Sunday, June 17, 2012


Myths and Facts

About the CA Right to Know Initiative
Not everyone agrees with the idea that consumers have the right to know what’s in our food. Some big corporations reap huge profits from the lack of transparency in our food system. They have spent millions of dollars lobbying to keep Americans in the dark about genetically engineered food, even though this type of food is already labeled in more than 40 other countries.
Why don’t Americans also have the right to know if our food contains genetically engineered ingredients? Opponents claim that labeling would be scary, costly and confusing. This is simply not true. Here are the facts about the opposition’s false claims. 
Cost inventions:  Allegations that labeling genetically engineered food would raise the cost of groceries by “hundreds of dollars” a year are false. There is absolutely no evidence to back up these claims. If the California Right to Know initiative becomes law, there will be no increased cost to consumers. The initiative simply requires adding a little bit of ink to existing labels. Companies have 18 months to comply with the new labeling law, and they typically change their labels within this time period anyway.
Language lies: Claiming that “the language is confusing” is a standard approach of opponents. In this case, the opposition is working hard to convince people that the Right to Know initiative will prevent non-GMO foods, such as canned olives, from being marketed as “natural.” This is false. The initiative applies only to genetically engineered foods. The California Attorney General’s office has already rejected the opposition’s claims that the initiative could be applied to non-GMO foods. The AG’s summary of the ballot initiative clearly states that the initiative applies to genetically engineered foods, not other foods.
National Public Radio partially retracted a blog about this issue after a source retreated from her statements. See: NPR retreats from story about CA Right to Know initiative.
Lawsuit boogeymen: Whipping up fears about trial lawyers is a key strategy of the opposition. Their website claims the initiative will authorize “bounty hunter lawsuits.” This claim is false and makes no sense. The California Right to Know initiative does not allow bounty hunter fees, so there is no economic incentive for lawyers to sue. Furthermore, the labeling law is easy to comply with – it merely requires labeling food that contains genetically engineered ingredients. There is no reason to believe companies will violate the law. Just as they accurately label their food for calories and fat content, companies are likely to disclose genetically engineered ingredients.
Americans can’t handle it? The opposition website opens to a photo of a confused looking elderly gentleman staring at a grocery store shelf. This implication is that American consumers won’t be able to understand labels that include information about genetically engineered ingredients. This is insulting. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered. Several polls indicate that 9 out of 10 voters want mandatory labeling of GMOs (See Mellman 2011, Reuters 2010, Zogby 2012). A recent poll of 500 California adults by San Francisco television station KCBS found that 91% backed labeling.
We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children. It’s time for Californians to have the same rights as consumers in the rest of the world. For more information, see
For more about who is opposing the California Right to Know initaitive, see Meet the Corporate Front Groups Fighting to Make Sure You Can't Know What's in Your Food. Also see this story about the former tobacco lobbyist heading up the opposition effort.

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