in the use of herbicides and pesticides on genetically altered crops because
of the evolution of insects and "superweeds" -- such as giant ragweed
(Ambrosia trifida) -- resistant to spraying.
"It's all about transparency in food labeling," said Stacy Malkan, a spokesman for California Right to Know, the organizers of the ballot initiative. "The jury is still out on the health effects," she added, noting some studies have suggested links to allergies, organ toxicity and immune system problems.
"Still, I should be able to decide what food I want to buy based on what's in it."
But Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen issued a statement calling Proposition 37 "a poorly written measure" that would mandate "that we provide misleading and confusing information to our customers, unnecessarily increase food costs for California consumers, and it will lead to frivolous lawsuits against businesses while adding new costs for California taxpayers."
The Proposition 37 petition says "genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended consequences. Manipulating genes and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable, and they can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences."
Actually, there isn't any scientific evidence of that, said Mark Guiltinin, a professor of plant molecular biology at Penn State University.
"Billions of meals have been eaten with food that contains genetically altered material," he said noting that farmers have been crossbreeding crops for centuries, and that the "Green Revolution," development of disease and insect-resistant crops between the 1940s and 1970s, enabled "a lot of hungry people in India and Africa to benefit."
While supporters of Proposition 37 call it "a freedom of choice thing," he said "it's going to cost Californians something like $400 each if they want to have these labels."
Actually, how much would it cost consumers? No one really knows. California's Department of Public Health will have to spend a few hundred thousand to more than $1 million annually to enforce the law, depending on which side is talking.
But nationally, people are paying attention to Proposition 37.
Food writer/activist Michael Pollan is among them. "One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a 'food movement' in America worthy of the name -- that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system," Mr. Pollan, whose books include "The Omnivore's Dilemma," wrote in The New York Times last Sunday.
While polls once showed public support for Proposition 37 at 60 percent, those numbers are slipping amid the noisy television and Internet campaign with claims and counterclaims, conspiracy theories, fingerpointing and obfuscating, complete with celebrities on both sides.
Supporters include actor Danny DeVito, rock musician Dave Matthews and comedian Bill Maher. Opponents have Ted Sheely, identified as a "California family farmer," calling Proposition 37 "a complex bureaucratic food labeling proposition ... that would increase costs by billions of dollars."
But most of the confusion seems to be focused not on what would be
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