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California Voters to Decide on GMO Labeling
Last night, the California Secretary of State’s office announced that the Right to Know initiative to label genetically engineered foods will be on the state’s November ballot. The historic initiative would be the first law in the United States requiring labeling of a wide range of genetically engineered foods.
“We’re thrilled that Californians will have the opportunity this November to vote for the right to know what’s in our food,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the California Right to Know campaign. “This initiative is pretty simple. It's about our fundamental right to make informed choices about the food we eat and feed our families.”
The initiative requires labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – which are plants or meats that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration occurs in a laboratory and is not found in nature.
Polls show nearly unanimous support across the political spectrum for labeling of genetically engineered foods. Nine out of ten voters in the U.S. and in California back labeling, according to recent polls (see Mellman 2012, Reuters 2010, Zogby 2012). An April poll by San Francisco TV station KCBS found 91% backed labeling.
The California Right to Know initiative is backed by a broad array of consumer, health, and environmental groups, businesses and farmers. Major endorsers include Public Citizen, Sierra Club, American Public Health Association, United Farm Workers, California Certified Organic Farmers, Organic Consumers Association, Consumer Federation of America, Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, Organic Valley, Dr. Bronner’s, Eden Foods, Mercola.com, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now! and the California State Grange.
Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms in the Sacramento Valley, noted that the United States stands out as one of the few developed nations that does not provide consumers with simple labels to inform them if their food has been genetically engineered. “More than 40 other countries -- including all of Europe, Japan and even China -- already label genetically engineered food. Californians deserve to be able to make informed choices too," Lundberg said.
"As a doctor committed to the health of people and the environment, I strongly believe that people have a right to know, and to choose for themselves, whether to eat foods that have been genetically engineered," said Robert Gould, MD, president of the SF-Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Susan Lang, a Sacramento mother of two who was one of thousands of volunteers who worked to place the initiative on the ballot, said passing the Right to Know initiative is in the best interests of everyone in the state. "I want to know whether the food I’m buying contains genetically engineered ingredients. All the parents I know want to have this information too,” Lang said.
The California Right to Know initiative is widely regarded as the best chance to achieve GMO labeling in the United States, and the campaign has generated significant national interest in the growing movement for transparency in our food system, as reported in a recent front-page New York Times story.
In March, more than one million people submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a petition for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, more than any other petition in FDA history. Twenty states have tried to legislate GMO labeling, but none have succeeded due to intense opposition from corporate special interests.
“All eyes are on California, and the voters of this state will support our right to know what’s in our food when they vote this November,” said Stacy Malkan from the Right to Know campaign.