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

Patch contacted eight biologists at California universities to get their opinion on Prop. 37, which would make labeling genetically modified food mandatory. Seven of the 8 urged a 'no' vote.


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 Tuesday's ballot, would make California the first state in the union to require that certain plant or animal products for sale 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 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 e-mail. "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 percent."

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 choices," 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.


Be sure to check out Patch's 2012 Election Guide for our archive of articles on this year's election issues.


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Jim Somers November 06, 2012 at 03:20 PM
If you have not been raised in a tribal environment, and hunt and/or forage for your sustenance, or you eat ONLY wild, line-caught fish and nothing else, then you have never eaten anything but GMO food. EVERYTHING you have ever eaten is a GMO hybrid. It has been so for all of your life, and your parents' life. The only difference is that, instead of laboriously cross-breeding plants over the course of many years, science can do the same thing in the lab in a radically shortened time.
Cool Arrow November 06, 2012 at 04:39 PM
So Patch fails to provide the background on why these Biologist choose not to label genetically engineered foods. For instance, Alan McHughen makes money from researching and creating GE foods. http://www.gmfreecymru.org/documents/mchughen.html
Philippe November 06, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Yeah ... I fail to see why labeling GMO food would make non GMO food more expensive. Can one of the No advocate present a convincing story. And how do we know if folks care? An uninformed person cannot make a decision. Once a person is educated then a choice can be made. That starts with indicating that there is a difference between GMO and non GMO. More special interests at work ...
David Airey November 06, 2012 at 05:53 PM
So let me see - we want to know if GMO foods are good for us. Who should we ask? I know, lets go talk to the folks who made them - they must know, right? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??! How about we look somewhere else, like maybe The American Academy of Environmental Medicine: http://aaemonline.org/gmopost.html As you can see on their website, there are studies which show the detrimental effect of GMO foods on animals. The two main backers of the 'No on 37' campaign are Monsanto and DuPont - the folks who told us that DDT and Agent Orange were safe, and who are responsible for the great majority of genetically modified crops. Now why would they be so keen to hide from us the great work that they're doing? Check out this short video from the Yes on 37 Campaign. (yes, they have a bias, but the questions they pose in this video are entirely reasonable and worthy of consideration) : http://www.carighttoknow.org/4questions?utm_campaign=zackkaldveer&recruiter_id=95898&utm_medium=email&utm_source=prop37 Oh, and before I go - @Jim Somers - I beg to differ - over millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of human genetic intervention, highly toxic man-made pesticides somehow never managed to get genetically spliced into my food before, or fish genes into my tomatoes for that matter. Does it really not strike you as at least questionable that they are now?
Reality Check November 07, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Patch is really not very smart, it seems. Dumb "poll" stories. Dumb headlines followed by stories that don't deliver the goods, or are poorly researched, lame and could have been phoned in by any Jr. High School journalism student.


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