In 2012, Californians may have the opportunity to vote on a grassroots ballot measure requiring food purveyors to label food when it contains genetically-modified organisms, or GMOs. GMOs are organisms that have been genetically engineered to include genes from other organisms. LabelGMOs.org serves as the effort’s hub and represents the grassroots groups leading the charge to give Californians a real choice in what they eat.
For anyone who thinks GMOs are of little importance to daily life, consider this: The United States Department of Agriculture reports that on a national scale, 81-86% of all corn planted area, 88-90% of all soybean planted area and 81-93% of all upland cotton planted area are GMOs (depending on the year). Unless someone chooses to eat and wear strictly organic products, it’s likely everyone has consumed GMOs, either through their diet or by purchasing clothing. The spread of GMO crops is on the rise every year, both nationally and abroad.
The development and use of GMOs in the food system has generated controversy about the environmental and economic risks for decades, some of which are discussed in the documentary “The Future of Food.” Environmental advocates warn that the prevalence of these organisms could harm ecosystems and long-term food supplies, while social watchdogs criticize the ownership of the nation’s seed supply concentrated in the hands of a few corporations – Monsanto, for example.
More recently, studies have pointed to potential long-term hazards of GMOs to human health. On that platform, groups like The Institute for Responsible Technology, The Organic Consumers Union’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign and the National Organization for Women, among others, are poised to support the collection of 800,000 signatures required to get the initiative on the ballot so that every citizen in California can vote on the issue. In fact, the coalition already has more than 50 groups ready for action around the state – and more groups are forming daily. These groups are currently organizing and educating the public on the issue, and anyone can get involved in the effort. Once the initiative’s language is approved by the State of California, organizers will have 150 days to gather signatures (signature gathering will commence early 2012).