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California's GMO initiative is good for producers, consumers

California's GMO initiative is good for producers, consumers

This November, for the first time, California voters may have the chance to vote for the right to know whether the food they buy contains genetically engineered ingredients. The California Right-to-Know ballot initiative is on track to turn in over 850,000 signatures to make the California ballot this fall.

Behind this historic initiative is a broad, growing and powerful coalition of family farms, health, environmental and consumer groups including: Nature's Path, Lundberg Family Farms, Organic Valley, Dr. Bronner's, Eden Foods, American Public Health Association,, Center for Food Safety, Organic Consumers Association, Food Democracy Now!,, Alliance for Natural Health, United Farm Workers, Public Citizen, American Public Health Association, Sierra Club, Consumer Federation of America, California Certified Organic Farmers and scores of others.

An overwhelming majority of Americans—93 percent according to a Reuters poll [PDF]—agree with these businesses and citizen advocacy groups. They want to know what's in their food. This basic right has strong support from across the political spectrum. Fifty countries, including all European Union countries, China and Russia, have labeling laws. Right now, nearly 20 states in the U.S. are considering ballot or legislative initiatives to label foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

The ballot language in California is simple, clear and direct: It requires companies to label foods containing GMOs. It balances the ideal with the practical. There are a series of exemptions to ensure the law is not burdensome on people who are trying to do the right thing. Companies will have 18 months to comply with the new law. 

There will be no added costs for consumers. If a company needs to change their labels to meet the new requirements, they will have a year and a half to incorporate new labeling. Companies typically make labeling adjustments in that time frame.

Clearing up confusion

Last week's newhope360 blog by Hank Schultz attempts to draw parallels to California's Proposition 65—this is incorrect. Unlike Proposition 65, there are no bounty hunter fees for lawyers in the GMO labeling initiative, so there are no incentives for trial lawyers.

It's a long election season ahead, and we're happy to have this opportunity to clarify the facts about this historic initiative. We have the chance right now to give our food system transparency and accountability. Thousands of volunteers across the state of California—many of them mothers and grandmothers who are fired up about this issue more than any other—have been out on the streets gathering signatures in California, and they will be working hard to ensure that our ballot initiative passes on Nov. 6.  

The right to know what's in our food is a fundamental right of a democratic society. We will need everyone's support to be successful. We invite you to be on the right side of history and join with us here to pass this historic ballot initiative.

Stacy Malkan is the media director for the California Right-to-Know ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods. Stacy is the is the co-founder and former media director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, author of an award-winning book and longtime communications strategist for environmental health campaigns. 

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