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PD Editorial: No on 37: Label this one over-regulation

  • (TOM MEYER / meyertoons.com)

Californians deserve clear information about the products they buy. They also deserve clear information about the items being sold on the Nov. 6 ballot.

In the interest of both, we encourage voters to reject Proposition 37, which would create a complex and potentially costly system of labeling for genetically engineered foods. In short, the state doesn't need it, families can't afford it, and the science simply doesn't warrant it.

We support the idea of giving consumers better information about products, particularly food. But this proposition is not designed to help people understand the development of genetically engineered foods and their role and benefits in contemporary society. It's intent seems to be to scare people, pure and simple, in hopes that if GE foods are separated from other products, consumers will steer clear, and food producers and grocers will be encouraged, if not forced, to purge them from their shelves. This would be a major setback for a branch of science that has generated more controversy than is warranted.

Proposition 37 sounds appealing. It requires labels on all raw or processed foods for sale that are genetically engineered or contain GE products. It also prohibits the labeling of such foods — as well as possibly any processed foods — as “natural.” Proponents note that such labeling has already been required in most European countries for some time.

The problem is that the standards imposed by Proposition 37 would not only make California the first state to have such regulations, they far exceed anything being required by other countries. It also opens the door to potential “shakedown” lawsuits. For example, it allows an individual to sue a food producer, distributor or grocer for the suspicion of noncompliance without having to demonstrate how he or she has been harmed. It operates on the presumption that GE foods are damaging — this despite many studies that indicate GE foods are safe and are not a health risk. As the American Medical Association has declared, “There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.”

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