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California Wants Genetically Modified Foods To Be Labelled 559

Posted by samzenpus
from the tastes-like-gene-splicing dept.
bbianca127 writes "In November, California will be voting on Proposition 37. The proposition would mandate putting labels on foods that have been genetically modified. While supporters of the proposition think that consumers deserve to know what they're eating, opponents call it 'anti-science' and have donated $25 million to defeating the measure. From the article: 'Unsurprisingly, the battle has gotten very expensive, very quickly. Agribusinesses and food manufacturers have donated a total of $13 million toward defeating the measure, bringing the total up to $25 million in the coffers of those proposing the proposition. In comparison, the organic farmers and environmentalists who support the proposition have managed to raise less than a tenth of that total amount.'"
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California Wants Genetically Modified Foods To Be Labelled

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  • What's to fear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubwvj (1045960) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:32PM (#41060873)

    The GMO makers tout their products as being so safe and great, such benefit to humanity. They should proudly label their products: Contains GMOs! What's to fear!?! This isn't anti-science but pro-science.

    • Re:What's to fear (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kergan (780543) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:36PM (#41060927)

      In other news, superbugs are growing resistant to bug-resistant gmo crops:

      http://www.rodale.com/gmo-corn [rodale.com]

      • Re:What's to fear (Score:4, Insightful)

        by azalin (67640) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:02AM (#41065007)
        I always considered it very interesting how much fuss countries like the US or Australia make at customs fearing to introduce alien species into their environment (and for very good reasons), but don't seem to worry about introducing completely new species.
    • Re:What's to fear (Score:5, Insightful)

      by uniquename72 (1169497) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:39PM (#41060985)
      I want a big "Monsanto" label on these foods just so I can avoid supporting ridiculous patent lawsuits. [wikipedia.org] If you really want to limit who can grow plants from *your* seeds, grow them in a dome where wind and bees can't get at them. (What? Then they won't pollinate? Too fucking bad.)
      • Re:What's to fear (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:01PM (#41061313)
        Not a bad idea. "Companies involved in the production of this food item" would be very useful information indeed. It could be like the ingredient list on the back. I'd happily avoid Monsanto products, but support responsible companies that make wise use of GMO.
      • by neminem (561346)

        I would certainly support that label. I have nothing against GMOs per -se-, but I do have a lot against the particular practices of particular companies that support their use.

        • Re:What's to fear (Score:4, Insightful)

          by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ear ... t ['hli' in gap]> on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:42PM (#41061823)

          Given the lack of testing, I'm not sure that NOT being biased against GMO foods is particularly sane. You are beta-testing something that might kill you, though it probably won't even injure you. How much bias one should have is a reasonable matter for debate, however. I doubt that I'd pay $10/pound extra for potatoes that were non-GMO. My wife might. And it's been suggested that some "food allergies" are actually allergies to GMO ingredients. Not sure if I believe it, but I see no reason to doubt it, so I tend to give that belief the benefit of the doubt.

          Think of GMO foods as beta testing on a large population of test subjects, that you don't monitor for adverse effects. If things work our right, there won't be any adverse effects. If there are, they can't prove it's because of your beta-testing. But if people CAN avoid GMO foods, all of a sudden you've divided the population into experimental subjects and a control group.

          • Re:What's to fear (Score:4, Informative)

            by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday August 20, 2012 @11:37PM (#41064031)

            Given the lack of testing

            What about these hundreds of studies? [blogspot.com]

            And it's been suggested that some "food allergies" are actually allergies to GMO ingredients.

            Highly unlikely. That has no evidence and was basically pulled out someone's hindquarters. There are only a few proteins inserted into the GE crops you eat (the cry proteins long used in organic agriculture safely, an altered from of the epsps enzyme that all plants have, the PAT enzyme, two viral coat proteins that are going to be present in much higher concentration in the virus infected non-GE versions).. There is no evidence that they increase allergies. Ironically, there may be an increase in allergies due to new varieties though, but due to breeding, not GE. Pathogenesis-related proteins are good for increasing a plants resistance to disease. They are also a very allergenic class of compounds. Guess what good old fashioned 'safe and proven' breeding has been increasing for the last couple of decades in an effort to produce hardier crops? One of the disadvantages to breeding is that, unlike genetic engineering, you don't always know all the genes you're working with, nor does it require the massive amount of testing and regulatory hurdles that GE does. So I wouldn't be surprised if there was a correlation between newer varieties of GE crops and allergies, but it I would be surprised if there was a causation.

            But if people CAN avoid GMO foods

            You can do that already. Corn, soy, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beet, summer squash, papaya. Avoid them, or buy non-GMO/organic items, and you avoid genetic engineering. It isn't hard to learn if those who wish to avoid GE crops take the time to educate themselves. A little knowledge completely negates the need for mandatory labels (which should raise the question of why this movement is not spreading education but is instead trying to make a new law...I'm guessing it has something to do with the funding from organic companies).

      • The lawsuits you linked to are predominantly breach of contract cases.

    • Re:What's to fear (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Monday August 20, 2012 @08:08PM (#41062153)

      Yeah, and if hybrid seed is so great, why not label it? And if food produced via tissue culture is so great, why not label it? And if food produced via induced polyploidy is so great, why not label it? And if food produced via somaclonal variation or mutagenesis is so great, why not label it? And if food produced via doubled haploid hybridization is so great, why not label it? And if Haram food won't send you to hell, why not label it? I could go on, but do you see how easy it is to use that argument? Loaded questions are not good ways to make a point.

      They should proudly label their products:

      The people who sell the seed do. t is the farmers and food processors who don't? I wonder why? I'll be if I went around telling people that tissue culture causes cancer, people who sell tissue cultured crops like potatoes or bananas wouldn't want to label that either, even if I pulled the cancer thing out of my posterior.

      This isn't anti-science but pro-science.

      No, it is singling out something because of political reasons. Hey, evolution is only a theory...are creationists pro-science for asking that fact (and it is a fact) be labeled in textbooks? Or are they anti-science by singling out a single thing in a misleading way meant to deceive people due to their ignorance of what the word theory means? Pro-science would be educating people on the genetic history of crops, including the benefits and risks of the methods. Anti-science is singling out one thing because it doesn't fit your beliefs.

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:33PM (#41060891)

    Genes from animals? Genes from other plants? Genes inserted directly?

    Where does 200+ years of cross breeding come in? Is that considered 'intelligent design' or genetic modification?

    • by garcia (6573) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:43PM (#41061053) Homepage

      Genes from animals? Genes from other plants? Genes inserted directly?

      Bacteria like E. coli actually.

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        I don't know what genes from E. Coli would be beneficial to crops... Bascillus Thurigiensis? Certainly. It contains proteins that are poisonous to soft bodied insects, but harmless to humans and other mammals.

        E. Coli? It makes compounds toxic to PEOPLE. I won discount that there night be useful gene sequences in e. Coli, but they would have to be for celular metabolism, or environmental resistances or something.

    • by techno-vampire (666512) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:49PM (#41061149) Homepage
      Where does 200+ years of cross breeding come in?

      200+ years? Try 3000+ years. Mankind has been selectively breeding plants and animals for at least that long, even though we've only recently started learning why it works.
    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:01PM (#41061303)
      It's not even remotely the same. Cross-breeding does not generally insert genes from bacteria into plants, or squid genes into mammals. Not to mention bacteria or squid or other organisms that themselves had been previously "modified".

      A lot of modern GMO practices resemble "cross breeding" about as much as Chicken Vienna Sausage resembles an actual chicken. Less even.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Stripe7 (571267)
      Yes, they should put the GM label on every food we eat that has been genetically modified from its original stock. Just label 100% of every produce in the super market as GM'ed since that is the case. Hmm, what about the GM'ed drugs that we are all taking now do we label those too?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by l00sr (266426)

      Exactly. The "bananas" you see in supermarkets are a genetic monstrosity; basically all clones of the same individual, thanks to human meddling over the last 7000 years [discovery.com]. It doesn't get more GM than that. So, where do you draw the line?

  • Lobbyists (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:34PM (#41060907)
    It isn't anti-science to know the ingredients, and their specifics, of what goes into the foods we eat. It is just the companies being concerned about giving away what could be harmful nutritional information. The lobbyists wail against it like children. This doesn't make any arguments against science.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by johnlcallaway (165670)
      So do you want a label on all apples 'contains cyanide'?? How about organic celery that contains celery psoralen?? (Had to be taken off the market in the 80s because the levels were so high as to be hazardous.) How about a label on lettuce that it might contain listeria? How about one on organic foods that states 'nutritional superiority claims are unsubstantiated and any difference in nutritional value is related to the the area that they are grown rather than the method'.

      But .. to be fair, it was rec
      • Re:Lobbyists (Score:4, Insightful)

        by slippyblade (962288) on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:41PM (#41061813) Homepage

        Not a single one of your examples are in the same arena as GMO. Not one. Apples contained cyanide before humans existed. Same with every one of your other examples. I see NO reason not to label GMO. I have a right to know what is being claimed as food.

        As far as raising your own, in many locales veggie gardens are being frowned on. After all, it's an eyesore, right? It's un-American not to consume, right?

        The fact that some in society are to stupid to understand what the label means should have no impact at all on whether I have access to information.

      • Re:Lobbyists (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:28PM (#41063035)

        So this isn't about their rights.

        Bullshit.

        We can drop all of the arguments about GMO here.

        What you want amounts to censorship . Just because people may use information to further their agenda does not make the release of such information unethical.

        All of the pro-GMO arguments basically boil down to the fact they don't want the information out there, the arguments about that information to occur, and the ability for anyone to make a purchasing decision based on that information.

        Ummm, that's not to anyone's benefit. Restricting the information because you may feel you "know what is best for the rest of us" is abhorrent logic.

        Let them label it, and let people make their own decisions.

        Unless we have lost all pretense about living in a country where we have freedom and it is really isn't just about corporations and 1%'s fucking us over like slaves.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:36PM (#41060929)

    So, this is what a totally free libertarian market looks like, huh? Big companies throwing temper tantrums at the very notion of consumer empowerment and scientists and government agents falling in line to soothe their wailing.

    How about this? SIt down with the top food scientists in the United States, come up with every possible ingredient and fact about the contents of the food consumers should know, and then hire the top graphic designers to present this information in an organized and clear way.

    Oh, what's that? You don't want to rustle Kraft and Dean Food's feathers? OK, forget it. Let's stick to our 1980s food labeling standards and continue eating anal glands with our vanilla wafer cookies in total blind ignorance.

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:45PM (#41061069)

      I find it interesting that one of the cornerstone requirements for a working free market - perfect access to full information - is being opposed by entities praising the free market at every turn. It couldn't be that those are just interested in preserving their own position in the market, and are using "free market" as an easy mantra with which to mislead the voting public?

      All sarcasm aside, my biggest problem with this situation really isn't that GMO food might be inherently more dangerous than non-GMO food. It's that when I buy a banana, I want to know that this isn't a regular Chiquita banana, but the glow-in-the-dark version that is designed to keep nocturnal monkeys from eating it. In other words, I want to know what the product is that I'm buying. This bill would help me with that.

      In other words, the parent AC hits it on the head: this bill should be a no-brainer, because I should be able to know what I am buying.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        I find it interesting that one of the cornerstone requirements for a working free market - perfect access to full information - is being opposed by entities praising the free market at every turn.

        You don't know what you're talking about. Perfect access to information is a condition of a perfect market [wikipedia.org], not a free market. The only condition for a free market is a lack of government regulations. Free markets do not require perfect access to anything, either as a condition to exist or in order to function properly. Your entire argument is a strawman.

        It's that when I buy a banana, I want to know that this isn't a regular Chiquita banana, but the glow-in-the-dark version that is designed to keep nocturnal monkeys from eating it. In other words, I want to know what the product is that I'm buying. This bill would help me with that.

        You're under the mistaken impression that there's some identifiable difference between GMO and non-GMO foods, that couldn't be achieved through natural

  • Land of the Free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:37PM (#41060953)

    ... except for freedom to make an informed choice? In my country all food must be labelled with nutritional information so consumers are able to make choices about what they eat. With the advent of genetically engineered or modified foods ("GE" or "GM") this labeling is very likely to be extended - as is being proposed in the US. For me this makes perfect sense, don't ban GE food, simply give people the choice whether they want to consume it or not. Consumer market forces will either make GE food a success or remove it far more effectively than tipping the scales with legal regulation.

    Why proponents of GE are trying to stop (via outspending) those who promote informed consumer choice is beyond me. If GE really is beneficial then consumers will see the reduced prices of the food, notice the improvement in quality and associate those with GE. If GE turns out to be hazardous in some cases then an informed consumer is made responsible for their own decision (although, in the US this hardly seems to be a factor these days in lawsuits). What could possibly go wrong with labeling food?

  • by OldSport (2677879) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:37PM (#41060959)

    ...are required, so why not GMO labeling? It strikes me as the same thing. Why *wouldn't* you want to know exactly what is in the food you are eating?

    What's more is that labeling GMO foods as such actually increases consumer access to information, which is one of the fundamental tenets of competition in the free market economy. The pseudo-conservative horde is always up in arms about labeling as being anti-free market when in fact the opposite is true.

    • by garcia (6573)

      Even with the items labeled it's unlikely that the vast majority of Americans are going to give a shit either way. Hell, they already eat processed foods with tons of sodium and have diets heavy in meat and low in vegetable matter, so why would they even pay the smallest bit of attention to GMOs?

      This is also the same American public who believe "evaporated cane juice" is somehow different than "sugar".

  • by Bookwyrm (3535) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:38PM (#41060965)

    I would rather think businesses would want to label whether or not the produce had any 'patented' genetic modifications applied to them. People ought to be able to know whether or not it might not be legal for them to plant any of the seeds in the produce, after all, if they have not bought a license for the intellectual property in question.

    (For the irony impaired, the above comment is intended to contain at 20% of the RDA of iron.)

    • by EzInKy (115248)

      This. You see patent numbers or at least patent pending on just about any other protected products and even many that are not. Why not produce?

    • Definitely! Monsanto should be required to modify their corn so that each kernel says "Patent no. 12345678" on it.

      No, I am not being sarcastic.
  • by homer_ca (144738) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:44PM (#41061061)

    Regardless of your stance on the health effects of GMOs, if would behoove us to look more closely at the business practices (specifically w.r.t. intellectual property) of the seed giants, i.e. Monsanto: patenting life, monopolizing the seed market, shaking down small farmers with patent infringement suits, and all so they can sell more Roundup, creating a monoculture of herbicides. It's the same corporate playbook we've seen countless times in the tech world.

    We had herbicides before Roundup-ready GMOs. It ain't no huge innovation, aside from being a revenue win for Monsanto.
    http://cenblog.org/cleantech-chemistry/2010/03/what-did-farmers-do-before-roundup/ [cenblog.org]

  • This irks me. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:48PM (#41061113) Journal

    Act 1: FDA-or-somebody: "Umm, ADM, your 'xeno-bites' brand genetically engineered cowroach burgers have absolutely no track record of safety testing..."

    ADM: "Shut up, four-eyes, and go kill jobs somewhere else. We'll let the consumer decide what they feel comfortable eating."

    FDA-or-somebody: "Um, ok."

    Act 2: California: "Hey, the consumers want to know what ingredients are in food, so that they can exercise free choice and let the market decide between "Ammoniabeef, Piney-Fresh" and "Soylent X"!"

    ADM-or-somebody "Shut up, bureaucratic busybody, all our products are safe and legal and the consumers would just worry their little heads about it if we were to tell them. In fact, tell that dirty hippie down the street that he isn't allowed to use the phrases 'GMO free', 'less than .01% zergling by weight', or 'minimally teratogenic' in advertisements!"

    This basic back-and-forth is what annoys me so much about this brand of spat: When the regulators show up, health and safety regulations based on research are treated as a bunch of ivory-tower paternalism. When the customers show up demanding the data that they actually need to make their own choices(since they are justifiably somewhat doubtful that benevolent regulators have their backs on this one), they get a paternalistic rebuff and assurance that the previously neutered regulators are totally all over this one...

    There are arguments enough against having it merely one way or the other; but handing the customer the shit end of both worlds is just plain crass.

  • by Pluvius (734915) <pluvius3&gmail,com> on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:50PM (#41061161) Journal

    On Bill Maher's show: if GMO food truly is safe and beneficial (and it generally is if you remove Monsanto et al. from the equation), then the obvious solution is not to keep consumers from knowing what it is they're eating, but just the opposite--educate them on exactly what it is they're eating in a neutral, fact-based manner.

    Rob

  • Have you seen what Americans eat these days? Holy shit, that wouldn't even pass as food 100 years ago! We eat such an unhealthy assortment of food as a daily staple, I think we ought to sort out our heart disease and diabetes problems before we spend our efforts scrutinizing GMOs. GMOs may be damaging our health, but it can't be as important as addressing the obvious and immediate issues we currently face.
  • The headline is ridiculous. Perhaps a majority of Californians want this. We will find that out in November (at least we will find out if a majority of the Californians who bother to vote want it).

    However, the initiative process means anyone who gets enough signatures can get an initiative on the ballot. Anyone. That's why saying "California wants ... " is ludicrous. Both right-leaning and left-leaning initiatives, some loony and some thoughtful get on the ballot in California. Getting on the ballot i

  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:06PM (#41061367) Homepage

    How can it be anti-science to put a truthful blurb on something which says what it is?

  • With the incestuous relationship [wikipedia.org] of Monsanto and the FDA, an annual lobbying budget second only to Big Tobacco, it is likely they will continue purchasing the support of government officials as usual [wikipedia.org].

    Why so many things can already be mis-labeled, i.e. MSG (Autolyzed Yeast Extract) and myriad other ingredients, but people are presumed without the right to know whether their dinner is bio-modified or not, makes no sense. If something is to be sold as food, all practically available information should be ma
  • by Hartree (191324) on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:19PM (#41061533)

    The "organic" growers will want testing of foods from the big companies to keep them honest. But, it could well be mandated for all producers.

    If you say it's non-gmo, prove it. Regardless of the size of your operation.

    With modern laboratory methods, we can detect tiny amounts of specific genetic material.

    example: detecting Asian Carp DNA in the water of Lake Michigan. We haven't seen the carp, but we know that at least a few are there from the shed genetic material.

    Imagine the consternation when much of the final product "organic" food also tests positive for detectable amounts of transfered BT genes or other GM material. Additions that could have blown in with pollen or from volunteer plants. You grind, mix and process many foods, so anything in it gets distributed. If your suppliers don't do a good job of vetting their sources, you're screwed.

    Too bad if it was contamination. Go to court for remedy if you want. But, in the meantime it's not GMO free so pull off the labels or pull it from the shelves.

    It's all in how the levels are set in the regulations and what part of the production cycle the testing is done at.

    If you want GMO free, it doesn't matter how it gets in, so end product testing rather than the incoming materials is quite reasonable.

    If it passes, big food should lobby for stringent levels and testing. Besides, for large companies, the expense can be spread of huge amounts of product shipped. For small organic producers, not so much. If it passes, this "big win" may be a devil in disguise for those that wanted it.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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