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Survey: Biologists Say 'No' on GMO Labels Proposition 37

Patch contacted eight biologists at California universities to get their opinion on Proposition 37. Seven of the eight urged a 'no' vote on the measure.

A group of eight biology professors from throughout the site asked to weigh in on the state proposition that would label genetically modified food overwhelmingly urged a 'no' vote for the measure.

Proposition 37, which is on the ballot on Tuesday, would make California the first state in the union to require that certain plant or animal products sold be labeled if its genetic material has been modified. The law would also make it illegal for food companies to label genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, as “natural.”

To get a scientific perspective on the issue, Patch reached out with an email survey to more than 25 professors across the state with a background in biology or genetics to ask them how they would suggest Californians vote.  Of the eight professors who responded, seven told Patch they would urge a 'no' vote.

Neelima Sinha, a professor of plant biology at the University of California, Davis wrote that she was suggesting a 'no' vote because scientific research has not shown GMOs are unsafe to consume.

"GM food is no more safe or unsafe than anything else we eat," Sinha wrote in an email. "In fact most outbreaks of food poisoning have been from non-GM but poorly stored or treated food.  Much of what we consume is already GM – all cheeses, many drugs."

Alan McHughen, a plant biotechnologist and professor at the University of California, Riverside who has written extensively on GMO food issues and been involved in government panels on how to regulate them, suggested that the measure will impose more costs on low-income citizens.

"There’s no question Prop 37 will cost a lot of money, and only serve the purpose of satisfying the curiosity of a few," McHughen wrote. "Why should poor people pay more for food when they don’t care about the label?  It’s all about the majority paying more for food to satisfy the curiosity of the 1%"

However, De Anza College biologist Judy Cuff-Alvarado, the lone respondent to urge a 'yes' vote, said she does not buy the argument that the measure will raise the cost of food.

"Consumers need to know what they are eating and have informed choice," Cuff-Alvarado wrote. "I do not believe the argument that this is going to drive prices up dramatically.  Just look at the European model.  They're doing fine."

According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis, since GMOs entered the U.S. market in 1996, a vast majority of corn and soybean grown in the United States is genetically modified. According to some estimates, 40 percent to 70 percent of food found in grocery stores is genetically engineered.

A September USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that more than 60 percent of Californians support Prop. 37.

Related:

Prop. 37: Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Denoted in Labels?

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a link to the publishing record of one of the biologists quoted above.

Ivan G November 06, 2012 at 10:33 PM
If people wanted foods that were free of GMOs, then manufacturers and retailers would label them as such, in order to be able to charge more.
Lorraine Pozniak November 06, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Poor people buy whatever they can afford to eat to survive. I've ALREADY SEEN food labeled as containing GMOs, and it's the kind of stuff you find at 99 cents stores. Speaking of paranoia, next they'll be trying to feed us human remains...SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!!!
Ivan G November 06, 2012 at 10:47 PM
How California’s GMO Labeling Law Could Limit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/06/22/how-california%E2%80%99s-gmo-labeling-law-could-limit-your-food-choices-and-hurt-the-poor/
Carlos C November 06, 2012 at 10:58 PM
How would they know if they were GMO in the first place if they're not labeled? People can't demand something that they know nothing about. Why do 61 countries already have labeling and not us? There's been a complete blackout for years until now. The cat is out of the bag now and MonSatan is panicking. If we don't win this time, at least a whole lot more people know about this poison-food. The number of enlightened citizens will continue to grow and we'll know if our food is GMO just like they do in the EU, China (China!!!? WTH) and Russia (yes Russia, wow) sooner or later.
ROBERT E. FISHBACK December 10, 2012 at 11:05 PM
OK..My vote for most intelligent post goes to navigio who said; "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress" I bet Morsi believes that ....As for GMO.....tastes Ok, but now my hemorhoids glow in the dark.

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