12:00pm | That's right: if California were a country, our economy would be in of the world's Top Ten.
This fact helps underline how much impact a statewide economic initiative like "the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act of 2012," a great idea with an unwieldy name.
How much genetically-engineered food are we eating? According to the Huffington Post, "It's estimated that 75 percent of the processed foods on supermarket shelves in the U.S. contain genetically engineered ingredients. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. corn, 94 percent of soybeans and 93 percent of canola are presently grown with genetically engineered seeds."1
Passing the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act would be a societal plus, if for no other reason than we should get to know what we're eating (knowledge that individuals may employ as we see fit). But considering that organizations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have expressed concerns about the safety of genetically-modified foodstuffs -- "[R]espected experts argue that some genetically engineered crops may also pose serious health and environmental risks,"2 says the UCS's Doug Gurian-Sherman -- the least food producers should be required to do if they're going to profit from this potential danger is give us a chance to avoid it.
You may not be shocked to find out that leading the pack of corporations that will end up pouring millions of dollars into a campaign against this initiative (since we all know the truth will be bad for business) is the Monsanto Company, which supplies the technology behind 90 percent of the genetically-modified crops in the world.3
Survey Monsanto's press clippings over the past decade, and it's hard not to feel this is a pretty evil corporation.4 They sue farmers for replanting seeds that naturally result from crops born of Monsanto's genetically-modified seeds. They sue farmers when those seeds contaminate a farmer's field without his knowledge. They have fudged research on some of their products.5 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has dubbed Monsanto "potentially responsible" for environmental contamination at over 50 Superfund sites. The title of a 2008 Vanity Fair exposé sums it up nicely: "Monsanto's Harvest of Fear."
But it seems to me Monsanto would be worth boycotting simply for its resistance against a law requiring that the public be provided with information on what we're eating, because disliking the outcome of transparency is no reason to lobby against it. Monsanto is free to put its considerable PR department to work on "educating" the public that genetically-modified foodstuffs are innocuous (or I should say: free to do so providing they don't fudge facts in the name of profit). But I don't believe Monsanto should be in the business of inhibiting your right to make an informed decision about what you put into your body.
So I encourage you not only to vote Yes on "the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," but also to boycott Monsanto products. The picture accompanying this article -- a picture that is making its rounds on the Web -- should help you in that pursuit.
Hey, there are some products on this list that I use(d), too. But no one said acting on conscience is always convenient.
2 See, for example, this 2009 study published in the International Journal of Biological Studies, which concludes , "Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system."
3 See http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/monsanto_movie080307/.
4 For an overview, see http://organicconsumers.org/monsanto/index.cfm.
For your boycotting pleasure, a list of Monsanto-owned and Monsanto-related companies.