Why California Prop 37 Matters To Us All – Even Here In Idaho

There is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it is produced. But sentiment is not the same thing as a political movement, which is capable of influencing politicians and moving concerns onto the national agenda.
California’s Proposition 37, which would require that genetically modified foods carry a label, has the potential to change the politics of food not just in California but nationally. What is at stake with Prop 37 is not just the fate of genetically modified crops but the politically-recognized public’s confidence in the industrial food industry.
Monsanto and its allies have fought the labeling of genetically modified food vigorously since 1992, when the industry managed to persuade the Food and Drug Administration — over the objection of its own scientists — that the new crops were “substantially equivalent” to the old and so did not need to be labeled or regulated. This represented a breathtaking exercise of political power (the FDA policy was co-written by a lawyer whose former firm worked for Monsanto).
Until now, the whole food movement has grown via changing sentiments. Big Food’s grip on Washington has not been challenged. But, next month in California, a few million people will vote on a food issue. Prop 37 has ignited precisely the kind of debate — about the risks and benefits of genetically modified food; about transparency and the consumer’s right to know — that Monsanto and its allies have managed to stifle in Washington for nearly two decades. If Prop 37 passes, and polls suggest its chances are good, then that debate will most likely go national and a new nationwide, political dynamic will be set in motion.


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