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Do You Have the Right to Know What’s in Your Food?

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Do You Have the Right to Know What’s in Your Food?As election time draws near, one of the proposals in the upcoming California state ballot is Proposition 37, also known as the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, which requires companies to report whether their products contain any genetically modified ingredients. If passed, Prop 37 would make California the first state in the nation to have food manufacturers change the way information is listed on the nutrition facts labels on food products. The ruling will not affect supplement facts labels on dietary supplements, which are generally stricter than regular food items.

New Label Requirements Will Create Greater Transparency

Proponents of Prop 37 say that the new label guidelines will create more honesty in the food industry, separating truly organic food manufacturers from companies claiming to be organic, but who use processed or genetically modified ingredients. Organic food consumers expect higher standards from the products they purchase and the new labeling requirements are designed to create greater transparency between the manufacturer and consumer, so people know exactly what they’re paying for. To date, organic producers have raised around $2.8 million to push greater awareness for Prop 37. By contrast, opposition against Prop 37 has been raised by companies including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nestle, and Monsanto, which have raised almost $25 million to push their agenda. These companies claim that the new labeling measures may mislead consumers into thinking that genetically modified foods are somehow inferior or unhealthy when compared to organic foods, creating an unfair competitive advantage. They also argue that in the long-run, food prices will go up. Although Prop 37 will only require changes to labels of food for sale in California, many manufacturers will be unable to produce custom labels just for California sale, so the new label format may make its way out of state.

What Does This Mean to Consumers?

Other countries such as Japan, China, and some European nations already label their genetically modified foods. Also, about 40-70% of food already sold in California grocery stores contains genetically modified ingredients. The California Right to Know group, which is leading the pro-labeling initiative, argues that Prop 37 merely seeks to inform consumers so they can make their own food choices when more information is made available to them. To our readers in California: The decision is yours when the polls open in November.

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