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Press Release: California’s “Label GMO” Proves Pro-GMO Camp Wrong

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Darrell Rogers
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California’s “Label GMO” Proves Pro-GMO Camp Wrong

Key Argument of the Pro-GMO Camp Dismantled by New Legal Analysis

July 10, 2012 — A grassroots initiative that will be on the ballot in September promises to give Californians the right to know whether they are consuming foods with genetically engineered ingredients. The rest of the country is watching this legislation carefully, since if California requires such labeling, national food manufacturers will likely use the labels in other states as well.
Proponents of the initiative point to the numerous scientific studies indicating that GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, can cause genetic changes in mammal offspring. “Scientists are seeing birth defects, high infant mortality rates, and sterility in hamsters, rats, and livestock fed genetically engineered soy and corn,(1)” said Gretchen DuBeau, executive and legal director for the Alliance for Natural Health USA.
One of the main charges against the “right to know” initiative, according to the website StopCostlyFoodLabeling.com—the funding for which comes in part from the Council for Biotechnology Information, whose members include Monsanto, Dow, and other GMO companies—is that the initiative would “create…frivolous and costly lawsuits” and would lead to abusive “bounty hunter”–style lawsuits that allow plaintiffs to keep a “bounty” of 25% of civil penalties collected. Critics point to the many abusive lawsuits that were spawned by Proposition 65, a California initiative passed in 1986 that concerns toxic chemicals.
However, a recent legal analysis of the Label GMO initiative has found that it would not in fact spawn frivolous lawsuits the way Prop 65 has.
The paper, authored by noted legal scholar Dr. James C. Cooper, a former Federal Trade Commission official and an adjunct professor of law at George Mason School of Law, found that the Label GMO initiative contains “important differences [which] substantially reduce the potential for Label GMO to foster the type of abusive private litigation associated with Proposition 65.” The paper also determined that the initiative offers California businesses multiple exemptions and greater legal certainty, allows businesses time to cure GMO labeling violations, and does not include the controversial bounty fees found in other California laws.
“The opponents of GMO labeling have been misleading the public and the media,” said DuBeau. “The opposition is playing fast and loose with the truth, and this paper is a wake-up call. Now there’s no excuse for the biotech companies’ misinformation. They are entitled to their own opinions—not their own facts.”
The report’s key findings:

  • Label GMO provides seven years in which producers can gradually reduce the GMO exposure of their products from no more than 5% to zero.
  • So long as food or supplement producers have a sworn statement from their supplier stating that, to the supplier’s best belief, there are no GMO elements in their ingredients, the producer is immune from suit.
  • The producer is also immune from liability if the food is certified organic and certified GMO-free by an independent organization. No doubt it will make sense for food producers to help create an independent certifier.
  • Once a violation has been identified, the producer has 30 days in which to correct it, in which case there is no liability.
  • There is no “bounty” for plaintiffs who initiate lawsuits.

“The Label GMO initiative is very popular with California voters. Opponents know this, and are doing whatever they can to defeat it,” DuBeau noted. “This report soundly disproves one of the opposition’s main arguments, and exposes their campaign’s use of scare tactics.

“It’s all about citizens’ right to know what’s in the food they’re eating,” DuBeau concluded. “Is anything more basic—or reasonable—than that?”
(1) American Academy of Environmental Medicine. “Genetically Modified Foods” position paper.

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About the Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA)
The Alliance for Natural Health USA is part of an international organization dedicated to promoting natural, sustainable healthcare through good science and good law. We protect the right of natural health practitioners to practice, and the right of consumers to choose the healthcare options and treatment modalities they prefer, including complementary and alternative medicine. As a membership-based organization, we unite consumers, practitioners, and industry to speak with a common voice and have worked since 1992 to shift the medical paradigm from an exclusive focus on surgery, drugs and other conventional techniques to an “integrative” approach incorporating food, dietary supplements and lifestyle changes.

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