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Member Statement on CA Proposition Ballot 37

MEA retiree Josie Hill has written the following statement regarding upcoming California Ballot Proposition 37. She worked as a chemist for the City of San Diego for more than 2 decades and retired in 2005. Josie is both knowledgeable and passionate about the issue and MEA was happy to pass on her statement regarding the ballot proposition.

Labeling our foods’ ingredients is an American tradition. Such labeling laws have been in place in our culture for many years. These laws have empowered American consumers to have a choice about the foods they consume and ingredients in personal products they use. It gives transparency to promote honesty for consumers to choose freely and intelligently what they wished to allow in their lives. A true label stands for honesty. Proper labeling has been such a good idea that the concept and practice has spread worldwide to other countries. Scientists, like myself, were taught, not only the skills of their calling, but also taught about integrity and accuracy in our laboratory work and reports. The precision of mathematics and unfettered truths in our reports were our guidelines.

At some point, the commercial chemical companies confused the waters of accepted standardized nomenclature by creating brand names for ingredients on their labels. As one who has a scientific background, I was in the habit of identifying brand names as to their general classifications so that even though I did not have access to the total formula due to patent laws, I could figure out the general properties of a substance which knowledge generally satisfied me.

When I first heard about genetically modified organisms (GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) substances, I was enthralled with this new technique; it held the promise of doing great good. But as I dug deeper into the study of it, I discovered that the science is a two-edged sword. Lab tests, particularly on food effects and consistency, seemed to be lacking in rigorous testing in both animal and human test subjects. Because of this, some people refused to consume foods containing GMO products. The chemical companies just responded by consistently creating new brand names to hide the GMO source of their foods so that consumers would not likely be able to follow the changed labeling brand names.

Ironically, 50 foreign countries around the world now have clear labeling laws of GMO’s so that their citizens now have the knowledge that gives them the true freedom of choice about their foods. Passage of CA proposition #37 on the November 2012 ballot with a YES vote would require identifying GMO or GE on labels of processed foods sold over the counter and raw produce in the produce section of stores and markets. It does not involve GMO ingredients in medicines or pharmaceuticals, nor does it affect restaurants’ foods served to the public. The individual who has no concern or interest in GMO food still has the choice to continue ignoring labels, and enjoying foods as they have always done.

California Proposition #37, a non-partisan issue, is simple and direct in wording; no hidden riders, no hidden agenda. And it does not affect ongoing research into GMO ingredients; it simply identifies it in food for the ordinary layman consumer to either use it or ignore the label. I personally would be interested in doing research on GMO within the guidelines of safe and honest research.

Josie Hill