Proposition 37: Farm groups oppose food labels
Between the large-scale farmers on the valley floor in Yuba and Sutter counties and the small, organic farms dotting the region, agricultural interest is high for Proposition 37 on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The measure would require labeling on any food product made using genetically modified organisms, such as plants modified to have greater resistance to herbicides.
While consumer groups said such labels simply provide information shoppers should know, opposition to the measure stems from the belief those labels suggest something sinister about such foods and would hurt farms as a result.
"We believe that the misleading Proposition 37 will unnecessarily raise food costs, hurt small businesses and farmers, create frivolous lawsuits and saddle California with more bureaucracy and red tape," the No on 37 campaign states on its website.
Genetically modified organisms have been on sale since 1994, and most uses of them today are in plants grown in large quantities, such as corn, rice and soybeans. The ballot measure would not only require labels on such foods, but bar marketing them as "natural."
Supporters of the measure include the state Democratic Party and various nutrition and environmental groups, while opponents include members of the California Farm Bureau Federation, California Small Business Association and the National Academy of Sciences.
Several large food companies, including Pepsi, General Mills and Del Monte Foods, have contributed to the opposition campaign, which has collected far more than the supporting campaign.
Bryan Dozzi, a Dobbins resident who collected signatures to place Proposition 37 on the ballot, said he became involved because he worried about his modest, organic garden he grows to share with neighbors. He said he discovered Hopi blue corn was best suited to growing in the foothills. But if seeds from genetically modified corn growing in the valley blew his way, he said, his corn could be affected.
"I started this because I wanted corn I share with community members to be free of contaminants that hurt them when they eat them," said Dozzi, who estimates he collected between 1,000 and 2,000 signatures from foothills residents to get Proposition 37 on the ballot.
Dozzi said he would go beyond the proposition and stop any new genetically modified organisms from being added to the food supply. He said studies suggest eating the organisms can cause negative health effects. He pointed out such products are already banned in other countries.
But opponents of Proposition 37 dismiss those studies, saying numerous studies have found no negative health effects from such organisms.
The opposition also points to numerous exemptions to the labeling as compromising the proposition's intent. Among them are dairy items, meat and alcoholic beverages.
Still, if the proposition's "no" forces are to succeed, they've got some work to do.
With less than six weeks until Election Day, Proposition 37 is supported by 61 percent of registered voters and opposed by 25 percent, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. An additional 14 percent were undecided or refused to answer.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.