Tag Archives: california

Why I Support Prop 37 – the GMO Labeling Proposition in California

There’s a proposition on California’s ballot on Tuesday that is an easy Yes for me. It’s Proposition 37, which would require foods with genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. There’s so much information on labels already that this seems a simple thing. But when you’re going up against companies that don’t want to face the chance of consumer bias against their products, nothing is that simple.

No on 37 Is Deceptive

I found this article on the deceptive ads by No on 37 very interesting. They’re being deceptive about the FDA’s position on the matter, cost claims, and have made misleading statements on the exemptions provided for in the law. Read the whole thing, follow through on the interesting links there, don’t just take my word for it.

Their claim about grocery bills increasing by $400 is rather deceptive too. It’s not that food prices would be directly increased. It’s that opponents believe consumers will insist on higher priced ingredients rather than buying products with GMO ingredients, and so manufacturers might have to change what’s in their products and raise prices.

Frankly, if that’s what consumers prefer, then they’ll choose the higher prices. That’s a choice, not a requirement of the law. I don’t have a problem with people choosing to pay more if they mistrust the ingredients. Personally, and I have nothing to back this up except personal experience, I think most people will ignore such labeling anyhow. How many people are going to switch away from Pepsi just for finding that the high fructose corn syrup may come from genetically modified corn?

All that aside, a study by Joanna Shepherd Bailey, Ph.D., a tenured professor at Emory University School of Law expects that there will be no increased cost to consumers. (PDF) I suspect that claim has more to do with the industry’s general resistance to new labeling requirements, even though changing labels is done regularly and isn’t a major expense.

Research on GMOs is Limited

Producers like to claim that they’ve properly tested GMO foods before sending them to market. That would be nice, but companies have a lot of control over any research done on GM foods. According to Scientific American, licensing agreements forbid research on genetically modified seeds, unless the company agrees to it. They then also get to decide whether or not the results may be published.

That isn’t just a food safety issue, although that’s what’s relevant when talking about Prop 37. It means that it’s harder for other scientists to prove whether or not the genetically modified seeds perform as claimed.

If the companies making GMOs really want proof that their products are safe and more productive, why don’t they welcome outside research?

Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe?

When it comes to the safety of genetically modified foods for human consumption, I’ll stick with the World Health Organization’s view – it’s impossible to state yes or no categorically. Some might be, some might not be. So why not let consumers decide if they want to take that chance?

There have been some controversial studies which suggest that some types are not safe to eat.  Seems clear to me that more study is indicated. If they’re so safe, there’s little to be lost. If not, well, I’d sure like to know that too.

You may also enjoy reading some of the summaries on Pubmed, although you won’t always be able to get the full text without proper credentials. Try Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice and A comparison of the effects of three GM corn varieties on mammalian health. There’s more, but due to restrictions on research on GMOs, it’s hard to find. Personally, I’d like more long term studies proving that GMOs are safe.

Is the Proposition Poorly Written?

This is one of the big claims of the No on 37 folks. I don’t think it’s all that complex – I’ve read it myself. You can do so too – here’s a copy through KCET, or you can download the PDF from the California Voter’s Guide website. I also really appreciate KCET’s listing of supportors and opponents of Prop 37. It’s really not surprising, on the whole.

There’s not much time before the election, but I hope this article gives at least some people some perspective on this subject so they can come to a decision.

April Showers Bring… Snow? In Southern California!

It was a strange weekend. It was supposed to be my kids’ first soccer game. That got snowed out.

We had some warning of the weird weather, but none of the parents believed me when I insisted that the games would be canceled. They said the league only cancels games for thunderstorms. Well, ice, snow, and temperatures below 40 degrees F at game time turned out to be quite sufficient to cancel as well. Good thing, since we wouldn’t have let the kids play in those temperatures anyhow. Soccer uniforms aren’t too good for that, and I can’t imagine parents sitting around watching a game in such cold weather.

I’ve come to regret thinking so much about how soccer was going to go, however. I completely forgot to consider my garden, so now we’re waiting to see what survived the cold.

So far the tomatoes look all right. The peppers looked bad with the snow on the, but might survive after all. Both are in containers, so we should have brought them in to be sure they’d be all right. We’ve done that before. It’s probably a good thing we don’t have any other vegetables planted quite yet.

We’ve been cracking a few climate change jokes. We know that climate change is a long term, global phenomenon, but when local weather gets so strange, jokes are easy to make. A bit over a week ago, we had temperatures up to 90. Makes the snow feel so much colder when you aren’t used to it anymore. And this week we may get into the 80s again, depending on how the weather really goes. The whole winter was on the unusual side, with days of pouring rain in December to where we got the usual for an entire year that week, then a dry January, and just a lot of ups and downs with the temperatures.

Now we’re just waiting for summer. Everyone I talk to is convinced it’s going to be a really hot summer. We’ll have to see how it goes.

Get Out to Vote Today

I’ll be heading out shortly to vote today. I’m in California, and we have some really important issues on the ballot to deal with… most to say “no” to.

Prop 23 is an easy no. It suspends recent environmental policies until California’s unemployment rate remains under 5% for a given length of time, a year as I recall. Only thing is that even in good times, our unemployment rate is rarely that low. It’s funded by oil companies. One guess why they want Prop 23 to pass!

Prop 26 is another easy no. They’re trying to claim it’s about taxes, but it’s really about fining companies who pollute, to make them pay for cleaning up their own messes, or rather an attempt to allow companies to avoid those fines.

Prop 19’s an interesting one. I’m for marijuana legalization, even though I’d never use it. I don’t smoke or drink either. What I’m not certain of is that this one is the right way to go about it. It looks like the rules could get a little convoluted with all the regions able to set their own policies. If it fails, I want it to be a close thing, and for a better version to be on next year’s ballot.

Then there are the politicians running for office. On the big races, none of them make me happy, but I’m going Democratic because they make me less unhappy than their Republican opponents. Sometimes that’s what it comes down to.

Is Big Oil Going After California’s Climate Legislation?

Quick answer, yes, Big Oil is targeting California’s climate legislation. Proposition 23 would cause California to only enforce it’s Global Warming Solutions Act when unemployment is under 5.5% for four consecutive quarters.

That doesn’t sound that bad until you understand that unemployment has only been that low three times since 1970.

Worse, as the article at Grist points out,  the clean energy law has created more jobs than it has damaged. Claiming that green energy solutions damage job creation is a common tactic used to make people think that it’s not something we can afford to do right now.

Funny, I always thought that new technology meant opportunity. Opportunity for individuals to get jobs and for new businesses to grow. Jobs are being created as new technologies become available and improve.

Of course, this isn’t about other businesses. This is about the oil companies protecting their profits. What happens to the rest of us doesn’t matter.

This is where it becomes important to pay attention to who is sponsoring a proposition, or any commercials supporting it. You can learn a lot here in California about what to vote for just by who’s trying to pass or defeat a proposition.

Keep an eye on this one. I expect some really nasty advertising to come around trying to pass Prop 23 in the coming months. I hope my fellow Californians don’t fall for it.

Is it Reasonable to Expect that Southern Californians Keep a Green Lawn?

In Orange, CA, there’s a couple who has been charged for not having at least 40% of their yard covered by live landscaping. They had taken the lawn out and replaced it with wood chips to save on water. Many would consider this to be a brilliant move in a drought prone area.

Not the city of Orange, however. They’re charging the homeowner with a misdemeanor. City codes require that 40% coverage. Even his attempt at putting in drought tolerant plants after their first complaint hasn’t been enough to satisfy the city.

Frankly, I find this ridiculous. Southern California is highly prone to droughts, and the situation in recent years has been bad enough for many areas to institute rules about when you can and cannot water your yards. Anyone who finds something other than a lawn to put in is exhibiting good sense in such an area.

This is one city that needs to take a good look at what that requirement really means and if it is reasonable in this day and age. California has been suffering from years of drought, and even the occasional wet year isn’t enough to make up for the many dry ones.

Even the Rockies, where California gets much of its water has been having drought problems.

I wonder what Orange would think if instead of wood chips they had put in one of those artificial lawns. Odds are that no one would have noticed. The yard would have looked nice and green.

That doesn’t mean that artificial lawns are better than wood chips. It just point up the ridiculousness of assuming that you can tell right away.

It’s time for Californians in general, and especially southern Californians to recognize that they need to reconsider lawns. Cities need to figure out water saving landscaping guidelines, and scrap old ones that discourage people from putting in wood chips or other drought tolerant landscaping features.

The same goes for homeowner’s associations. Many neighborhoods have homeowner’s associations do much the same thing, where all homes must have a green lawn. It’s a poor requirement in this day and age for the area.

It would be better for cities to give classes on how to beautifully landscape a yard in ways that use less water. Encouraging homeowners to think beyond lawns would help with water shortages and encourage greater variety in how yards are landscaped.

I would love for this case to be the first step in challenging the law in Orange that requires a particular amount of live planting in yards. We Californians really need to think about our water use. It is not a reasonable expectation that we have green lawns here.