Proposition 37: Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food


From your neighborhood grocery store to your local farmer's market, chances are you've come across food that has been genetically modified. But how would you know? Proposition 37 could provide some answers.

Christopher Nyerges manages a weekly farmer's market in Glendale. He supports the initiative. It would require labels on certain foods that are genetically modified or contain genetically altered material.

"I would rather just have the option to know, which is all this law is doing is giving you as a consumer the right to know what's in your food," said Nyerges.

But some opponents of Prop. 37 say they have a very specific reason for opposing the measure. They say it will have a significant impact on a consumer's pocketbook.

"Proposition 37 is deceptive and is also very costly," said Ray Martinez, the owner of La Playa Market in Lennox.

Martinez says in order to comply with the law, he will need to research the background of the thousands of products that he sells in his store.

"The record keeping and the re-labeling alone is going to drive the cost to consumer tremendously," said Martinez.

Among other things, Prop. 37 would prohibit any food that uses genetically altered ingredients from labeling itself as natural. But cheese, meat, alcohol and food in restaurants would be exempt from the labeling requirement.

"This is not a ban, this is basically giving consumers the right to know what they're eating and what they're buying and feeding their families," said Zuri Allen, spokeswoman for California Right to Know.

Martinez says retailers who unknowingly sell products that aren't properly labeled could be sued by people looking to cash in on the initiative. And he says small businesses are the most vulnerable.

But supporters of Prop. 37 say their opponents are simply using scare tactics. And they say Californians have always paved the way for the rest of the country when it comes to food labeling.

"We collected nearly a million signatures to get this onto the ballot," said Allen. "That's why California is so great. We can lead the way."

But opponents say Prop. 37 is ambiguous and unnecessary.

"It does nothing for the consumer other than to put a burden on their grocery bill," said Martinez.

The general election is on November 6, 2012. Your vote can help decide many important issues for California. Over the next few weeks, Eyewitness News will focus on the propositions on the November ballot.

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