Pamm Larry, the self-described “grandmother from Chico” who jump-started the initiative last year, successfully rallied a coalition of consumer groups behind the Label GMOs campaign (LabelGMOs.org), including the Organic Consumers Association and Food & Water Watch. Businesses offered their support early on, including long-time practitioners of healthy food such as Nature’s Path and Lundberg Family Farms. A few celebrity activists in the alternative health and non-GMO arenas, such as Jeffrey Smith and Dr. Mercola jumped on the bandwagon. Through a decentralized structure of local chapters staffed with volunteers, the 560,000 required signatures (and some) were gathered on time for the California Right to Know Initiative to qualify last June for the November ballot. This week, several Hollywood celebrities endorsed Prop 37 in this video:
About 9 Americans out of 10 are in favor of labeling GMO-containing foods, according to a 2010 poll conducted by Reuters Thompson (see also this poll conducted by MSNBC last year: 96 percent of over 45,000 respondents answered “yes” to the question “Do you believe genetically modified foods should be labeled?”).
In 2007, candidate Obama had spoken in favor of it “because Americans have a right to know what they’re buying.” That was before President Obama appointed Monsanto’s ex-VP of public policy Michael Taylor as the deputy commissioner for foods (read: food safety czar) at the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Some 50 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and the European Union, already have strict GMO labeling requirements.
So what’s with the heated debate? For the sake of making sense of the confusing whirl of opinions, I stepped back and took on the reasonable assumption that truth is never black and white, and that no side has an absolute monopoly on truth and light. Here’s what I’ve come to understand: