On November 9, 2011, a coalition known as the Committee For the Right to Know, submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the California State Attorney General.
If the coalition gets their way the initiative would require genetically engineered foods (Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs for short) and food containing GMO ingredients to be clearly labeled as containing GMO ingredients.
According to the organization and its supporters, 80% of foods in U.S. grocery stores are made with GMO ingredients. Supporters of labeling genetically engineered foods pointed to polls that show that upwards of 90% of Americans support labeling GMO food.
On February 19, 2012, The Sacramento Bee published an op-ed titled Label this one 'Do Not Touch' by Dan Morain, Senior Editor, which elicited a lot of negative comments. The opinion piece criticizes a big donor of the initiative to label GMO ingredients in California.
When reached by phone Mr. Morain informed me that he’s gotten a lot angry emails with personal attacks and claims that he’s been bought off by Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation that is the leading producer of genetically engineered seed in the U.S. -- a claim that particularly bothers the journalist who has been writing about money in politics for 35 years.
“If Monsanto had donated money-I’d write about that,” said Morain. His issue is more with what he finds to be the “ambiguous” and “ill-worded” nature of the act that he feels could open up farmers and food producers in California to litigation.
One person who doesn’t agree with him is Jere Gettle, owner of the Baker Creek Seed Company and the Petaluma Seed Bank. “It doesn’t affect farmers or fresh produce Just food processed and packaged for sale at the grocery store,” Gettle told me.
For Gettle, supporting the initiative is a no-brainer, "It's too big of an issue not to know what you're eating." Citing the aforementioned polls, Gettle says, “Consumers want to know what they're eating and they'll be able to hold up a can of soup and clearly know whether the ingredients container GMOs.”
He's helping get the word out to Californians by distributing seed packets branded with the LabelGMOs.org website at the Petaluma Seed Bank. To date he’s sent out 60,000 out of the 160,000 seed packets he’s had printed with more planned if there’s enough time.
He may have to print up more. Supporters have until April 22nd to get 800,000 signatures to get the ballot initiative on the 2012 California ballot.
Watch a "Right to Know" Video
Currently, there is no requirement to label GMO foods or ingredients. Do Californians, and all Americans for that matter, have the right to know what's in their food?