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Genetically modified food labeling Proposition 37 stirs controversy from farmers to families

8:44 AM, Nov 2, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - On Election Day, California voters will decide whether to change the way much of our food is labeled.

If Proposition 37 passes, California will become the first state to require labeling on food sold in stores that contains genetically modified ingredients. The initiative has stirred up controversy among everyone from farmers to families.

Susan Lang supports Prop. 37 and volunteers for the campaign.

"I'm protecting my family," she said.

Lang is a mother of two and believes Californians and her family have a right to know if their food has been genetically modified.

"My younger son has had a lot of digestive issues [and] eczema. When I started feeding him better his problems started to clear up," Lang explained. "Part of feeding him better was avoiding genetically engineered food."

It's actually not easy to avoid genetically modified food. The non-partisan legislative analyst estimates that 40 to 70 percent of food products sold in California grocery stores contain genetically engineered ingredients. Biotechnology has been used since the 1990's to grow a variety of crops like corn and soybeans that resist disease and insects.

However, Prop. 37 supporters, argue there are no long-term health studies.

"We're experimenting with our children's health," Lang said. "We have no idea what the long term health effects are going to be at this point."

Almost 90 percent of corn produced in the U.S. is grown from genetically modified seeds. If Prop. 37 passes, genetically modified corn would have to be labeled as such at the grocery store. Products that contain genetically modified corn, like soup or corn chips, would also have to have a label.

Yet, meat or dairy from, for example, chicken or cattle that are fed with genetically modified corn, would not have to be labeled.

Many farmers, like Erik Freese, who is based out of Dixon, are opposed to Prop. 37.

"If this proposition is the right to know, then why are there so many exemptions? Why is the alcohol industry exempt? Why is the dairy industry exempt? Why are meat products exempt?" Freese questioned.

Freese's family has been farming in Dixon for five generations. He grows both genetically modified and conventional crops. He's afraid Prop 37 will increase food prices and his cost of production.

"It's going to put farmers in California at a competitive disadvantage," Freese explained. "It's not the right to know, it's the right to sue."

The measure does allow consumers to sue if food products don't have a label, without needing to demonstrate any specific damages associated with the alleged label violation.

"If they file a lawsuit, then it will trickle down from the grocery retailer to the seed sales to somebody like myself," Freese said.

Almost $50 million have been spent so far on the Prop. 37 campaign, almost all of it by the opponents on ads, which may explain why it's been losing support in the polls.


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