GMO Labeling Wars: Battlefield California

Come November, California will vote on an initiative that would require labeling of foods that contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Since the news broke last week that the Right to Know initiative will officially be on the ballot, there has been much speculation over how corporations would handle this potentially industry-wide PR issue should the law be passed (if the recent Kashi/GMO soy scandal is any indicator, it could get pretty ugly).

Stacy Malkan, spokesperson for the Right to Know campaign, told Organic Connections Magazine, “This initiative is pretty simple. It’s about our fundamental right to make informed choices about the food we eat and feed our families.” And Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms in the Sacramento Valley was quoted as saying, “More than 40 other countries—including all of Europe, Japan and even China—label genetically engineered food. Californians deserve to be able to make informed choices too.”

And California is likely just the beginning.

As concerns about possible health risks of consuming GMOs and outrage over lack of transparency in labeling continue to grow, other states may follow suit (similar bills have been proposed in over a dozen states, but C.A. is the first to get one on their ballot).

The U.S. is one of only a few developed countries that do not already require labeling of genetically engineered food. In fact, roughly 80 percent of our processed foods contain some sort of GMO ingredients, and are allowed to boast labels like, “all natural,””naturally derived,” “naturally flavored,”etc. You can read a detailed New York Times article about the GMO labeling wars here.

While some people are taking control by using their purchasing power to buy organic foods and those labeled “Non-GMO Project Verified,” others are going beyond petitioning government agencies and corporations to require transparent labeling, and are taking matters into their own hands (literally).

The Label it Yourself movement is inspiring some to do exactly what their name would indicate — label GMO-containing foods themselves, drive-by style. On the Label it Yourself website, it says that the movement is a “decentralized, autonomous grassroots campaign born out of our broken food system.” It encourages people to “autonomously label GMOs and empower others to do so, rescue words like ‘All Natural’ and ‘Natural Flavors’ from being hijacked, expose unfair labor practices.”

There is no denying the power of consumers beginning to demand something on a large scale (with laws, movements, and their pocketbooks), and the far-reaching implications of how those demands are dealt with by governments and corporations alike.

So is it too soon to declare the stealthy shoppers slapping GMO labels on ketchup bottles modern day tea partiers and California a hotbed of revolution? Possibly. But heads-up, food industry giants: I’m pretty sure the King disregarded those pesky tea-spilling Bostonians as a ragtag group of rebels who stood no chance against the vastness of his empire…and look where that got him.