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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 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, 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.

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June Amrhein November 05, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I would be interested to know if research and or studies have been done addressing the high rate of obesity in relation to genetically engineered foods. I read recently that some processing could affect how our food is metabolized within our body. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the article or where I read it, (sorry), but also mentioned was that microwaving could also affect some of our foods in this manner. I feel that this needs to be looked into in this regard as obesity affects the health of many, and is a stopgap to preventive medicine.
Zabe November 05, 2012 at 06:24 PM
8 people is never a very representative sample size.
Cindy Abbott November 05, 2012 at 06:31 PM
A recent posting found online from the League of Conservation Voters: “Any statement suggesting extensive safety testing of all genetically modified crops is absolutely false,” said David Schubert, professor and Laboratory Head Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute. “A majority of the new GM crops coming through the agriculture biotech pipeline have had zero testing done on them,” Schubert said. There's an explanation for the shortage of independent research on genetically engineered foods, of course. As the editors of Scientific American wrote, "(A)gritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers...only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of peer-reviewed journal." ---------------------------------- The legislation doesn't make any claim about the safety of consuming GMOs... it's about a right to know what is in our food. Nor is there any proof that this legislation will cost more (we fortunately already have labelling requirements for food and the food industry didn't go under because of letting us know about trans fats, sugar, protein or other items carried on food labels.) The logic of why a "no" vote is being suggested doesn't play out.
Sandy Dixon November 05, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I have just looked up Prof. Neelima Sinha - seems that she herself is genetically modifying foods.. a very biased opinion if you ask me. Why all the hoopla over a label? The food industry didn't put up this much fuss when they had to start labeling nutrition, where or not nut meats are used on the same equipment - I'll tell you why, because if we consumers were given a choice, most would choose not to buy GM food and the monster Monsanto wouldn't have us to experiment on. YES on 37, we have the right to know
Josh Lang November 05, 2012 at 07:18 PM
U.C. Davis and Riverside, where the 7 biologists work, receive millions of dollars from Monsanto -- the same company that's donated $8M to defeat Prop 37. Many biology professors receive direct checks from Monsanto as well -- one Davis bio-Professor received a $50,000 check "to use at their discretion" from Monsanto. Tell me -- do you think these professors are going to bite their master's hand? Note also that in the 60 countries that have passed GMO labeling laws, Monsanto SUPPORTS GMO labeling, and says it's a good and wise thing to do! You can read for yourself on Monsanto's European website: http://www.monsanto.co.uk/highlights/ads/ad4.html -- "Monsanto fully supports food manufacturers and retailers in their introduction of these labels. We believe you should be aware of all the facts before making a purchase." Finally, the NO on 37 campaign says food prices will go up and law suits will increase. In the 60 countries who have GMO labeling, food prices did NOT go up, and there has been no increase in law suits. Total fabrication.
Jo Tog November 05, 2012 at 07:37 PM
This is to put more privately owned farms out of business for government to takeover. Your grocery bill will go up. I have been eating GMO foods my whole life as so has everybody else and it seem we are healthier and live longer. It is another scam.
Cindy Abbott November 05, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Healthier? When statistics show that nationwide the obesity rate has skyrocketed since the growth of industrial agriculture... high incidences of diabetes... and projections that this generation will not live longer than their parents? The facts don't go along with your statement. Many family and small farms are FOR Proposition 37. Check out the list: http://www.carighttoknow.org/endorsements#farming and remember... all the legislation does is provide a provision for LABELING and letting individuals make their own choices.
The Genetic Gourmet November 05, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I had the most utterly delicious GMO labeled zucchini the other day that I bought at a farmer's market.. Only problem was, after I peeled off the GMO label there was another label underneath it which said that it was a California cucumber. Madness!
hutch November 05, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Yes 8 biologists is not a huge number. How about the American Medical Association? National Academy of Sciences? FDA? And more than 400 scientific studies agree these foods are safe. All major newspapers say No on 37. Every reasonable person knowledgable about bioengineering is against Prop 37. They all think prop 37 is a very bad idea. Or have they all been bought off by Monsanto?
hutch November 05, 2012 at 08:51 PM
But no, you guys listen to a dance instructor. That's who sponsored Prop 37.
Bhatman November 05, 2012 at 09:49 PM
All prop 37 does is help you make an informed choice at the supermarket, you would think the the "I hate government" zombies would be voting for more information to allow for freedom of choice, but as usual they vote against their own best interests. I wonder if there already is a "stupid gene" already spliced into their corn-flakes?
hutch November 05, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Yeah I guess you're smarter than all the editorial boards of every major newspaper in California batman. They all studied prop 37 and recommend voting no.
hutch November 06, 2012 at 03:15 AM
I sugest you read some of the facts before you believe the hype. SF Chronicle says no on 37 "encourages lawsuites" http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Prop-37-is-not-answer-on-food-labeling-3882454.php SJ Mercury No on 37 "bad drafting" http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_21708019/mercury-news-editorial-no-on-prop-37 Oakland Tribune No on 37 "unworkable" http://www.insidebayarea.com/opinion/ci_21328468/ Sacramento Bee No on 37 "shouldn't be on the ballot" http://www.sacbee.com/2012/09/16/4822220/prop-37-is-a-sour-plan-for-food.html LA Times says no on 37 "sloppily written" http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-prop37-20121004,0,2668604.story
Bhatman November 06, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Gee.... I wonder if food processors advertise in newspapers? I wonder how much they rake in for all those coupons? Pass the fruit loops Hutch.
Lionel Emde November 06, 2012 at 07:13 AM
Why is it that 50 other countries already label these ingredients and the USA does not? Could it possibly have something to do with money? Perish the thought.
hutch November 06, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Ill just recycle this...Ok take off the tin foil hat Batman. Everything is a big conspiracy huh? Now Monsanto controls everything. Even me. Maybe they implanted something in you causing you to come up with lame arguments?
hutch November 06, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Lionel 50 other countries also ban homosexuality, the burka and free speech. The problem I see with listing GMF as an ingredient even though it isn't one is panic. People will see it as a government warning aNd stop buying products that fight disease, weather and pests. We grow more than all those counties combined. So our farmers and food supply could be at risk. It's not worth chancing system collapse over something that has never proven dangerous.
David Martinez November 06, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I talked to a biologist that studies and works with genetically modified organisms. She said GMO's have their good points and bad points, but if people want to know what they are eating than GMO's should be labled. She was not influeneced by Monsanto like most UC professors that have a morjoity of thier departments financed by Monsanto.

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