic!” I do not have an organic section at my teeny little rural market. No organic anything, period. The next market of any kind is 30+ miles away, and I do not have a farmers market that is much closer. And by the way, we are not even talking about organic vs conventionally grown food here. We are talking about conventionally grown vs genetically engineered food. Transgenic species. There is a huge difference. Right now I don’t feel there is much point in arguing whether or not there are problems with GMOs. People already believe what they want to believe. But, it is simply not possible to have done such short term “studies” on these foods and then proclaim them to be safe for a lifetime of consumption. That is not based in real science. So, let’s say for the sake of argument that the jury is still out. Let’s say there is a 50/50 chance that either side could end up being proven right. Well then, I as an American, believe I have the right to know whether or not I am feeding these foods to my children. If I want to take that risk, or if don’t want to take that risk, it should be MY choice. Right now, that choice is being made for me, and as an American I am deeply offended by those who say I do not have or deserve that simple right, that freedom to have information in order to make my own choice.

  7. Definitely imagine that that you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the net the easiest thing to take note of. I say to you, I certainly get irked at the same time as other folks think about issues that they plainly do not understand about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , other folks can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

    1. HA!! ok, so, this comment is clearly spam; but I approved it anyway as it makes more sense than some things anti-37 folks are arguing, and I thought it would make them feel better not to be the only ones floating nonsense, on this site. :-D

  8. In regard to “people are living longer through breakthroughs in medicines”, I’d like to point out that this is incorrect. At this time, life expectancy in America is already in decline. This is already partly admitted by official statistics, although the whole truth is a lot worse.

    As far as Dr. Mercola is concerned, I don’t agree with him on everything, but overall he’s quite reliable in his health recommendations. He’s been warning people about GMOs for ages…

    Obviously, some of the Monsanto million$$$, besides buying highly deceptive TV ads, are also paying for legions of Internet disinfo artists to pour out buckets of stupid propaganda all over the Net.

  9. Organic foods can contain GMO according to the Nation Organic Program. Odd isn’t it. According to the organic rules, should an organic farmer discover his organic certified product contains GMO, the farmer is required to: do nothing except sell it as organic food without any notice to the consumer. #organic is less than it pretends to be.

    It is important to know the National Organic Program is run by the Agricultual Marketing Service of the USDA. Marketing, not necessarily sustainable farming.

  10. boy, tanya! you sure do hit a nerve with these biotech pr guys. i’d say that fact alone indicates you’re doing something right, and the quality of the article as well as the way you handily deal with such trolls confirm it. you’re preaching the good word in a much needed way at a much needed time. keep it up! :)

    1. Thanks, Dee!… I know they don’t represent actual EDB readers, ’cause they only comment (read: come out of the woodwork) when I tag anything ‘GMO’… it’s heartening to see so many readers paying attention to these issues.

      I think more and more people are realizing that if information is the enemy: you’re on the wrong side! I think the rabid anti-labeling spin some industry well-wishers try to peddle really just push people TOWARDS the pro-transparency pro-labeling position, by making arguments so weak.

  11. To Gene:
    I’m impressed that you used as a source the American Association for the Advancement of Science. We can both agree this is a definitive source of authenic validation for empirical scientific inquiry.

    One big question I have about Prop. 37 is what pertinent information the consumer will have to make a knowledgeable choice. The relabeling will only say “this food product contains genetically engineered ingredients.” The language can’t resemble tobacco’s warnings of “this product has been found to cause cancer,” because GMOs haven’t been found dangerous. The label will not name the engineered protein molecule or mention DNA specific specie varieties. In other words, there will be no identification of the GMO chemistries that the general consumer would be unable to intrepret in the first place. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    Here in California, we have Prop. 65 that required posting signs in thousands of buildings carrying the warning: “This building contains chemicals known to cause cancer.” These signs are everywhere. What is the visitor to do, not enter the building? Probably 99 percent of Californians ignore such signs. The same will be the fate of Prop. 37. It’s likely that one out of every three food products in stores today contain a GMO component. So, the consumer choice will come down to this: “Are GMOs safe?” We both know the answer to this.

    So let’s let the pro Prop. 37 people get what they want. Probably many will turn to organic labels, which, ironically, they have available today. This entire controversy appears to me to be little more than a tempest in a teapot.

    1. Scott,

      From your dismissive attitude I can only assume you have both ample financial resources and well stocked health food stores near you, if you feel it’s so easy to only shop organic. For many who prefer the organic option, it’s out of reach — either due to expense or grocery store scarcity. For example, I live in a small rural town with one grocery store; they carry organic potatoes and onions. That’s it! So under the system you advocate, if I’m not convinced by the weak weak weak industry-controlled non-peer-reviewed science offered in support of GMO product safety, I should drive 1-1/2 hours to buy all my food except onions and potatoes. THAT system makes no sense, for huge swaths of Americans who want mandatory GMO labeling.

      If 99% of building visitors ignore the signs you speak of — and if the biotech industry really feels like that’s an equivalent analogy — what’s the big deal? If most people would buy them anyway, stop carrying on and label it already!

      The ‘pertinent information the consumer will have to make a knowledgeable choice’ is that ‘this food product contains genetically engineerd ingredients.’ That’s all we need, so don’t worry about the rest… and btw ‘GMOs haven’t been found dangerous’ because they haven’t been investigated for dangerousness! If you know of some studies I don’t, in which long-term human testing examines potential links between GMO consumption (and of course you’ll realize that new testing must be conducted for each GMO ingredient, since each genetic modification will interact differently with human physiology) and any of the following, which have increased in incidence since 1996 when GMO foods became ubiquitous in the US food supply: autism; food allergies; asthma; diabetes; obesity; or, well ANY HUMAN HEALTH STUDIES AT ALL.

      I look forward to reading those long term human health studies on GMO consumption!… and I look forward even more to the simple labeling, that will make those (hupothetical future) studies possible.

      I do find it encouraging that between us we have SOME common ground: I wholeheartedly agree that we should ‘let the pro Prop 37 people get what they want.’

      Thanks for reading,

  12. Hi back Scott:
    You hit on some very clear drawbacks as to the language of Prop. 37. I do have one question for you; it involves the “natural” designation that is threatened under this measure. 37 would ban foods from being labeled or marketed as “natural” if they have been processed in any way — even if they contain no biotech ingredients.

    That includes foods that have been dried, roasted, smoked, pressed, cooked, fermented, milled, frozen or canned. Think about that one. Rice and wheat are milled. Olives must be pressed to make olive oil. My question to you: Do you think that de-husking nuts such as almonds will fall under the category of “unnatural,” thereby causing them to lose the designation of “natural,” a key selling point in their purchases.

    Lastly, it does seem a bit unfair to our own U.S. growers in respect to imported foods from other countries. The foreign sellers are exempt from any GMO labeling requirements just by them declaring their untested products “GE free.” Seems to be a tremendouse double-standard inherent in Prop. 37. Your thoughts?

    1. What about US exporters (see Washington wheat farmers) who WILL be able to export to Japan (or any other of the 50 or so countries who label GMOs), once we start labeling our biotech products like other civilized countries? You’re making up a problem, rather than acknowledging the real actual problem currently in place — namely that many countries won’t buy GMO junk, or won’t buy it unlabeled… SOLVED with fair and accurate labeling of GMOs in the US! Perfect.

      Future initiatives can address your proposed hypothetical problem (imports competing unfairly d/t nonlabeled GMOs), if it ever actually became one. Here’s the thing, though: those ‘other countries’ are likely to already label GMOs! I’d hate to see them ‘unfairly compete’ with US products, whose manufacturers stubbornly refuse to give customers what they want (i.e. GMO LABELING).

      The rest is irrelevant — consumers ignore ‘natural’ anyway, b/c it’s clearly so overused as to be meaningless… I don’t feel invested in that piece of it, myself. I don’t know anyone who buys anything because it’s labeled ‘natural’… it’s an advertising ruse NOW, so (shrug) just tell me what’s in it — I’ll take it from there!

    2. okay, your jumping up and down and arm waving aside, ABSOLUTELY NONE OF WHAT YOU TWO ARE SAYING CHALLENGES THE ARGUMENTS FOR LABELING THAT TANYA HAS EXTENSIVELY LAID OUT HERE. i have to presume that’s because you have no counter to them, and all that’s left for you is to distract from those arguments and to belittle whoever offers them. products that contain milk have labels that say, “contains milk,” not because it’s unnatural or has been proven dangerous but because consumers are supposed to make their own choices about what to consume. if you don’t want consumers to know what they’re buying it’s probably because you have something to hide. again, the fact that you continue to refute arguments no one is making and to suggest the potential “harm” (to monsanto, i’m sure is what you mean) that would supposedly come from prop 37 (unnatural nuts! gasp!) lets the readers know that your interests lie squarely, and entirely, with the bottom line of agribusiness corporations. the beauty of prop 37 is that it makes public interest a counterweight to monsanto’s. your refusal to engage the argument on its merits as presented here on this site speaks volumes. so thanks for that.

      also, just a quick recap about how much pro- and anti-prop 37 groups are spending to pass or defeat it.

      those in favor: – $1,115,000
      Nature’s Path – $610,000
      Dr. Bronner’s – $369,000
      Lundberg – $251,000
      Udis/EarthBalance/Glutino – $102,000
      Clif Bar- $100,000
      Organic Valley – $100,000
      Amy’s – $100,000
      Annie’s – $50,000
      Nutiva – $50,000
      Frey Vineyards – $35,000

      now, those opposed:
      Monsanto – $7,100,500
      DuPont – $4,900,000
      Pepsi – $2,145,400
      Bayer – $2,000,000
      Dow – $2,000,000
      BASF – $2,000,000
      Syngenta – $2,000,000
      Kraft Foods – $1,950,000
      Coca-Cola – $1,455,500
      Nestle – $1,315,600
      General Mills – $1,135,000
      ConAgra – $1,077,000
      Kellogg’s – $790,000
      Smithfield – $684,000
      (as reported by huffington post)

      if you do the math, you’ll notice that in fighting prop 37 monsanto alone has spent more than double what all those companies in favor of prop 37 have spent combined. hmm. interesting. you’ll also notice that those against the measure are pillars of the industrialized food system in the US that is making so many americans sick. their food products, as well as their chemicals and their practices, are toxic to human health, to society at large, and to the earth. puts gmos in suspicious company, to say the least.

      last, i’d like stray slightly from prop 37 to quote from academia on the subject of gmos more generally. Monbiot (2001), in the fall edition of Review of African Political Economy, nicely summarizes the core arguments against the full implementation of the biotech industry’s agricultural vision that its proponents simply cannot counter: “that GM crops enhance corporate power by allowing companies to patent the food chain; that the long-term safety tests to establish whether or not they pose a risk to human health have never been conducted; and that consumers don’t want to buy them” (467). again, if you have anything, anything at all, to say with respect to those arguments on behalf of your industry, it will come as a truly welcome surprise to everyone. if not, well, jump and wave and froth away, but i daresay that your cries of “shiny ball” are only doing favors to the cause you rail against. so, again, thanks for that. it needs all the help it can get.

  13. Hello Gene:

    I guess questions like this will have to be settled in the courtroom, since there are so many provisions of Prop. 37 that need to be defined.

    One of the most absurd parts of the measure requires food sold in grocery stores have a label, but that same food sold in a restaurant is exempt. What’s the difference? There just is a lot of screwy stuff in Prop. 37 that makes little since to those who rely on science to make sound decisions.

    1. For ‘those who rely on science,’ data matters. Prop 37 doesn’t have to be perfect to be better than nothing — we’ve gotta start somewhere, and the labeling mandate as written is an excellent start. Would you really argue that less data is better? That if consumers can’t have ALL the information, they shouldn’t be allowed to have ANY of it?! With all respect, that is a ridiculously anti-science position, and it crumples with any kind of rational scrutiny. Out of curiosity, Scott, what’s your professional background?… I’m just wondering, since your arguments lack the coherence that most folks in the sciences bring to the table…

      Prop 37 is a good start, down the road of transparency and informed consumerism regarding GMO foods; WHEN it passes, we’ll build from there — I agree with you that it doesn’t go far enough towards warning people about GMOs contaminating their food in restaurants etc. But it’s more than we’ve ever had, in this country to date… and WE WANT IT.


      Woot 37!

  14. I think Gene makes a lot of sense. Yes indeed, if Prop. 37 is passed then it will be up to consumers to decide whether or not to eat GMOs. I think consumers should have the choice. For me and my family personally, I have two children so I have put a lot of time in researching GMOs. I will have to say, I do trust the USDA, the American Medical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science when they say GMOs are safe. Me and my family have been eating GMO foods for 15 years and we have had no ill effects. But I do believe consumers should have the right to know what is in their foods. (Although don’t tell my kids that that hot dog they are eating contains fur, eyes, ground up brains, anuses, and other god awful stuff the food producer likes to hide from consumers.)

    1. If you think Gene makes a lot of sense, I wish you luck in the world… because those arguments are about as weak as they get.

      I hope you’re right that you and your kids have had no ill effects; but if that’s the case, it’s blind luck — no human safety testing has ever been done, so, you know, if you want to roll those dice that’s your biz… but the reality of the situation is that you don’t know whether you’re at higher risk for anything or not, based on GMO consumption — and without fair and accurate labeling, that safety testing will simply never be done. What would be the incentive for biotech companies to prove their products are safe for long term human consumption, if they can just trick us into eating them anywyay?

      Regarding the ‘American Association for the Advancement of Science’… you might wanna rethink that — that’s not a science group. Critical analysis vs gullibility stands better chances, when it comes to reality-driven decisions…

  15. It needs to be pointed out that more than 50 major newspapers in California, that’s 80 percent of papers having a daily circulation of more than 150,000 readers, have called for a NO vote on Prop. 37. You think these editors might know something the YES crowd doesn’t? Oh yeah, all these editors are in the pocket of Monsanto — giv e me a break.

    1. Here’s Craig’s company…

      I’m paid for my time on this blog, too, so I’m not judging you Craig! I’ll come clean if you will: I’m paid by Eat Drink Better… who’s paying your company to post anti-37 stuff on this space?! Enquiring minds wanna know!

      K, thanks, keep up the good work showing the slimy PR tactics aimed at convincing voters to vote against their own interests! You’re helping me bunches in selling prop 37 as a really tremendously good idea — and I want you to know how much I appreciate it. Cheers! :)

  16. Thanks for inviting me to this site Gene. I agree with you that the majority of the insights are uninspiring. Not because the guests are not smart people, but they do not have the information as Californians as we have spelling out the actual language of Prop. 37. Without this vital voting information, it is utterly impossible for them to intelligently comment on Prop. 37 because there are so many ramifications in the measure negative to California farmers unknown to them. This is why the majority of newspapers in our state have called for its defeat. All that the YES crowd here is seeing is the “right to know what’s in our food” component, lacking the knowledge of the tremendous damage the secondary language will do to California agriculture.

    1. You guys are HILARIOUS! :-D

      I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying your help in recruiting support for prop 37… I’m so glad Gene invited some cronies to read this comment thread, which he so dismisses as foolish! That sounds, like, TOTALLY believable and socially appropriate!

      Yes: we want to know what’s in our food, because we just ‘lack the knowledge’ to know any better. Silly us, wanting data!

      Interestingly, Joe, I see by your email that you’re with this PR company — readers, behold! Another corporate shill trolling food blogs for Monsanto: this is Joe’s apparent employer…

      If the data were on their side, if there were ANY SANE ARGUMENT AT ALL for not labeling GMOs… do you really think these slick and slimy shenanigans would be necessary?! (nope!)

      Thanks guys: I’ve said it before, and I’m sure you’ll give me occasion to say it again… you make my case better than I do. Keep it up! — with your lame arguments’ ample help, and evident (transparent) willingness to troll food blogs pretending to be actual (vs PR) people… Prop 37’s passage is virtually assured. Great work!

  17. Gads! This thread is filled with PR types and bloodsuckers from the AgChem industry. As consumers we need to KNOW what’s in our food! It’s that simple. We don’t want to be poisoned by pesticides and GMOs that shouldn’t even be allowed on our groceries. So, knock it off you corporate shills. Stop trying to sell your poison on this website. The world and environment would be a lot better off without pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs and all the rest of the toxic crap you use to grow our food. We need to switch to organic food ONLY. Vote YES on Prop. 37 to save ourselves and our planet!!

    1. Thanks so much, Sally! I’m glad there are some actual EDB readers represented in this debate! lol… these guys are hilarious, and I enjoy the spectacle an’ all, but I’m glad to see regular readers here too. Yes on 37, woot woot! :)

  18. I believe that there should be no labels on our delicious food.

    There are a few reasons why I have chosen this stance.
    First, Prop. 37 unfairly targets the genetically engineered food industry. These days, more people are concerned with what goes into their bodies and rightfully so.

    However, if people want to have their genetically engineered food labeled, then why would they not want labels on food that has been treated with hormones, steroids or antibiotics? How about labels on their meats that label that this chicken was raised inhumanely and was forced to live in close quarters with other beakless chickens so they do not peck each other to death? How about labels on food that explain which pesticides were used to keep bugs and weeds from ruining the crop?

    These are better labels to be concerned with, not just those on food containing genetically engineered ingredients. A lot of ingredients are genetically modified, created to remove allergens that affect humans. In some sense, genetically engineered ingredients are in our own interest. People should not be so afraid of a Frankenstein tomato; it was scientifically made this way to benefit us.

    Genetically engineered ingredients also keeps costs down at the grocery store. If you do want to keep buying everything organic, just know you will be paying more for something that is not much different.
    Another big problem is that the law puts most of the labeling duties on the supermarkets, not the manufacturers. This means that grocery stores much check with every food manufacturer to make sure none of the food on their shelves contains anything genetically engineered.

    In sue-happy America, someone who may get sick because of common food poisoning may look for ways to sue grocery stores if they suspect that their food was mislabeled. Prop. 37 creates that weakness in the system.

    It is not that I do no believe we should know what is in our food. We just think that Prop. 37 does not fix the major problems. If people want their food labeled, then California should make sure everything is labeled — not just genetically engineered foods. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

    1. Yes I agree. No labels whatsoever. Allergy information, schmallergy schminformation! And let’s get rid of nutritional information, too. Who needs to know what we are eating when corporations do such a great job of watching out for our health? I mean, otherwise, there would be a raging obesity and diabetes epidemic in this countr….waiiiiittttt……


      This your company? Are you representing any entity who has contributed to the No On 37 campaign?

      Just curious.

      I’m also curious as to why you think GMO labels would threaten any of that information? If that seems more important to you, start ballot initiatives and I’ll support them too.

      GMO labeling seems important to many consumers (I believe the figure is >90%, nation wide)… if you disagree, don’t read the labels! But nothing you’ve said negates that interest among consumers, or their right to know about what they’ve asked to know about — and in this case, my friend, that is GMO labeling.

  19. Industrial agriculture freed many people to pursue lives their parents and grandparents could never have. It made America modern. But planting ten thousand acres of any single crop—rather than rotating several—destroys the soil and eventually the crops, too. Monoculture is dangerous in any form—and that needs to be acknowledged. But it doesn’t matter how the molecules are moved around within those seeds. Plant ten thousand acres of organic corn and similar issues would arise quickly.

    Americans—as they have become wealthier, more powerful, and more capable of relying on scientific solutions to complex problems—have become increasingly concerned about losing control of their surroundings. It’s an odd paradox, and the Old MacDonald fantasy of a bucolic farming past makes no sense; it never happened. But our grandparents, at least, knew where their food came from. Most of us have no idea. Putting labels on genetically engineered products, however, will do nothing to teach us.

    Proposition 37 is supposed to make it possible for consumers to make more informed choices about the food they buy, eat, and feed to their children. If people want to label genetically engineered products they ought to have that right. But rights come with responsibilities. And surely one of those responsibilities is to choose facts over lies. Because if we don’t, food labels will be the least of our problems.

  20. My view: California is the highest-producing agricultural state in the nation. We shouldn’t slap unnecessary regulations on a successful industry.

    With 11 often dense propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot, it’s a natural inclination for voters to just look at a quick summary and ignore the full text of longer measures. Some proposition pushers are counting on that.

    The proponents of Proposition 37 likely hope voters won’t read too deeply into the measure, or they’ll quickly notice the odd inconsistencies, loopholes and favoritism. It’s obviously written by people who believe organic farming deserves favored status, while all other farmers should be hounded and questioned by consumers and the government.

    Proposition 37 asks whether genetically engineered foods should be labeled. And if that’s all any voter considers, the proposition will pass easily. “Genetically engineered” sounds scary. Certainly people should know, right?

    But read a little more into it, and you’ll learn that it’s not all genetically engineered foods, only certain ones. There are exemptions for certified organic food, for animals that eat genetically engineered food, for alcohol, milk (but not soy milk) and cheese, and for food sold in restaurants.

    And ask yourself this question: If “GE food” sounds scary, then how many people get sick or die from it? The answer: nobody.

    The risk of GE food is unknown. That means there’s no known risk. Proposition 37 proponents, however, would like people to believe that’s a huge risk. They imply that GE foods — “frankenfoods,” as they like to call them — will harm you.

    The truth about GE food is that it’s everywhere. The ballot pamphlet says 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soybeans are grown from GE seeds. For example, corn that’s engineered to be resistant to weeds or disease — that’s the dreaded GE food this proposition attempts to target. If this is such a big issue, why aren’t organic farmers and “natural foods” companies using a big “No GE” label on their packaging. They can do so now. Not many do.

    Instead, they want certain food products labeled with the scarlet letter saying “GE Food.” There’s one other wrinkle to the unfair proposition. If Proposition 37 and its confusing language are adopted, there will be lawsuits over violations of labeling requirements. Individuals can sue for violations, and you can bet that attorneys will turn these lawsuits into a profit center — settle with us for $20,000 and we’ll go away.

    That’s good for lawyers but bad for farmers.
    If it seems odd that California, the nation’s top-producing agricultural state, is attempting to be the first state to slap GE labels on food … well, that seems strange to the majority of Californians too. And unnecessary. I’m sure that voters in my area (Fresno), who know more about agricultural practices than urban residents in the rest of the state, will reject Proposition 37. Farmers don’t need more regulations and unnecessary labels.

    Unfortunately, we fear voters in the rest of the state will take the superficial view and approve the measure.

    1. AAAAAANNND here’s Brad’s company:

      Quoting from their website: “Gibbs & Soell is the perennial no. 1 agricultural PR firm (AgriMarketing magazine) and the trusted adviser to top-tier agricultural, food and animal health clients… More importantly, our in-depth involvement in every aspect of the food value chain helps us shape strategies that deliver high-impact campaigns for our clients…”


      I’m flattered at all the attention, fellas, but seriously: you are wasting your time with this s**t! We can see you! There are no good reasons for anyone NOT being paid to advocate against prob 37 TO advocate against prop 37… and with each and every ridiculously transparent marketing attempt, on this site, you make that more and more clear.

      ARE YOU SECRETLY ON OUR SIDE?!… on behalf of prop 37 advocates everywhere: THANK YOU!! (and if not: thanks for the laugh!) :-D

  21. Proposition 37 is about our right to know what’s in our food. Do you want to know if the food you are buying and eating is genetically engineered? Here are 3 reasons why we need to label genetically engineered foods.

    1. We have a right to know what’s in our food. The overwhelming majority of 90% of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered. More than a million people have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label GMOs, and 19 states have tried to pass labeling laws — but we haven’t been able to get labeling because of the enormous influence of the agrichemical companies like Monsanto. Now we in California are taking the question straight to the voters. This is a people’s movement for our right to know. Nearly a million people signed petitions to get Prop 37 on the California ballot. If you think we have a right to know what’s in our food, vote yes on Prop 37.

    2. Gambling with our health and our children’s health. A growing body of peer-reviewed studies links GMOs to allergies, organ damage, and other health problems. Even though genetically engineered foods have been on the market for more than 15 years, the first long-term, peer reviewed health study on GMO corn was just released – linking GMO corn to mammary tumors, kidney and liver problems and premature death. More studies are urgently needed, but the US government does not require safety studies, despite the consensus of the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association that GMOs should undergo mandatory safety testing. While we wait for the science, let’s label genetically engineered foods so we have the right to know and to choose for ourselves whether to take these risks.

    3. GMOs cause Serious Environmental Problems. Environmental problems associated with genetically engineered crops are well documented, including biodiversity loss, an overall increase in pesticide use, the emergence of super weeds and super bugs that are threatening millions of acres of farmland, and the unintentional contamination of organic and non-GMO crops.

    The bottom line: There are many reasons why people might want to avoid genetically engineered foods – including religious reasons. Fifty countries around the world already require GMO labeling. The people of California deserve to have the same rights to know what’s in our food and to choose for ourselves what we eat and feed our families. Proposition 37 is a chance to make history, bring fairness to our food system, and restore our basic democratic rights.

    TELL YOUR FRIENDS to Vote Yes on 37

  22. Dear Wendy:

    Ref: The recent GMO corn study that you cite. Some information you need to know concerning this study.

    French microbiologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and several colleagues released the results of their long-term study in which rats were fed genetically engineered (AKA genetically modified, or “GM”) corn that contains enhanced resistance to insects and/or the herbicide glyphosate. They took the unprecedented step of pre-releasing the paper to selected media outlets under an embargo on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement. (That prevented the journalists from seeking scientific experts’ opinions on the article.)

    At a carefully orchestrated media event they then announced that their long-term studies found that the rats in experimental groups developed tumors at an alarming rate. Within hours news of their “discovery” echoed around the world. As we say today, the story “went viral.” But there is both more and less to this story than meets the eye.

    Who is Professor Séralini and how did he make this shocking discovery which conflicts with decades of research and extensive worldwide use of genetically engineered crops? Whom should non-experts believe? Is there now evidence that suggests that genetically engineered crops are dangerous?

    To begin to answer those questions we need to roll the clock back a few months. In a article earlier this year, independent GMO experts speculated that Séralini was less guilty of actually fudging data to get the desired answer than of performing poorly designed experiments and grossly misrepresenting the results. (Séralini has made a specialty of methodologically flawed, irrelevant, uninterpretable — but over-interpreted — experiments intended to demonstrate harm from genetically engineered plants and the herbicide glyphosate in various highly contrived scenarios.)

    The current experiment purported to show toxicity in vitro to a line of cultured embryonic kidney cells exposed to two proteins commonly incorporated into many varieties of corn, soybean and cotton to enhance their insect-resistance. As discussed in the Forbes piece, because the experiment was so poorly conceived, any result would have been meaningless.

    The independent scientists were mistaken about Séralini. The experiments reported last month show that he has crossed the line from merely performing and reporting flawed experiments to committing gross scientific misconduct and attempting fraud.
    Séralini claimed that his experiments found harmful effects, including a high incidence of tumors, in laboratory rats fed genetically modified corn and/or water spiked with the commonly used herbicide, glyphosate. The treatments lasted for two years.

    There is so much wrong with the experimental design that the conclusion is inescapable that the investigators intended to get a spurious, preordained result. Here are a few of the criticisms that have been raised by the scientific community:

    – the investigators used a strain of rats that were bred to develop tumors as they aged (a detail they failed to disclose). Significantly, mortality rates and tumor incidence in all experimental groups fall within historical norms for this strain of laboratory rats. Therefore, the claim that the genetically engineered corn component of the diet or the herbicide caused the tumors is insupportable.

    – Séralini et al. argue that the exceedingly long time-frame of their study was necessary to reveal the experimental effects, but animal researchers long ago established that such lengthy studies add no additional meaningful or valid information beyond that which can be collected in shorter times;

    – there is no documentation of the rats’ food intake, which strongly affects the incidence of tumors in this strain;

    – the experiment included 180 rats (9 groups of 20) fed the genetically engineered or herbicide-containing diets (the “treated rats”), while only 20 rats were fed a standard (control) diet. Both common sense and a rudimentary understanding of statistics tell you that even if there were no actual differences between the groups, the greater numbers of animals in the pooled treated groups increases the odds that one of the treated rats would die first (one of the parameters reported in the paper);

    – the statistical methods employed were unconventional and appeared to be selected specifically in order to give a certain result. Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London, called the treatment of data “a statistical fishing trip”;

    – absence of statistical analysis for mortality or tumor incidence. Statistical analysis is a basic requirement of scientific research, and given that the claims of the study allege tumor and mortality effects, the omission of statistical analysis is inexcusable;

    – the investigators have refused to release all the data from the experiment, which constitutes scientific misconduct;

    – insufficient information is provided about the source and quality of corn varieties used in the rats’ diet (contamination with molds could be a critical factor);

    – absence of data concerning liver or kidney histopathology and liver function tests;

    – insufficient explanation of the absence of a dose-response relationship between the experimental variables and supposed effects;

    – inappropriate, unnecessary suffering of the rats, which should have been euthanized long before the tumors became so huge – an especially egregious ethics violation given that the study is, in any case, worthless.

    – the reported results conflict with innumerable experiments conducted by laboratories around the world on both genetically engineered corn and glyphosate, and also with vast real-world experience.

    Finally, the researchers involved in the experiments wrongly claim that they have no conflicts of interest. Séralini is president of the scientific board of a self-described anti-genetic engineering NGO which apparently is hosted by his laboratory; he has a long and sordid history of anti-genetic engineering and anti-agricultural chemicals activism; and his research is funded by two large, “GM-free” French supermarket chains, purveyors of organic and homeopathic products, and perhaps by other undisclosed parties who stand to profit from the smear campaign against genetically engineered foods.

    It also deserves mention that the publication of the rat article represents an abject, egregious failure of peer-review and editorial competence at Food and Chemical Toxicology, the journal in which it appeared. The honorable course of action for the journal would be to retract the paper immediately – a point on which the editors have thus far been silent.

    An obvious question is why Séralini would publish such obviously shoddy studies. The answer may be that negative headline stories laden with color pictures of rats with grotesque tumors are not easily forgotten even if the studies are fraudulent.

    Also, it may be hard for the non-expert to ignore the reported differences between control and experimental groups, and many non-experts will probably believe that where there is smoke, there is fire even if there are flaws in the experiment. But scientists understand that if the design, execution, or analysis of a study is fundamentally flawed, any conclusions are disqualified.

    There is no question that the publication of Séralini’s latest attack on genetically engineered foods was a well-planned and cleverly orchestrated media event. The study was designed to produce exactly the false result that was observed and was deliberately allowed to continue until large, grotesque tumors developed. The conduct of the study, including the treatment of the animals, raises serious ethical concerns and questions of scientific misconduct.

    In the past Séralini and other anti-genetic engineering activists have played the media like a fiddle, but this time even journalists usually willing to trade accuracy and integrity for an “if it bleeds, it leads” story were skeptical of Séralini’s claims. Maybe we have reached a turning point where the media will finally realize that they have been manipulated for years by expert professional con-men.

    Not only was there never any plausible scientific reason to believe that genetically engineered crops posed risks any different from other crops, but hundreds of risk-assessment experiments and the vast cultivation and consumption of them during the past 17 years provide a high level of confidence about their safety and usefulness.

    1. Why HELLOOOOO, Henry Miller! It’s about time you showed up!

      You guys, we’re honored to host an industry shill of this caliber, here on EDB. Here’s his curriculum vitae:

      Once again, none of the stuff you’re selling has anything to do with any of the reasons labeling is important — I have the right to decide if I want to eat it; and the science just isn’t there! Long term — oh, sorry, ANY — human safety testing simply hasn’t been done… that ‘plausible scientific reason to believe GE crops pose a risk’ WILL NEVER BE INVESTIGATED WITHOUT LABELING.

      GMO junk was DECLARED substantially equivalent to conventional crops, not DEMONSTRATED to be any such thing — that was politics, not science — and everyone reading this thread understands that; so knock off your attempts to spin it otherwise.

      Also, the environmental impact of GMO agriculture is different than traditional agriculture; also, the patenting of seed for infinity into the future poses social justice/ food monopoly issues that traditional agriculture does not. If consumers don’t want to support these things, we should be able to make that choice — EVEN if (surprise!) the people harvesting those buck$ disapprove!

      You’re speaking to the public as if we’re idiots, and (sadly for your doomed cause) we are not.

      There is clearly NOT in fact a “high level of confidence about their safety and usefulness,” or we would not be having this very debate.

      Gosh, though, thanks for chiming in! I guess these other trolls didn’t feel like they were getting the job done, huh? Called for backup, did they? Glad to be such a thorn in the side of those advocating mandatory consumer ignorance! Makes me feel like we’re making progress. :-)

      Tell all your friends to stop by, anytime — like I was telling them, you guys make it too easy to recruit folks to the Yes on 37 camp, with your exceptionally weak arguments, inane illogical banter, and transparent attempts to manipulate the debate away from the public good and towards your own financial benefit.

      Great work helping me convince people that your industry needs more transparency and regulation!


  23. Wow. It’s pretty sad to have multiple idiots from the same company try to bumrush this writer. I’d vote for 37.

    1. Oh, don’t worry — there are at least 5 PR companies represented on this thread, just that I’ve found so far! ;-) I’m sure the funding’s bubbling up from the same sewer, though… This is an issue they can’t win on its merits, so any time ANY writer here tags something ‘GMO’ they’re like vultures on carrion. I don’t take it personally — in fact, as I’ve said, they show any ‘undecided voters’ how flimsy the ‘no on labeling’ arguments are! And the ONLY folks who go there tend to be those with a financial interest in doing so — the more they show their faces (and the weak arguments therefrom) on blogs like this, the faster we’ll get labeling in the US; that’s how it looks to me.

      Thanks for commenting! :)

  24. In light of all the industry folk gracing this comment thread, I’ve had an idea: every time I find someone shilling for the biotech industry (or any of the ‘no on 37’ fake-grass-roots corporate lackeys), I will share a new bit of pro-labeling or GMO educational information in their honor.

    Let’s do most recent first… this share is in honor of Henry Miller, first-time EDB commenter, and industry spokesperson whose commercials keep getting pulled for (let’s just say it bluntly) LYING TO CA VOTERS:

    To annoy Mr. Miller and others on similar payrolls, read here about GMO myths and truths — in which genetic engineers express concerns stifled by an industry who couldn’t care less about things like ‘truth’ or ‘science’.

    Enjoy! Then share it with everyone you know… check back often — I have a feeling I’ll be sharing plenty more resources like this. Thanks, industry trolls!

  25. John L. Farthing

    Brad (i.e., Gibbs & Soell) seems to be insisting that it’s important to keep people uninformed. The intensity and cynicism of their attempt to keep consumers in the dark about what’s in the food they eat provide a good measure of the stake the rest of us have in seeing prop 37 passed.

  26. Looks like Prop. 37 is going down to defeat. Latest polling has it down 50-39, according to a Pepperdine poll. Seems a lot of money and the right PR company can work miracles.

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