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Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

California Leads the Way on GMO Labeling

GMOs and GMO labeling often lead to heated discussions. The EU has been labeling GM food since 1997 and India will soon begin to do it. In America, although 95 percent of Americans want labeling, food producers fight against it, stating that there is a lack of scientific evidence of harm from GMOs.

When Obama was a Presidential candidate, he even promised that he would push for labeling but his campaign promise has not come to fruition. A survey conducted by the Mellman Group survey found that ninety-three percent of Democrats, 90 percent of independents and 89 percent of Republicans favor GMO labeling. However, the FDA has avoided the labeling issue in this matter and continues to insist that GM food is no different from regular food.

However, a California ballot initiative might override corporate lobbying which, some argue, has influenced the FDA.

A GMO labeling proposition called “The Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” has officially qualified for the November ballot in California. This version will be put directly in front of the voters and The Guardian reports:  

What makes the referendum in California different is that, for the first time, voters and not politicians will be the ones to decide. And this has the food industry worried. Understandably so, since only one in four Americans is convinced that GMOs are “basically safe”

California's ballot initiative system allows citizens to vote directly on policy issues - which makes it a good venue for anti-GMO advocates who want the better labeling consumers demand, regardless of the actual health impacts of GMOs.

Other countries that consume GM food have them in much smaller quantities. In Europe for example only 5 percent of all food is GM. In America however the number is closer to 70 percent - this is mostly corn and soy products, which means that most of America's processed foods have traces of GM ingredients in them.

As people are averse to buying food that has a GM label, Big Ag is vehemently against labeling.

According to The Guardian's Richard Schiffman, the outcome of November's referendum in California will make a huge impact as the state is not only America's leading agricultural state, it is also the most populous state in the nation. He says, "If companies are made to change their labels in California, they may well do so all over the country, rather than maintain a costly two-tier packaging and distribution system."

All in all, if the state of California allows labeling, the rest of the country will follow. California is usually where all the environmental battles are fought and this one will be no different.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotAkhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

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