Proposition 37 *Web Exclusive*

The issue of genetically modified organisms may prompt Oswego consumers to think about food choices and the importance of knowing the healthy properties of edible products.

Proposition 37, a new regulation was proposed in California requesting to place labels on genetically modified foods, failed to pass after not receiving enough votes. Effects of similar laws, however, may be felt nationwide, since most foods are shipped regionally and nationally, according to an article published in USA TODAY.

Kestutis Bendinskas, professor in the chemistry department at Oswego State, said that labeling all genetically modified food is beneficial for consumers, who will be able to better know the properties of the food they buy.

He noted that about 70 percent of today’s products are already genetically modified, and labels are not likely to change eating habits, since millions of poor people simply cannot afford buying only organic foods.

Eric Mena, the manager of the local Green Planet Grocery pointed out the financial factor. He said the label would affect food choices, but mostly to the extent of basic awareness. The prices of organic products would still be too high for an average consumer. His store, he mentioned, has a base of regular customers and, even though, new clients appear from time to time, the shop is not easily affordable for every customer.

Mena added that in the area around Oswego, people already tend to search for products marked as organic. He said non-organic and genetically modified foods are hot topics, since either the use of pesticides with herbicides or application of various genes does make the food consumable, but its nutritional properties remain doubtful.

According to Bendinskas, even though genetically modified products are generally associated with unhealthy traits, they are not scientifically proven to be harmful to human health in any way. It turns out there are simply no scientific publications on this topic.

“However, it is still quite unreasonable to consume foods that are not entirely known,” Bendinskas added.

Adam Hammer, an Oswego State student, said that the importance of public knowledge about nutrition cannot be overestimated.

“People must know exactly what they consume, especially, in light of emergence of modern infectious diseases,” Hammer said.

As for the practical spread of California’s Proposition 37, Mena said he hoped other states will support similar regulations because overall. It could at least raise awareness of genetically modified organisms and overall food choices. “Nowadays, more people, than before, look into the food’s quality, but still not everybody knows what GMOs are and, in part, it is our responsibility to educate them,” Mena explained.

Mena added that he hopes that if the law expands, it could prompt people in smaller communities to think of the reasons for which organic products are expensive and not very abundant. He pointed out the difficulties of producing entirely natural foods. The process, he explained, is not only labor-intensive but also very expensive. In order to stick a label on a jar with naturally grown vegetables, for example, producers must receive necessary certificates and pass many tests set by visiting companies that ensure the appropriate quality of foods.

As a result, for small farm owners it is cheaper to spray their crops with pesticides or genetic modifications.

Meanwhile, Bendinskas noted that the national spread of the similar regulations to Proposition 37 is not likely to change any social patterns in smaller communities of the United States, because apart from financial factors, the amount of organic food will not increase in its proportion to non-organic or genetically altered products.

“Constant production of GM foods is inevitable, otherwise it will be impossible to feed the world, since organically produced food cannot satisfy the needs of the increasing world population,” Bendinskas said.

Prior to Proposition 37 failing, several attempts to pass mandatory labeling in a few states had failed.