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Pesticide Action Network

New chance for GE labels in California

The effort to label genetically engineered food is heating up in California again. Legislation recently introduced by State Senator Noreen Evans would require GE labels on any food sold in grocery stores that's been produced using genetically engineered ingredients.

A strong majority of Californians support the idea. Even though the Prop 37 labeling initiative lost, independent polls both before and after the 2012 election showed that 67% of Californians supported the idea of state-mandated GE labels. These same polls found that 21% of all Californians who voted against Prop. 37 actually support mandatory GE labeling.

So what happened back in 2012? The Big 6 pesticide and GE corporations, along with other Big Food and industry front groups, spent over $45 million to defeat the ballot initiative by spreading misinformation — and have spent millions more to defeat labeling in other states. Focusing on advertising and PR campaigns, they repeated false claims widely enough to create confusion and defeat the initiative by a narrow margin.

This new bill — SB 1381 — is clear and straightforward, and aims to give the majority of Californians what they want: clear labels on GE food.

And contrary to what the Big 6 and other opponents profess, labeling GE food will not raise the cost of groceries. Nor will it place an undue burden on food companies. Both Prop 37 and the new bill would ensure companies have 18 months to add GE language to their labels — a time frame in which most companies revise their labels anyway.

It's true. GE crops = more pesticides 

It's no surprise at this point that genetically engineered crops drive up the use of pesticides. They're designed to do just that, to withstand repeated application of specific chemicals so crops can be doused with weedkillers without harming the primary crop. And the corporations that develop and patent herbicide-resistant seeds — the Big 6 — also manufacture the chemicals intended to be used with them. It's a win/win proposition for corporations.

But on the ground, this model of agriculture has real problems.

As we've seen with Monsanto's "RoundUp Ready" seed line, widespread use of the herbicide has resulted in "superweeds" that plague farmers across the country. Industry's answer to this problem? Create new commodity seeds engineered to withstand even stronger herbicides to take down the superweeds. In short: more of the same, only worse.

New GE seeds awaiting USDA approval include Dow's 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy and Monsanto's dicamba-resistant soy and cotton. These chemicals are antiquated, dangerous and prone to drift. Scientists say these new GE seeds will dramatically drive up herbicide use, just as RoundUp Ready crops did. And what's to stop weeds from becoming resistant to these chemicals too? Absolutely nothing.

The Big 6 have a clear business plan, and dramatically driving up pesticide use is a primary component. So, too, is keeping efforts to label GE food at bay to protect the markets for their products.

Time for GE transparency

Sixty-four other countries already require labels on GE foods. In the U.S., Connecticut and Maine passed GE labeling laws in 2012 (with trigger clauses requiring action from other states in the region). And Alaska requires genetically engineered seafood to be labeled.

Still, Monsanto and friends are currently lobbying in Washington, DC to strip states' rights to pass GE labeling laws. This plan would also mandate pre-market approval of new GE foods and would allow companies to market these foods as “natural.”

PAN joins other members of the "Californians for GE Labeling Coalition" in urging state leaders to step up and pass SB 1381 now, before it's too late. We have a right to know what’s in our food and how it's grown, even if corporations like Monsanto want to keep us in the dark.

Take ActionTake action » Are you a California resident? Reach out to your State Senator and let them know you support labeling GE food! Insiders tell us that calls and emails to legislators really do make a difference. The more lawmakers hear from us, the better!

Photo credit: XiXinXing/iStock

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Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

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