Do You Want To Know If Your Food Has Genetically Modified Ingredients?

There are different kinds of consumers out there. There are those who want to know everything there is to know about what they’re eating, and those who basically don’t want to know how their sausage is made. Californians in the first group of consumers saw their hopes dashed during last night’s election, where a voters defeated a proposition that would make it the law of the land to alert consumers by way of a label if food contained genetically modified ingredients.

We take it for granted that we can glance at a food’s list of ingredients and immediately see what it’s made up of, and how many calories or grams of sugar are in it. But it wasn’t always that way, until the law said so.

Supporters of Proposition 37 wanted to make genetically modified ingredient labels just as much of a legal requirement, but 53.1 % of voters in California said otherwise.

Opponents — who blitzed voters with anti-Proposition 37 ads in the days leading up to the vote — said it wasn’t about hiding anything, but that requiring food to bear such labels would cost consumers more in the grocery aisle.

“California voters clearly saw through Proposition 37 and rejected higher food costs, more lawsuits and more bureaucracy,” said Henry I. Miller, a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution think tank and a key spokesman for the No campaign on its television spots told the Los Angeles Times.

Proponents of the measure are obviously pretty bummed that it didn’t go through, including our esteemed colleagues at Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

“Californians and all Americans deserve the right to know what’s in their food,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. “Unfortunately, Proposition 37 was defeated by a wildly deceptive smear campaign financed by Monsanto, DuPont, and other industry opponents of the public’s right to know. In the end, opponents of Proposition 37 didn’t want Californians to be able to make informed decisions about whether to buy food that had been genetically engineered.”

Those in favor of labeling genetically engineered food aren’t taking the vote’s results as a total loss, however:

“Proposition 37 placed the issue of GE [genetically engineered] food labeling front and center and took critical steps forward in heightening the discussion and raising the profile to make labeling and transparency around our food a reality for the nation,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, a national advocacy group.

To be sure, plenty of people also fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes of consumers, between staying educated and staying blithely unaware. It makes us wonder if knowing a food has been genetically modified in any way would impact someone’s decision to purchase that product or if we’d rather stay in the dark, like in the days before ingredient lists.

California voters say no labeling genetically engineered food [Los Angeles Times]