In today's SF Chronicle, an editorial urges a no vote on Proposition 37, the GMO labeling measure on the November ballot. Prop. 37 would require all food sold in stores in California containing genetically modified organisms or GMOs to disclose that clearly on the label. It's a modest step for consumer awareness. Don't you want to know what you are eating and feeding to your kids?
The makers of these organisms, engineered into plants to make them more pesticide resistant, give them longer shelf lives, and otherwise modify their genetic make up chemically, are spending major bucks to come up with spurious arguments why this simple measure is bad for the consumers.
Who is behind the No of Prop. 37 campaign? major chemical companies like Dow, Monsanto and others, who stand to profit big time by keeping you, the consumer, in the dark. They apparently don't think "better living through chemistry" is a motto that will win the hearts and minds of the American people in the 21st century so now they bring up the specter of citizen lawsuits, and the unscrupulous lawyers who will take advantage of the law to make millions for themselves and drive mom and pop retailers out of business.
Or that's the line in today's Chronicle editorial: "We do not have an issue with the concept of letting Californians know whether the food they eat has been genetically modified in some way....Perhaps the main problem with Prop. 37 is that it invites citizen lawsuits as a primary means of enforcing the labeling law."
They then cite what they claim to be abuses of California's Prop. 65, which requires notice of toxic materials like lead and cancer causing chemicals in products sold in California. Yes, we all know there are those who exploit the law for their own benefit. It happens with all aspects of life. But that does not justify the greater evil of allowing unchecked chemically altered foods to be foisted upon unsuspecting consumers with no consequence.
And without citizen lawsuits, with the possibility of recovering attorney's fees, who would bring scofflaws to task? That's why these provisions are put into laws like the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air act. When these laws are broken, people, the environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink and yes, the food we eat, all suffer. Who better to be able to stop violations than the citizens designed to be protected. The chemical companies won't do it. Allowing recovery of attorney fees makes it possible for ordinary people who can't afford to hire attorneys to fight long battles against much better funded opponents to protect them from potentially life-threatening, environment-damaging toxins. As an attorney who has won or settled many CEQA suits in Marin County, I know how important these provisions are for ordinary citizens to have their day in court and protect the envronment.
A flimsy excuse for not voting for a sensible law that, after all, only labels what's in the product. it doesn't outlaw GMO's. Monsanto and Dow and can continue their food experiments to their hearts' content. They just have to tell us which foods they are experimenting on. I guess their biggest fear is an informed public will choose not to use their family as guinea pigs in the chemical companies' experiment.
To read the other side of the story, go to http://www.carighttoknow.org