Californians can now vote on GMO food labels in November

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On Nov. 6, California could become the first U.S. state to mandate GMO labeling.

On Nov. 6, California could become the first U.S. state to mandate GMO labeling.

A movement in California to have genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, on food labels gained momentum Wednesday when the grassroots California Right to Know campaign announced that it filed 971,126 signatures — more than twice the number required, and collected in 10 weeks — for the state’s first-ever ballot on labeling GMOs.

On Nov. 6, California could become the first U.S. state to mandate GMO labeling.

But GMO labeling has been adopted in over 40 countries including Japan, China, Brazil, Russia and the European Union. The United States’ policies allow food makers to add it to the label voluntarily.

“Thousands of volunteers across the state contributed to this victory. The people of California have spoken: we will have the right to know what we’re eating and no one will stop us,” said Pamm Larry, a former farmer who founded the group Label GMOs and initiated the California Right to Know campaign.

But the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition counters that labeling GMOs would increase food prices by hundreds of dollars a year, hurt California family farmers and grocers, and open the door to frivolous lawsuits that will cost taxpayers and consumers.

Supporters of biotech companies like Monsanto Co. believe the referendum is a “back door way to hurt a $13.3 billion dollar biotech crop industry,” reports Bloomberg.

“It’s much more complicated than a simple ‘right-to-know’ measure… And as people look into the details – who is behind it, how it will increase food prices in California – we think that they will come to oppose it in November,” Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson to Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition, told KPCC radio.

The California Right to Know Campaign said there’s no proof to support the claim of a rise in food prices. The organization compares labeling GMOs to requirements for approval of new drugs — stating on their website that “the safety of genetically engineered foods for human consumption is not adequately tested.”

“They want to convince everyone that labeling is confusing, is scary, is weird, but it’s just not credible… We’re talking about adding a little bit of ink to a label,” Stacy Malkan, media director of the California Right to Know, told KPCC radio.

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