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California May Lead the Way for More Food Labeling

On November 6, Californians will decide whether or not genetically engineered food should require labeling. If passed, Proposition 37 would require any raw or processed food made from genetically altered plant or animal ingredients to be labeled as such beginning July 1, 2014.

The GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling for raw food products, like corn, would be labeled as “Genetically Engineered.” Processed foods, such as baby cereals, would be labeled with a “Partially Produced With Genetic Engineering,” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” label. The initiative would prohibit foods with any genetically engineered or modified product from being labeled as “natural.” The Department of Public Health would be responsible for enforcing all labeling.

However, there are a number of food products that would be excluded from such labeling. Meat, even from animals fed with genetically modified feed would be excluded from the GMO labeling, as well as dairy products, eggs, and alcohol.

Genetically engineered food has been on market shelves for a long while. Since 1996 the percentage of genetically engineered crops grown in the United States has increased to 25%, including 35% of all corn, 55% of all soybeans, and nearly half of all the cotton. More than half of all food products in grocery stores contain genetically engineered ingredients but may not been labeled in any way to inform the consumer. More than 40 countries, including China and India, already require GMO labeling.

Supporters of the proposition claim that consumers have the right to know what is in their food. They also claim that little is known about the health or environmental consequences of genetically modifying an organism’s genome in order to produce some desired result, such as improving a plant’s resistance to pests.

Opponents claims that the regulation would require more, and costly, monitoring and that consumers would have fewer and more expensive choices at the grocery store.

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