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Survey: Biologists Say 'No' on GMO Labels Proposition 37

Patch contacted eight biologists at California universities to get their opinion on Proposition 37. Seven of the eight urged a 'no' vote on the measure.

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 with an email survey to more than 25 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 who has written extensively on GMO food issues and been involved in government panels on how to regulate them, 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.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a link to the publishing record of one of the biologists quoted above.

Rebecca Tait November 06, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring talks of how universities and so-called learned professionals encouraged pesticides and other evil crap for MONEY. 60 countries have already said yes to 37, we are so far behind even third world countries banned them.
Dvera Saxton November 06, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Seriously, Patch. Interviewing University scientists is not going to get you a very representative sample considering MANY are funded by biotech companies now. This is not good journalism. Why didn't you seek out scientists who would urge a YES vote, too ?
Jennifer Squires November 06, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Here's an opposing view. http://scottsvalley.patch.com/blog_posts/vote-yes-on-prop-37-label-gmos
Amy November 06, 2012 at 07:11 AM
Not suprising as many universities are receiving funding from biotech companies. I would have liked to see a more balanced and in depth article on this. The title itself is misleading.
Marina Gagne November 06, 2012 at 08:53 PM
How seriously disappointing to see this. So last minute too -- Just a misleading headline with little time to reply to the misinformation and biased opinions of these few professors. And their talking points are so insulting! The poor don't care about labeling??? How could you publish this as if it has some merit? Your headline is so misleading -- for goodness sake, you only collected a sad 8 out of 25 responses from these professors! Every medical/science professional I've spoken to (doctors, dieticians, teachers) seems to agree with labeling. I had come to expect more from Patch. I'm truly saddened. I will be voting Yes on 37. Oh, and the research Sinha refers to is mostly sponsored by the companies that produce GE food -- No bias there, right?

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