Many crops grown in the United States are genetically engineered to kill pests or withstand being sprayed with weed killers. If California's Proposition 37 passes, foods that contain these crops will need to be labeled to wind up on a grocery store's planogram. This article in The Sacramento Bee covers both sides of the argument.
An ad in support of Proposition 37 states "Experts are still debating if foods modified with DNA from other plants, animals, bacteria and even viruses are safe, but while the debate goes on, we all have the right to make an informed choice." Proposition 37 opponents insist there is a lack of sufficient scientific evidence that genetically modified food is dangerous to human health. They suggest that labeling the food as genetically modified would imply unproven health dangers and end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Bob Goldberg, a UCLA biologist who teaches a class on genetic engineering says "I'm against this proposition because I'm a scientist and I'm a person who has done genetic engineering my entire career. In many respects, I don't view this as a political campaign, I view this as an anti-science campaign." Goldberg is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, which does not support merging all genetically engineered foods into one category. The organization determined in 2004 that "no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population."
The American Medical Association has stated that there is "no scientific justification" for labeling genetically engineered food. However, the association supports greater "availability of unbiased information and research activities on bioengineered foods" and an improved system for testing genetically engineered food before it reaches the public. The testing process is currently voluntary; the association says it should be mandatory. Proposition 37 supporters believe that the voluntary testing process puts too much control in the hands of companies that stand to profit from their biotech inventions.
Dr. Kelly Sutton is a board-certified internist in Fair Oaks who practices holistic medicine, combining science and spirituality in her technique. "I've practiced for 40 years so I've come through a long stretch of seeing changes in health. We are living longer but sicker." When people come to her with health issues, one of the first things she suggests is a change of diet, including a move toward organic and non-GMO foods. Her patients' health typically improves. "I am only speculating from experience. There is no serious study that says genetically modified food does this but not that."
Those who want more guidance can explore the Official Voter Information Guide on Proposition 37. For more information directly from each side of the political debate, visit Yes on 37 and No on Prop 37.
Image by wonderlane, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.