Behind the curtain of Prop. 37
By Shane Cohn 10/11/2012
The VC Star recently took a shot at its readers, suggesting that they get real and admit they don’t know much about Prop. 37, the initiative that requires the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients (organisms)(GMOs).
The editorial said, “Let’s get real: Only a relative handful of voters are in a position to make an informed decision on such a complicated, technical subject. For that reason and more, The Star recommends voting no on Proposition 37 in the Nov. 6 election.”
One thing I’ve learned in this humbling profession — though Paul Moomjean might advise differently — is never to underestimate or talk down to your readers. They aren’t just simple worker bees with their heads down who can be spoon-fed information without resistance. They are, in fact, an informed bunch and armed to the teeth with information they obtain elsewhere than from local daily and weekly rags.
Those in attendance at the “GMOs: Your Right to Know” forum at Ventura College on Monday, Oct. 8, know exactly what I’m talking about. More than 300 people attended, and the standing-room-only crowd in the Performing Arts Building was a righteous bunch. They whooped and hollered at every mention of labeling genetically modified foods. In the lobby, folks disseminated literature about GMOs and exchanged information about where to learn more about Prop. 37.
I asked one attendee about the possible lawsuits opponents of Prop. 37 are warning about, if it is passes. His response, “GMO risks are far, far greater than small-claims lawsuits against stores, in my opinion.”
That same day, Monsanto, whose GM seeds are used for food production, was found guilty of chemical poisoning in a landmark court case in France, marking the first time a pesticide maker was found guilty of such a poisoning. And just last month, a French study undertaken by the University of Caen, which is being called the most thorough research into the health effects of GM crop foods to date, showed definitive proof linking GMO crops to tumors and organ damage.
This is, in fact, the “Right to Know” campaign. Folks want transparency because, without it, there is no accountability. Just one more line of ink on a label that tells consumers that one or more of the ingredients was genetically modified, just as is done in more than 40 countries around the world.
But that one more line of ink is what opponents of the initiative say is the Trojan Horse. The VC Star’s editorial is nearly identical to the majority of editorials in major newspapers throughout the state, which urge voting against the proposition because it can lead to “shakedown lawsuits” against grocers. If passed, manufacturers and suppliers have 18 months to get their labels in order. Then the California Department of Health will routinely have to inspect stores. If there is a label violation, the product will be pulled from the shelf until it is corrected. If a customer wants to sue a mom-and-pop store owner over a $3 granola bar not being labeled, so be it. This is America. The fact that we’re breathing makes us prone to spineless lawsuits at any time.
Prop. 37 is polling favorably, just over 2-1, according to the Los Angeles Times. If passed, it could mark the systematic undoing of chemical conglomerates monopolizing the food market. Monsanto, Coca-Cola, DuPont, Pepsico, Nestle and DOW Agrisciences are donating millions of dollars to defeat Prop. 37 because they fear that if people are given the right to know what they are consuming, people will buy less of these genetically modified products. A more organic, transparent marketplace will surface, and there is nothing complicated and technical about that.
Editor’s note: This week’s Slapshot is not an endorsement for Prop. 37. The VCReporter’s endorsements will be published on Oct. 25.
Slapshot is a monthly column/op-ed piece on various issues around Ventura County.