Prop. 37 sets up ballot food fight

Oct. 10, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

In 2004, California voters voted for Proposition 71, the Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. It has ended up doing nothing but help wealthy and connected elites grab $3 billion of taxpayer’s money with no promised cancer or paralysis cures on the near horizon.

According to opinion polls, California voters are again about to pass an initiative, Proposition 37. The Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative promises much but is unlikely to deliver much — except to trial lawyers. Meanwhile, special interests would be exempted, much as Obamacare granted waivers to 1,200 companies.

Prop. 37 would require the labeling of “genetically engineered” (GE) foods in California. This voter initiative has been “engineered” to appeal to:

* Those who are fearful of big corporations re-engineering the genetics of food;

* Those of more libertarian persuasion who believe that government’s role is to limit fraud by full disclosure of ingredients in products;

* Those who believe in pure air, water, and organic foods.

However, there is no such thing as “pure” plant food because plants make their own pesticidesto protect from insect infestation.  Such natural pesticides are what makes broccoli have anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties.

Genetic changes have made such foods possible as Ruby Red grapefruit, tangerines, tangelos, clementines, Valencia oranges, boysenberries, strawberries, loganberries and wines such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, all of which we consider natural.  All foods, even genetically engineered foods, are already reviewed and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But genetically cultured cheeses, fermenting agents in beer and wine, and growth hormones in milk would all be exempted from Prop. 37.  That is because these are foods that are popular and highly visible.  But food additives such as corn oil or soybean oil derived from genetically changed strains of plants would be subject to regulatory capture.

Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Henry I. Miller, physician and molecular biologist at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, reveals the true purposes behind Prop.  37:

“Why then are Proposition 37 supporters so adamant about singling out genetic engineering? It’s simple: Labeling only GE foods would stigmatize those products, raise the costs of making them, discourage the use of the technology and encourage money-seeking lawsuits for inconsequential violations. In fact, the initiative seems to have been drafted with these very goals in mind.  Ironically, Proposition 37 would also impose huge costs on producers who try to avoid GE. Those committed to using GE ingredients can slap a “Genetically Engineered” label on their products and be done. But producers who want to sell non-GE foods must bear the costs of tracing the source of every ingredient they use and getting sworn guarantees that they “are not knowingly or intentionally” engineered.” 

Let’s Put a Label on the Faces of Prop.  37

The biggest donors to the Prop. 37 campaign are Jim Wheaton, a trial lawyer who wrote the wording of the proposition, and Joseph Mercola a doctor and alternative health supplement salesman. Their  businesses would stand to profit if the law passed.

According to the California Attorney General’s Office Annual Summaries of Private Settlements (see summary at link), Wheaton assisted in writing previous ballot measures that have shaken down businesses for $500 million over the last 20 years.

One of the provisions of Prop.  37 would allow lawyers to sue small neighborhood grocers and family farmers if the wording used on food labels was not compliant.  No harm would have to be proved.

The FDA already has powers to recall products, seize products, stopping manufacturing by court order, and impose criminal fines and jail time.  What Prop.  37 does is let third-party lawyers in on the enforcement action to shake down businesses.

The No on Prop.  37 campaign reports Joseph Mercola is a health supplement and organic food businessman who has invested $1.1 million into supporting the ballot initiative. Mercola runs the “world’s No. 1 natural health website” and is opposed to vaccinations for children, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

Opposition is coming from liberal newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, and conservative ones, such as the Victorville Press.

Are the polls correct that Prop. 37 is winning? It’s hard to say. The response rates to opinion polls has dropped from 36 percent in 1997 to 9 percent in 2012. So polls aren’t as accurate as they used to be.


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