In yesterday’s mail, we got a glossy flier instructing us on the evils of California’s Proposition 37 which would require food companies to label packages of processed food that contain ingredients that have been genetically modified.
I don’t think they meant for it to be funny, but I found the flyer to be hilarious. The front of the flyer shows a woman reading a label. We women, you know, are concerned about our food supply. But the woman in the picture, apparently, doesn’t want to know if her food has been genetically modified (by inserting DNA from another species).
Follow the Money
The back of the flyer shows a picture of Joseph Mercola, MD with the dire warning that Dr. Mercola “and other organic food companies would profit enormously at the expense of consumers, which is why Mercola has already ‘invested’ $1.1 million in the campaign.”
Let’s start with figuring out if Mercola’s contributions are something to worry about. Mercola’s company is, indeed, listed as the top contributor to the Yes on 37 campaign. His company has, to date, given approximately 1.1 million dollars. That is slightly more money that ConAgra donated against Prop 37 ($1.07 million), but less than contributions against Prop 37 that were given by Coca-Cola (1.16 million), Nestle ($1.17 million), Pepsi ($1.72 million), Dow Agrosciences ($2 million), Bayer Cropscience ($2 million), BASF Plant Science ($2 million), DuPont ($4.9 million), and Monsanto, the elephant in the room weighing in at a contribution of $7,100,500.00.
So Dr. Mercola’s company is the heavy hitter in the Yes on Prop 37 campaign and the No on 37 folks say it’s bad that he contributed since he sells health supplements and food products online “that are exempt under Prop 37.”
Two issues here: First, does he stand to make money if Prop 37 passes? Possibly. He, and other food companies could benefit (so could small family farms). But saying he should not contribute is somewhat hypocritical when we have Monsanto weighing in at over $7 million and they are the major seed producer for GMO crops. They absolutely gain every time a consumer eats a GMO food and every time a farmer can no longer even find a seed supply that is non-GMO.
The second issue sounds like a huge conflict of interest–Mercola’s products would be exempt from labeling. Why? BECAUSE HE DOES NOT SELL GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS. The entire shoe industry will be exempt as well, since nobody eats shoes, but what does that have to do with anything?
Who Is Misleading?
The No on Prop 37 campaign says that “confusing red-tape requirements for food labeling” do not exist in any other state or country in the world. Actually, fifty countries either require labeling or they outright ban GMO foods. Why is the US lagging behind?
The No on Prop 37 flier also says that the labeling requirements “don’t make sense,” and so they offer a pictorial “explanation” of what they consider to be confusing. They also point out that many people who support Prop 37 sell foods that are exempt from labeling. They make it sound so dirty instead of acknowledging that those foods don’t need labeling because they are not genetically modified.
Take a Closer Look
Looking closer, here are the foods they tell us are confusing:
Fruit Juice vs. Beer, Wine and Liquor–Fruit juice would need a label only if the juice (or additives to the juice) had been produced from genetically modified fruits (or additives). Remember, there is a lot of “juice” out there that contains corn syrup (from GM corn) and beet sugar (from GM beets) and a host of other ingredients. As for the beer, wine, liquor, the law is simply deferring to the regulations in place by another government agency. Since I’m not giving any of those beverages to my kids, I think I can read any labels for myself and make my choices as necessary.
Frozen Pizza vs. Delivery Pizza–Both may contain GMOs. In the proposed law, all restaurant food would be exempt. Consumers would be on their own to navigate the restaurant maze. Frozen pizza would be labeled ONLY if it contained GM ingredients such as soy, corn, etc.
Soy Milk vs. Cow’s Milk–This is an easy one since over 90 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified. The trick is finding any soy that is not GM. Cow’s milk would not be labeled because cows are not genetically modified. They can be injected with rBST (a synthetic hormone to increase milk supply), but dairies that produce milk without the use of rBST are allowed to label their products to show that they didn’t use rBST–giving consumers the right to make an informed choice about which dairy products to purchase. As an aside, it should be noted that commercial dairies that are not certified organic certainly feed their cows GM corn and soy feed. If the No on Prop 37 folks want to tell us that cows eating GM feed makes the cow a GMO, then they have to follow the logical argument to include a concession that humans eating GM foods are then GMOs themselves.
Dog Food Made From Beef vs. Beef–Dog food would be labeled if it contained GM ingredients. Read the labels, and you will find that many pet foods contain soy and corn fillers. So the labeling applies to the GM fillers and not to the beef itself. Pure beef dog food would not need a label because it is not GM. Beef is exempt because scientists don’t (yet) genetically modify beef. Again, if eating GM feed modifies the cow…..well, it modifies the human, too. The No on 37 folks are afraid of just that issue, which is why we support labeling!
Tofu Made From Soy Beans vs. Meat For Human Consumption–Again, do they even want to go here? With over 90 percent of soy beans genetically modified, tofu made from those GM beans would, indeed be labeled. As for the meat, animals are not (yet) genetically modified, thus, the meat would not be labeled. Buy organic meat and you’ll know your animal ate non-GMO feed. And if eating meat from an animal fed GM feed scares you, then eating GM foods yourself should scare you even more!
Noodles Made in the US vs. Noodles Made in China–Ok, I’ll admit. This one stumps me. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased noodles made in China. I do buy pasta that is made from wheat flour. So far, there is no commercially available GM wheat grown in the US. China requires GM labeling for foods in China.
Soup From the Grocery Store vs. Same Soup at a Restaurant–Restaurant food is not labeled under this law. It isn’t a matter of GM vs. non GM on this one. I would say that if you are eating at a restaurant that simply heats up soup from the store, that is really pathetic, and you should choose a higher class of restaurant. Trust me, heating up soup is not exactly a culinary challenge. Soup in the store would be labeled only if it contained GM ingredients. You can be sure that the big food companies snuck some soy and other GM ingredients into a whole bunch of soups. Did you know that some zucchini is GM?
One they didn’t add–tuna fish in a can. So far, I’ve only found one brand of tuna that doesn’t include soy as part of the “vegetable” broth. Soy/tuna would need a label. Good.
A couple points not noted in the flyer: “Medical food” would be exempt from labeling. So if you go to the hospital, pack a lunch (always good advice in my opinion).
The law also would preclude companies from using the word “natural” and variations of the term if a food has GM ingredients.
The full text of Prop 37 is here. Read it for yourself. See who is spending the big bucks to prevent labeling. Then read the French study that linked tumors in rats to eating a GM diet. Don’t let Monsanto–or anyone else–define your vote.
As Brian always says, “Investigate, educate, and think for yourself.”