Keeping GMOs Hidden Costs Millions

If like many Californians, or members of the European Union, you think labeling genetically modified foods (GMOs) is a reasonable request, biotech giants are here to tell you you're wrong. And they're spending millions of dollars to do so.

This week a new campaign finance report reveals that major food companies like Monsanto, PepsiCo and ConAgra are combining their sizeable financial power to defeat California's Proposition 37 — the first-ever statewide initiative to label GMOs.

The biggest player, Monsanto, has contributed $4.2 million of the $25 million spent to defeat the proposition.

The NO on 37 campaign website claims, "Prop 37 is a deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme that would add more government bureaucracy and taxpayer costs, create new frivolous lawsuits, and increase food costs by billions — without providing any health or safety benefits."

California's "Right to Know" movement counters, "The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act will have no cost impact on consumers or food producers. It simply adds a label to genetically engineered food. Companies change their labeling all the time."

If California voters pass the GMO labeling legislation in November, processed foods containing genetically engineered ingredients would have to be labeled as such by 2014.

The biotech and processed food companies behind these products are eager to avoid this move, which they fear may cause consumers to question the safety of genetically engineered food, despite the fact that the FDA has approved it.

The Right to Know website says the health risks are "unclear," but the movement ultimately places more emphasis on transparency than health. Its supporters maintain that consumers should know if GMOs are present in their food — a practice that is already standard in the EU and many countries around the world.

Currently 70 to 80 percent of processed food sold in the U.S. contains genetically engineered ingredients (such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets). Considering that Californians eat a sizeable portion of food sold in the U.S. (about 12%) it's no wonder that biotech companies are resisting any initiative that could potentially make the sale of GMOs more difficult. The fact that alcohol, eggs, dairy and most meat would be exempt from labeling is undoubtedly of little consolation to the biotech industry.

Media director of Right to Know, Stacy Malkan, summing up the controversy, telling the AP, "It's an epic food fight between the pesticide companies and consumers who want to know what's in their food."

Which leads us to ask you the question: Do you think Genetically Modified foods should be labeled in the United States? Sound off in the comments below.

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