California Food-Labeling Proposition Has Fatal Flaws; Consumer Costs; Law to Require 'Genetically Engineered' Label Would Lead to More Expensive Food; OTHER VIEWS

By Redick, Thomas P | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 19, 2012 | Go to article overview

California Food-Labeling Proposition Has Fatal Flaws; Consumer Costs; Law to Require 'Genetically Engineered' Label Would Lead to More Expensive Food; OTHER VIEWS


Redick, Thomas P, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


California is poised to pass Proposition 37 in November, forcing food processors to apply "may contain genetically engineered" warning labels for any trace of biotech crops (also called "genetically modified"). This law will disrupt existing chains of agricultural commerce, including various "non-GMO" contracts that serve U.S. consumers who want to avoid biotech crops. Expert economists expect an increase in food costs nationwide from this law, which only enriches anti-biotech activists and lawyers.

To persuade voters, the activists promoting this law tell confusing lies. First, they promise "GM free" organic food - but do not admit that organic may also contain "GE" traces (organic activists recently complained to USDA of GE content). Second, they tout President Barack Obama's "campaign promise to label" GE food that was never made (he disavowed an erroneous quote). Third, they claim 90 percent of consumers want GE labels, based on questionable polls. In fact, few consumers actually want GE labels, unless prompted by a leading question, as the International Food Industry Council research demonstrates.

Other nations (45 and counting) passed GM food labeling laws, but none need them. A less disruptive voluntary labeling alternative exists - an international standard for "non-GM" food. GM labeling laws caused billions of dollars in lost trade for U.S. growers since the European Union's 1996 law, as food companies rushed to find non- GM sources. Prop 37 would likewise disrupt commerce while only confusing citizens of California.

To ensure enforcement, California's law goes to new extremes, giving "bounty hunter" rewards to ensure that California lawyers will sue food companies and commodity suppliers. California's Prop 37 sets a zero tolerance for adventitious presence - a commercially impossible standard. This exceeds the EU's stringent 0.9 percent that Whole Foods and international voluntary labeling standards use.

Moreover, California would require labels on vegetable oils with no detectable GE trace (but with GE inputs). Similar laws in the EU and Brazil had disruptive effects. If processors use any trace of GE inputs (e.g., corn, soy, canola, sugar beets or cottonseed oils) they face costly litigation to prove no trace of GE ever touched any input to their product.

This threat of litigation will force food manufacturers (e.g., soymilk) to find organic inputs or apply a GE label. Major brands know that they risk market loss in key markets from applying this government-mandated warning label. Such major brands, when faced with mandatory GE labeling, have generally substituted non-GE products to avoid such labels. …

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California Food-Labeling Proposition Has Fatal Flaws; Consumer Costs; Law to Require 'Genetically Engineered' Label Would Lead to More Expensive Food; OTHER VIEWS
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