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Prop 37 – The fight to label genetically engineered foods reignited

Posted Nov. 15, 2012 / Posted by: Eric Hoffman

Election night was a big night for progressive communities across the country. President Obama was re-elected, of course, and he finally called for action on climate change in his victory speech (which he has unfortunately already started to waffle on). Equally important were more local efforts  including Maryland voting to legalize gay marriage , Elizabeth Warren’s victory in Massachusetts, the election of the first openly gay Senator, the beginning of the end of the tea party, and many, many others.

Another major electoral effort took place in California with Prop 37, which would have required the labeling of foods containing ingredients produced through genetic engineering (GE). Unfortunately, Prop 37 was defeated on November 6 after being outspent by more than $40 million (a 5.5 to 1 ratio) by the biotech, pesticide and junk food industries. Clearly these agribusiness giants are afraid of the public finding out the inconvenient truth about what they’re eating, or they wouldn’t have spend over $1 million a day on a deceptive ad campaign to  scare the public.

Despite this overwhelming industry attack campaign, Prop 37 received 47% of the vote in California, with over 4.5 million Californians voting “yes” for the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered or not.  This is a huge victory in itself and was largely due to the tireless work of the people-powered Yes on 37 campaign and its allies. Though defeated at the polls, Prop 37 has reignited the movement for GE labeling and the broader movement for a safe, sustainable, and just food system. Enormous grassroots support was mobilized by the Yes on 37 campaign, demonstrating that a significant and growing number of people are concerned about genetically engineered crops and other emerging technologies showing up in our food and consumer products without our knowledge or consent. In fact, polls routinely show that 90 percent of all Americans support labeling of genetically modified food.

The Just Label It! coalition is also working to support GE labeling at the federal level. Along with our friends at the Center for Food Safety, the coalition has submitted a petition to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asking that all GE food products be labeled in the US. Already, 1.2 million citizens have submitted comments in support of this petition. Just think – that number was nearly quadrupled in last week’s Prop 37 vote, in only one single state!

Prop 37 put a long overdue public spotlight on critical issues of consumer right to know, corporate control of the food supply and about the risks GE foods pose to our environment, our health, food sovereignty, and a sustainable and just food system. This growing movement can’t be stopped and GE labeling initiatives are popping up all across the country including: Maryland, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, North Carolina, Vermont, and Washington State.

However, even as this movement grows, the biotech industry keeps pushing its untested and unlabeled products onto the market and onto our dinner plates. At the national level, the FDA is poised to approve a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption, making it the first-ever GE food animal approved anywhere in the world. To make matters worse, the FDA will likely decide that GE salmon shouldn’t be labeled either.

Friends of the Earth has been campaigning the past two and a half years to prevent the approval of GE salmon because of the many risks they pose to our marine environment, fishing communities, and unnecessary risks to public health. If GE salmon are approved, we are asking that the FDA at least label them as such so consumers can have the option to avoid transgenic fish. The fight for GE food labeling is not just about crops and processed foods anymore; it’s a fight to ensure that we have the right to choose what food reaches our plates – whether plant or animal.

Stay tuned for news on GE salmon (which we fear might come sooner rather than later) and ways you can stay involved to prevent this approval, or to ensure that GE salmon and all GE foods are labeled so we can avoid them at the supermarket. We hope you’ll join us and our allies in growing this reinvigorated movement for safe, sustainable, real food. 


Photo courtesy of Cheeslave on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ammichaels/8122518497/in/photostream

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