I LOVE politics. Election years get me all hot and bothered, and boy oh boy do I love a healthy debate. But I avoid talking politics here on my blog. I know we all have different beliefs and different reasons for those beliefs, and while I love to get into it, I know that there are better places to do so than the blog where I talk about my kid’s pooping habits. Credibility, amirite? If you DO want to get into politics with me, I tend to voice my opinions with a dose of snark and humor on Tumblr, though.
However, I am going to get up on my soapbox about a proposition that was just added to the California ballot, which is labeled Prop 37 and is better known as the California Right to Know Act (find out more at CArighttoknow.org). Basically, if passed this proposition would require that Genetically Modified Organisms (or GMOs) sold for consumption be labeled as such. This includes foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. I mean, 50 countries with over 40% of the world’s population already label GMOs, including China. Sounds simple, no?
But why does it matter?
Labeling GMOs matters because we have a right to know what we’re eating. Sure, there are people who don’t care as long as it tastes good, but let’s not kid ourselves – we know better than to think that ends well. And if you know me, I care deeply about what I put into my body and what I put into my son’s body. I want to know as much about what I’m eating as I can possibly find out. This includes whether or not my food has been genetically engineered, but as of now, that’s not an option available to me.
But hasn’t food been genetically engineered for hundreds of years?
This is where the idea of GMOs gets a little confusing for some people, so let me first define what they are:
Genetically modified foods are plants or meats whose DNA has been artificially altered by introducing genes from other organisms (including plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria) to change or add other genetic qualities to those organisms, such as faster growth, self-produced pesticides, or increased weed killer resistance.
Simply put, no, we have not been genetically engineering foods for hundreds of years. What you’re thinking of is selective breeding.
Selective breeding is the practice of using plants or animals with desirable traits to breed and produce those desired traits in progeny. So let’s say you’re growing a tomato plant and you want the next crop to be bigger. You take seeds from the biggest tomato on the vine and you plant those. The likelihood that you’re going to get a big offspring from a big parent is higher than the likelihood of getting big offspring from little parents. It’s basic genetics.
GMOs are not selectively bred. They are genetically altered in a way that is more like forcing a mutation. Remember in X-Men when the anti-mutant senator is forced to undergo an experimental process by Magneto that turns him into a mutant, from which he later dies by liquifying?
Kinda like that, but not really. It’s a great mental image, though, right?
That’s all fine and good, but why are GMOs a problem?
The thing about GMOs is that we don’t know anything about them. Any food can be genetically engineered and not only do we not know it’s a GMO, but we don’t know if its genetic alterations produce traits that weren’t previously present, such as new allergens or toxicants. Even if we could recognize that there was something causing health problems, we wouldn’t necessarily know what it is specifically because GMOs aren’t labeled, and thus are not specifically identifiable.
Okay. But wouldn’t this be expensive?
The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act should have no cost impact on consumers or food producers. The companies that package foods will have to add these disclosures to their labels. Knowing the world of marketing and branding and knowing that this issue has made it to the ballot, companies are probably already planning for this. Companies change packaging all the time, and for most of them, this packaging switch will already be prepared, whether this initiative passes or not.
Or at least the smart ones will.
So how do I get involved?
- You can join the initiative by signing up here.
- You can keep up with and show support for the initiative on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest
- You can label tweets that talk about GMOs with the hashtags #CARightToKnow, #LabelGMOs, and now #YesOn37
- You can vote for this initiative on November 6th, because you’ll be voting then anyway, right?
Now go out and do some good! See you at the polls.