Dissecting the GMO Labeling Debate

December 5, 2012
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This year’s election brought mudslinging, bad-mouthing and a country so divided that people were actually de-friending and un-following “friends” via their social media accounts.

Now that the dust has settled and everyone has re-gained their connections, another controversial initiative remains at the forefront for the food industry.
On Nov. 6, California officials turned down Proposition 37, the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act”—one that would require food manufacturers to label GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) in all products.

Because the ballot has been defeated, the food industry is left scrambling to pick up the pieces to what is said to be one of the most widely publicized and closely watched state ballot initiatives in 2012.

“People didn’t vote against Prop 37 because they don’t think GMOs should be labeled—they do—they were just tricked into believing that Prop 37 wasn’t going to give them what they want,” says Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the Organic Consumers Association, Washington, D.C.

Consumers argue that they have the right to know what’s in their food, and that the government is “hiding” information.

“So, because of a fear of eventually having too much labeling, we should have none? Isn’t some legislation on this better than nothing?” asks a self-proclaimed foodie via Facebook.

On the other hand, adding extensive labeling protocols could raise food prices, something that most consumers don’t think of when considering the proposition.

“Defeat of #Prop37 means California’s consumers avoided food price hikes. Consumers can find non-GMO products on goods with USDA-organic logo,” tweets Campbell Barnum, vice president of brand and market development for D.D. Williamson, a Louisville, Ky.-based provider of caramel and natural colors for the food and beverage industry.

Additionally, “Californians have decided that Proposition 37 is not in their best interests. Consumers have many choices and can select the products they prefer. We expect the food industry to continue meeting the needs of their customers through their product offerings and with truthful and non-misleading labeling. FDA labeling guidance remains in place, which requires labeling of material differences in foods, whether it be in composition, nutrition or safety,” says Tom Helscher, director of corporate affairs for Monsanto Co., St. Louis.

Despite the verdict of Prop 37, at least the issue has officially landed on the dinner table.

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