Prop 37: Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods. Will We Be Better Off If We Don’t Eat Them?

by John Lawrence

Proposition 37 requires labeling foods you buy in the supermarket as GMO foods if they contain genetically modified ingredients. It also prevents labeling GMO foods as “natural.” Some foods can be exempted from the GMO label such as otherwise organic foods that have been unintentionally cross-pollinated from GMO crops. And Prop 37 does not require labeling at restaurants and in particular fast food restaurants – just the places that you can probably expect to be served GMO foods.

Stanford University released a study recently which claimed that there is little if any nutritional difference between organic and non-organic foods. While there may be little nutritional difference, that’s not the point. There may be a huge toxicity difference. Non-organics and especially GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides so that while organic soy and corn products may differ little nutritionally from non-organics such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy, the toxicity spread might be truly appalling.

Consider that Monsanto’s GMO soy or Roundup Ready soy seeds have been specifically developed to withstand a spraying with Monsanto’s herbicide and pesticide, Roundup. Roundup will kill every other plant in the field except Roundup Ready soy plants. So while nutritionally Roundup Ready soy may be the same as organic soy, it sure isn’t the same with respect to the toxicity it has been exposed to. Organic soy plants have not been sprayed with Roundup or any other herbicide or pesticide.

Organic farms have been certified as such by certifying agents hired by the Department of Agriculture. They are not government employees, and they are paid by the farmers whose farms they inspect. Ninety certifying agents are currently USDA-accredited and authorized to certify operations to the USDA organic standards. Of these, 49 are based in the U.S. and 41 are based in foreign countries. They must do an on-site inspection on an annual basis including testing the soil.

It is important that the regulations involving organic certification are not watered down and that there is no corruption among certifying agents. If anything standards should be strengthened and more agents hired. Also the standards of what’s considered organic must be upheld. As large corporations get involved, they will undoubtedly lobby to water down the definition of organic. Watchdog groups need to get involved. Already some 30 synthetic substances are allowed under the organic definition. There are thousands of them in non-organic foods.

Labeling of GMO foods as required by Prop 37, therefore, is an important aspect of your being in charge of your family’s health. You should be able to know what’s in the food you’re eating. If you’re eating a GMO food, the probability is that you’re also eating pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives and synthetic fertilizers including sewer sludge.

If you’re eating a food labeled “USDA organic,” 95% of the ingredients in that food must be organic. If the label says “100% organic” then there are absolutely no GMO ingredients, nor are there pesticides, herbicides, or other synthetic ingredients. No synthetic fertilizers have been used on crops either. And there are no hormones or antibiotics in animal products.

Many children have food allergies. Shouldn’t their families have the right to know what’s in the foods they eat so they can avoid the pesticides, hormones etc that might be causing those allergies?

Take the case of LaDonna Redmond. When her son was born six years ago with severe food allergies, she sought out pesticide-free produce and additive-free meat. But it wasn’t available in her neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. There was only one major supermarket  and most of the available food was fast food and processed food which led to high rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension in the community. So she began growing vegetables in her backyard, a project that has expanded to six vacant lots.

In 2004 they grew 40,000 pounds of produce. After her son started to eat the healthy organic produce, it wasn’t long before his health returned to normal. Chicago is home to an estimated 70,000 vacant parcels of land. There is no reason why all of these parcels could not be farmed organicly. As an added bonus, money from these crops would remain in the local community and not be shipped out to large corporate coffers.

Look at who the largest donors are that are spending money to defeat Prop 37: Monsanto, DuPont, Dow (all chemical companies who manufacture pesticides and herbicides), and then processed food companies such as Pepsi, Coke, Kellog, General Mills, Del Monte etc. Enough said. The status quo of American manufactured industrial food processors doesn’t want you to know what’s in the food you eat because it would reduce their profits and lower their stock valuations.

On the other side with far smaller purses are an osteopath who lives in Chicago, Organic Consumers Fund, Nature’s Path Foods,OrganicValley and Lundberg Family Farms. Their individual contributions are much less than the $7 million Monsanto has ponied up.

The passage of Prop 37 will go a long way towards increasing the consumption of organic foods as people flee from the purchase of foods with the GMO label. This will transform the American food markets. Already the big food corporations are setting up organic food divisions as the American people become more aware and concerned about ingesting foods that have been genetically modified in order that they can be heavily sprayed with products known to cause cancer.


John Lawrence

John Lawrence graduated from Georgia Tech, Stanford and University of California at San Diego. While at UCSD, he was one of the original writer/workers on the San Diego Free Press in the late 1960s. He founded the San Diego Jazz Society in 1984 which had grants from the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and presented both local and nationally known jazz artists. His website is Social Choice and Beyond which exemplifies his interest in Economic Democracy. His book is East West Synthesis. He also blogs at Will Blog For Food. He can be reached at


  1. avatarJEC says

    The only issue I have with Prop 37 is that it doesn’t go far enough. Michael Hiltzik business columnist for the LA Times penned a piece a week ago arguing that Prop 37 lacked adequate science – “Scant science” read the headline. True? Not true – there is a growing mound of studies – from other countries of course. The results of these studies are solid enough for Kaiser Permanente to spread the word through their Wellness Center. GMO soy has been implicated in slow growth rates and poor muscle development in children and poor sperm to the point of infertility in men. Over 15% of American males are now functionally infertile – why? GMO tomatoes caused stomach lesions and were squashed. If Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times is correct, the available science is incomplete and therefor inadequate for making good decisions, like labeling a food product. GMO’s are now allowed to risk our eco-system; our food supply without the adequate science – one way or the other. So, we play god by re-arranging biology in pursuit of profits based on “Scant Science” and like a nude photo on the internet, once in our system these GMO’s and their consequences are forever.

    • avatar says

      Yes, Prop 37 does not go far enough because restaurants are not required to label GMO foods on their menus. You can assume that, even at the fanciest restaurants, you are eating GMO foods unless the foods are specifically labeled organic. Consciousness of the foods we are eating needs to be raised at restaurants as well as supermarkets. Of course this would kill McDonald’s and Jack in the Box, but it would create opportunities for somebody else.

  2. avatarJeff says

    Stanford’s study was funded by same crooks who tried to exonerate tobacco smoke as a cause of cancer. Can you trust them? Also, the study lasted just two years. Not nearly enough time to notice any differences

    Who knows what the damage of many years of use is? We are seeing it now with kids having ADHD and autism at rates never seen before, Girls starting puberty at age 7 from bovine growth hormone laden dairy products, need I go on?

  3. avatarDiana McAnulty says

    GMO’s have been banned in other countries. GMO’s should be banned in the USA as well. The health and well-being of the nation is of vital importance and should not be placed at risk.