The Defeat of Prop 37 – Californians Defending Their Right NOT to Know

Written by Jill Chapin. Posted in Healthcare, Opinion, Politics

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Published on November 09, 2012 with 15 Comments

Californians voted against their best interests Tuesday, rejecting Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.

By Jill Chapin

November 9, 2012

Sometimes you have to wonder why otherwise intelligent citizens vote against their own best interests. Proposition 37 was simply about our right to know when foods have been genetically engineered. It’s about the label, not the food. That’s all. Prop 37 only wanted to identify food that has been genetically altered so that we can know what we are ingesting. This proposition was not about banning anything; it was about giving you a heads up before you reached for one head of lettuce or another. Why weren’t more Californians indignant and even alarmed about anyone who attempts to block us from knowing something?

Apparently certain buzz words such as expensive or bureaucratic in the opponents’ literature was enough for people to stop thinking it through to better understand the motives behind those who opposed it. Their reasons might seem sound at first blush, such as increased costs to consumers due to extra documentation work involved, but there are other considerations much more important than pricing that we should have thought about before voting No.

For example, we should have followed the money. According to the Los Angeles Times, large campaign contributions were given by big biotech companies like Monsanto. Is it likely that those who have enormous financial incentives with this proposition’s defeat would have your best health interests in mind? Why were they working so hard to defeat a measure that was designed to simply offer the consumer information? Could it be the same reason why they fought so hard and long to prevent dairies from putting “hormone free” on their milk cartons?

Anti Prop 37 companies such as Monsanto and Dupont stand to benefit tremendously from genetically altered food; after all, it’s another product on the market. And keep in mind that Monsanto’s research on genetically altered foods is all about making crops more profitable, not more nutritious.

You have to wonder why the United States lags behind the rest of the world in recognizing the potential danger from genetically altered food. Sixty one countries apparently respect their citizens more than ours does, as they believe everyone has a right to know what they are eating, and altered foods are labeled as such.

One of these alterations is a corn modified with a bacterial gene that secretes a poison to kills pests. What would happen if these poisons should then attack our internal organs as it mistakenly recognizes us as a pest? This could become the science fiction nightmare of genetically engineered traits escaping into nature.

Too many people dismiss these concerns because the FDA has decreed that there was no difference between genetically engineered and non-engineered plants. But believing the FDA is akin to trusting those who insisted that the back scatter x-ray machines at airports were perfectly safe. If so, why then were children not allowed to go through them, and more importantly, why have they been removed from major airports, replaced by machines using only radio waves?

For the millions who naively believed those airport machines were perfectly safe and well-maintained, they now must wonder how much exposure they were subjected to and how much has that exposure increased their risk of getting cancer.

And now we will be eating allegedly perfectly safe mystery food until further research may indicate that perhaps supposed experts also miscalculated. But until then, how much damage to our health will we have incurred?

What we put in our bodies determines our health and our life span. It is disturbing that voters did not have this basic fact of life in mind as they read the pros and cons of Prop 37.

Besides companies such as Monsanto benefiting from these mutant foods, there are others who may also reap the rewards of us eating what is essentially a new definition of food. It has been said that twenty-five percent of what you eat keeps you alive; seventy-five percent of what you eat keeps your doctor alive.

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin has been a guest writer and columnist in several Los Angeles area papers for over fifteen years. She has written a bilingual parenting book titled, "If You Have Kids, Then Be a Parent!" and a children's book entitled, "My Magic Bubble."

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Comments for The Defeat of Prop 37 – Californians Defending Their Right NOT to Know are now closed.

  1. The means must be weighed against the ends.  The final section of Prop 37 reads “This initiative may be amended. . . by a statute passed by a two-thirds vote in each house.”

    Prop 37 was over 2000 words long!  I held my nose, compromised my principles, and voted for Prop 37. But, I believe many Californians–who wholeheartedly support the ENDS of Prop 37–are, like me, weary of contributing to the insane malfunctioning of our representative system by implementing lengthy, complicated and (in the case of Prop 37) preachy laws using the inflexible mechanism of our proposition system.  Some voters drew the line in the sand at a different (more conservative) point than me with regard to Prop 37, and I will not heap disrespect ON THEIR INTENTIONS for doing so.  If a house has a roach infestation, one cannot belittle the INTENTIONS of residents who object to using napalm (i.e. the proposition system) as a means for eradicating the roaches.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think it smacks of hubris to pass a law by a majority vote that requires a two-thirds vote to amend or repeal.  If a partially dysfunctional initiative (e.g. Prop 13) imposes the burden of supermajorities on subsequent generations to fix the bad bits, it should not be allowed to PASS by LESS than the supermajority it would impose for subsequent amendment or repeal.

    Now that I’ve had more time to contemplate Prop 37, I regret having voted for it.  There is plenty of support for disclosure of GMO foods in California, and there is no reason we cannot implement great, well-thought-out laws without resorting to the napalm of the proposition system.  It’s time for a do-over!

  2. Sheep do, what Sheep do. Follow idiots. The ” dumbing down” of america (and California) is working beautifully. How could this fail in California?. As concious as we are about health, exercise, and organic eating/health food. Just playing into the continuing game of, ” not to know”, is cool, and the new smart.
    Ms.Chapin hit it right on the head. It was such a simple proposition. People are too stupid to realize when someone is trying to kill you, unless their in a hooded jacket with a gun. How sad.

  3. There is nothing prohibiting the California legislature from passing a GMO labeling law now that they are likely to have a supermajority.

  4. The most successful argument against Prop 37 is not mentioned in your article, and that is that the enforcement provision would open the door to universal standing to sue.  The idea that a slew of individual consumers could sue companies to label, without having to show they’d suffered any damages, made  a lot of folks leery of the whole Proposition.  Perhaps this could be better crafted, and those running the campaign could figure out a simpler, clearer way to respond next time round.

  5. Excellent, Jill.  Very well envisioned and conceived piece. You are right on.  Thank you. 

  6. Why should Californians have to worry about what Monsanto did to the dinner when there’s a good game on?

  7. The population is too scientifically illiterate to really understand why foods are engineered or altered the way they are. Ham or human, oh please, why not just say a pigs dna is 83% similar to a human. OMG IM EATING A HUMAN. Seeing how the public can react if the labeling process is not detailed? The prop was vague and provided no fullproof labeling tactic. 

  8. GMO labeling should have happened at the federal level years ago.  Unfortunately,  in 1992, the FDA enacted a policy of “substantial equivalence.”  In other words, GMO foods would not be considered materially different from traditionally bred crops.  However, there is certainly enough emerging evidence since then showing that GMO crops are not substantially equivalent.  The labeling of GMO food was among the pledges Obama made during his first run for president, saying during a campaign speech in 2007, “Americans should know what they’re buying.”  Perhaps, it is time to pressure the President and Congress to force the FDA to reconsider that ill-conceived policy written twenty years ago.  GMO labeling can’t be that hard as during the last seven years, more than forty countries have adopted labeling regulations for GMO food.

    • FDA enacted the policy of “substantial equivalence” thanks to Vice President Dan Quayle and President Herbert Walker “George” Bush who worked with Monsanto to write a policy they wanted.  All this began with the Republicans in Washington, and the NO on Prop 37 campaign was supported by the Republican Party in California along with other bad actors in the pesticide biotechnology industries, and the food industries that care not what Americans put into their bodies, as long as they are kept controlled and ignorant.

      There is a false since of security in this country that American children should learn by rote, not thinking and asking questions; that fast food, easy farming practices, synthetic fertilizers and pest controls can produce healthy food, and that physicians can undo whatever dangers we put into our mouth.  They cannot!  That’s why so many Americans are ill, or dying.

      Furthermore, the North American Continent is the only continent in the world that has zero right to know via mandatory labeling if the food purchased contains Genetically Modified Organisms.  GMO’s are of different species –not plants–but species or kingdoms such as bacteria, viruses, humans, spiders, and so forth that are carried by a virus into seeds, so that the seeds can have traits that neither God nor Nature allowed to evolve.  These foreign genetically modified organisms have never been safety tested for human or animal consumption, they are not regulated, no peer reviewed scientific studies have been published and they are patented under U.S. Patent Law.  We only have the “word” from these protected multi-national corporations that they are “safe” and their deregulation into the marketplace is rubber stamped by Republican as well as Democratic Administrations.  This makes us, and our children guinea pigs.

      Ask yourself why you are getting sicker and don’t have the right to know the reason, while people who live on other continents are healthier because they often do have the right to know what they are eating or drinking!  Ask yourself why do rats and wildlife not eat these nouvelle foods and grains. Why won’t rats who once loved pizza, candy and such, not eat eat them anymore, yet you will?  What do rats know?

  9. All right you Prop 37 labelers,
    just get over it!  I know you thought
    your plan to put a Bible in every motel room would save the world. You are
    shocked to discover that most people are either brain dead or maybe just
    addicted to Cap’n Crunch and do not want to know the truth about the big tasty

    When the student is ready the
    teacher will appear. In other words, save yourself first.

    This is a simple two step plan for
    all of you:

    1. Get a phone app that scans bar codes and shows the
    “virtual label” stored in the infosphere. You can tell the app your
    special wishes such as non GMO, no insect legs or caramel is your favorite
    flavor. It will do the rest.
    2. Help create non governmental organizations that will
    test foods for residues of herbicide and insecticide. If you wait for the
    FDA to do that, you will eventually be pulled from the bottom of the pool
    and cremated just like you requested.

    Phone apps and private testing are
    not illegal, at least they are not until certain people find what you are up

    The information universe is
    expanding faster than our minds and it will find us in our time of need. You
    can be your own paragon, a true rebel on the Animal Farm of life.

    •  There are already non-governmental organizations that can decipher GMO’s in food, but it’s extremely expensive to test every single product when one is not in business to profit from the results. 

      Why don’t you care about what your children eat?  Who will care for you when you are old and feeble and cannot swallow and are spoon fed GMO’s in your gmo sweetened shake?

  10. I support this kind of labeling in the abstract but voted against 37 because food labeling is complicated enough that there is no way that a ballot proposition could do it right.  It needs to have a more iterative scientific/commercial/legal development and review process than what a ballot prop gets.  Also it needs to be accompanied by some kind of public education campaign so that when someone distills years of scientific research into a few words on a cardboard box in the grocery store then the public has a better idea of what that label really means.

    •  By the time all that comes to past, there may be nothing safe to eat.

      • If that is what you really believe then I suggest a tinfoil hat to attenuate the effects of the foreign DNA on your system.

    •  Apparently food labeling wasn’t too complicated for 61 nations to do it.  But saying it’s too difficult to do is yet another smoke screen that opponents against labeling use to confuse voters.