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Survey: Biologists Say No to GMO Labels

Eight California professors weigh in.

A group of eight biology professors from throughout the site asked to weigh in on the state proposition that would label genetically modified food overwhelmingly urged a 'no' vote for the measure.

Proposition 37, which is on the ballot on Tuesday, would make California the first state in the union to require that certain plant or animal products sold be labeled if its genetic material has been modified. The law would also make it illegal for food companies to label genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, as “natural.”

To get a scientific perspective on the issue, Patch reached out to professors across the state with a background in biology or genetics to ask them how they would suggest Californians vote.  Of the eight professors who responded, seven told Patch they would urge a 'no' vote.

Neelima Sinha, a professor of plant biology at the University of California, Davis wrote that she was suggesting a 'no' vote because scientific research has not shown GMOs are unsafe to consume.

"GM food is no more safe or unsafe than anything else we eat," Sinha wrote in an email. "In fact most outbreaks of food poisoning have been from non-GM but poorly stored or treated food.  Much of what we consume is already GM – all cheeses, many drugs."

Alan McHughen, a plant biotechnologist and professor at the University of California, Riverside, suggested that the measure will impose more costs on low-income citizens.

"There’s no question Prop 37 will cost a lot of money, and only serve the purpose of satisfying the curiosity of a few," McHughen wrote. "Why should poor people pay more for food when they don’t care about the label?  It’s all about the majority paying more for food to satisfy the curiosity of the 1%"

However, De Anza College biologist Judy Cuff-Alvarado, the lone respondent to urge a 'yes' vote, said she does not buy the argument that the measure will raise the cost of food.

"Consumers need to know what they are eating and have informed choice," Cuff-Alvarado wrote. "I do not believe the argument that this is going to drive prices up dramatically.  Just look at the European model.  They're doing fine."

According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis, since GMOs entered the U.S. market in 1996, a vast majority of corn and soybean grown in the United States is genetically modified. According to some estimates, 40 percent to 70 percent of food found in grocery stores is genetically engineered.

A September USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that more than 60 percent of Californians support Prop. 37.

Do you?

William Olkowski November 05, 2012 at 07:35 PM
These professors are a selected sample and cannot be considered to reflect a consensus nor even an adequate sample. Many of those who believe a no vote is best are in the pay of the Monsantoes, or think like they do that gmo products are safe when they have not read nor considered the existing scientific evidence. The argument that labelling will be too costly is pure nonsense, for example, we label dairy foods and they have not been driven from the market from excessive expenses. Genetic engineering is not an exact science and the regulatory systems have been tainted by the GOP governeents hell bent on reducing regulation when what we need is better regulation. Just look at the simultaneous use of the same antibiotics on humans and domestic animals, an issue that has been resolved in Europe but here continues to cause problems of resistance. Professors are not immune from industrial bias. Saying something is safe is not the same as proving it. Meanwhile indications of serious problems are surfacing repeatedly, see Jeffrey Smith's book Genetic Roulette. William OLkowski, Phd, wo1615@gmail.com
John Sceptic November 05, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Funny how both Neelima Sinha and Alan McHughen have ties to Monsanto...

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