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Yes on Prop. 37

Redding Voice supports a yes vote on California Proposition 37, which when passed in November will require the labeling of foods containing GMO’s sold in California, but for different reasons than highlighted by the Record Searchlight editorial of September 22, 2012. My concern is not that the proposition will cause lawsuits or even that all GMO’s are bad or unsafe, no more than all prescription drugs are bad, but that the FDA, the U.S. agency controlling their efficacy/long term danger is charged with looking only at provable direct public consumption safety issues of GMO’s.

Requiring GMO labeling will focus awareness on complex global food issues that deserves greater public attention.

I believe seeds are a basic source of life – the right of all the people, as is water, not commodities, protected by intellectual property rights that allows monopoly control and pricing by multi-national corporations. Also, bio-diversity is too important for mankind’s well-being and resiliance to allow it to be diminished by the forces of profit motive alone. Monocultures result in unintended negative social consequences for the world’s most vulnerable people, when subject to the predictable extremes of market fluctuations. World hunger will become a huge flashpoint for political unrest in coming decades and the role of GMO’s will increasingly become a global issue.

Of course, public safety is one important ultimate concern, but contrary to the Record Searchlight’s claim that “scientists say these crops are safe”, it is probably more accurate to say, as the World Health Organization does, “no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.” Saying that it has not been proved to be unsafe is different that proving that it is safe. Incidentally, in my opinion, the WHO article: 20 Questions on GMO’s, is worth the time reading for a balance approach.

At the FDA “a substance that will be added to food is subject to premarket approval unless its use is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by qualified experts.” Similarly, a 1992 Policy guideline of the the FDA makes GMO labeling voluntary – it does not establish special labeling requirements for bioengineered foods as a class of foods. The policy states that “FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”

The FDA relies on submissions from GMO producers to supply information for safety evaluation. Richard E. Bonnette of the FDA on March 23, 2012 noted regarding Monsanto’s 87427 corn, that “FDA did not identify any safety or regulatory issues under the FD&C Act or current FDA regulations that would require further evaluation at this time.” That’s probably all we can expect from the FDA, so the public must be empowered by GMO labeling – at least then it can intelligently choose what to consume based more than no proven public safety hazard.

Roger Cohen’s opinion piece in the September 28, 2012 New York Times gives a balanced reading of ‘organic fable,’ based on a just released Stanford’s Center for Health Policy study, but importantly notes that “the problem of feeding a planet whose population will surge to 9 billion before the middle of the century is a complex one.” Solving this challenge will require greater global awareness, cooperation and the the wisest use of bio-technology.

Most of us are unaware of how rapidly our now industrialized food delivery system has changed over the past two decades or so. We are unconscious consumers, influenced by marketing and focused on the lowest price. We need to wake up as global citizens and actively seek solutions for our common good.

Vote with your fork and vote on yes on Prop. 37 on November 6th.