June 01, 2012


How California Could Force the Rest of the US to Label GMO Foods

50 countries have either banned or restricted Genetically Modified Food and in the U.S. - it's not even required to notify the consumer that their food is a GMO.


In November, California voters will decide on a ballot initiative that would require labeling of all foods containing ingredients from genetically modified crops. The initiative made it to the ballot after almost 1 million Californians signed a petition in favor of it—nearly double the 504,760 signatures needed under the state's proposition rules. The campaign that organized the push to get the measure on the ballot focused on possible health effects of GMO foods.
This news will not likely be applauded by my friends over at Croplife America, the main trade group of the GM seed/agrichemical industry. The big GMO crops—corn, soy, sugar beets, and cotton—are processed into sweeteners, fats, and additives used widely by the food industry. Everything from high fructose corn syrup-sweetened Coke to soybean oil-containingHellman's mayo would have to bear a label reading something like "Contains GMO ingredients."
That would send a shockwave through the food industry—one that could ultimately be felt on the industrial-scale US farms that have been devoting their land to GMO crops for years, and the companies that profit from selling them patented seeds and matching herbicides. The reason isn't just that California represents an imposing chunk of the US food market. It's also that a food-labeling law that starts in California is unlikely to stay in California.

To see why, look at the case of another practice beloved of US agribusiness: that of stuffing egg-laying hens into cages so tight that they can't turn around.