Wednesday, October 22, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Labels inform our purchasing decisions

By
From page A6 | April 29, 2014 |

By Belinda Martineau

I have great respect for the science that Kent Bradford and many other plant scientists at UC Davis have dedicated their lives to, including use of the tool of genetic engineering in efforts to understand and improve crop plants.

Genetic engineering is a very powerful biotechnology that is being used to further our understanding of how genes and biochemical pathways work and how plants and other creatures develop and respond to their environments. We still have much to learn about these processes and I support utilizing genetic engineering to help us do so.

Not only a supporter of genetic engineering for research, I was also an early adopter of commercially available genetically engineered foods. I fed GE Flavr Savr tomatoes to my child back when they first hit the market in May 1994. I and other early adopters purchased so many of those tomatoes, despite (because of?) the fact that they were clearly labeled “grown from genetically modified seeds,” that the company producing them — Davis’ own Calgene Inc. — couldn’t keep up with demand.

But not everybody is an early adopter. And some people just don’t like the idea of eating the insecticides produced in some GE foods, no matter how safe they may be for humans. Other people don’t like the fact that vastly more glyphosate is being sprayed on vastly more (tens of millions of acres) of this country because some GE crops — and now many “super” weeds — are impervious to it; nor do they like the ag biotech industry’s solution to this superweed problem … engineering crops to be impervious to additional pesticides that are more noxious than glyphosate.

Still others, for their various other reasons, are simply not as enthusiastic about GE foods as scientists like Dr. Bradford who are using genetic engineering in their own labs.

And this is America. Shouldn’t we all have the right to make our own decisions, based on whatever information we find compelling, about the food we purchase in grocery stores to feed to our families?

I think we should. That’s why I support SB 1381, the bill introduced by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which states that “California consumers have the right to know through labeling, whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering, so they can make informed purchasing decisions.”

What SB 1381 addresses is the downright un-American status quo that denies American citizens the choice to decide for themselves whether to purchase foods produced using a new, powerful but imperfect technology. Consumers in 64 other countries already can make that decision; the food industries in those countries (and in the United States when preparing foods for export) already handle the logistics required to label GE foods; doing the same for foods sold in the good ol’ U. S. of A., should be a slam-dunk.

SB 1381 calls for foods sold in California retail stores to carry simple labels, “genetically engineered” or “produced using genetic engineering” or “partially produced using genetic engineering” — not very different from the one used on Flavr Savr tomatoes, starting in 2016. There is absolutely nothing “misleading” about such labels; and just as the label on Calgene’s GE tomato wasn’t “scary-sounding” or a “de facto warning” these need not be either.

SB 1381 does not call for “forcing products to be repackaged or remade with higher priced ingredients” as suggested by Dr. Bradford and, therefore, the purported increase to the yearly food bill of the average California family is an obfuscation of this issue (just as it was with regard to Proposition 37 in 2012).

Nor is “scientific justification” a prerequisite for food labeling in this country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently requires food producers to include “water” among the ingredients on a food label if water was, in fact, added to the food. Science is also not the issue with Country Of Origin Labels (COOL) now in use in the United States. These labels provide information, not scientific justification, and the labels required by SB 1381 would do the same.

SB 1381 is simply about giving California consumers more information about their potential food purchases and, as Sen. Lois Wolk said about this bill at the state Senate Health Committee meeting last month, there is “nothing wrong with labeling.”

Sen. Wolk went on to make it clear that she does not support “incentives” that could lead to “mischief” (frivolous lawsuits) and has discussed with Sen. Evans ways to limit anyone taking advantage of SB 1381 to cause such mischief. When it came time to vote on the bill, Sen. Wolk commended the language that limits incentives (e.g., “The court shall not award monetary damages” only “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs” to a prevailing plaintiff) and provides an opportunity for “cure” prior to a lawsuit being filed in the first place; thus reassured, Sen. Wolk voted “aye” on SB 1381.

I’m therefore confident that any putative litigious “mischief” associated with this labeling law is being duly anticipated and mitigated by our fine state senators.

The fact that Dr. Bradford defends genetic engineering is certainly understandable. He has dedicated his “entire career to agricultural biotechnology and plant science …” But his defense is misplaced. The evidence does not support his claim that mandating labels on GE foods “would greatly impede the cutting-edge research (he and others) are conducting here at UC Davis …”

Cutting-edge research using genetic engineering, like that being done at UCD, is still being carried out in many (I dare say most) of those 64 countries that now require GE foods to be labeled.

And Calgene’s Flavr Savr tomato, the only example we have of a GE food labeled as such in the United States, doesn’t support Dr. Bradford’s claim that “SB 1381 would effectively ban the sale” of GE foods either. Those tomatoes sold like hotcakes; Bert Gee, the owner of Davis’ State Market, resorted to limiting customers to the purchase of two Flavr Savr tomatoes per day back in 1994.

Perhaps most inventors and scientists are early adopters. But that doesn’t give them the right to force the rest of us to buy their inventions. This is America. The market, composed of individual consumers, is supposed to decide whether a new product is successful or not. In poll after poll, a majority of American consumers indicates they want GE foods labeled, they want to have a choice about whether to purchase these new inventions or not.

Kudos to Sen. Evans for introducing SB 1381 so that Californians might, after the nearly two decades since the GE Flavr Savr tomato was first introduced into commerce, again have that choice.

— Belinda Martineau, Ph.D., of Davis is a former genetic engineer with Calgene Inc.; she writes about agricultural biotechnology and its regulation on her blog: www.biotechsalon.com.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

.

News

Marathon specialist Winter heads to cycling shrine

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
County to fund pilot project for West Sac homeless

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

Pumpkin patch: a favorite tradition every autumn

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Tuesday’s smoky air hailed from Colusa County

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Vandals damage two Woodland schools

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Hearing postponed for man suspected in 7 killings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Canadian soldier shot at war memorial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Heavy metal

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Apply soon to be a Master Gardener

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Terez will perform at Wine’d Down Thursday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Super-fun 5K run will support UCD students

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Davis Arts Center: a call to artists for Holiday Sale Wall of Art

By Erie Vitiello | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Author showcases field biology as he revels in nature

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Entries due Nov. 1 in VFW essay contests

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Teen services grant applications due this week

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Voice of the Wood plans family Halloween show

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Wine-tasting and auction benefit Advanced Treble Choir

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

Garamendi will speak at U.N. Day event

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Kids form a lifelong habit of drinking water

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Farmers Market hosts Fall Festival

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
A Taste of India dinner benefits Davis Community Meals

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Wolk sets ‘Morning with the Mayor’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Volunteers sought to chip in on parks cleanup

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Composting workshop set at Grace Garden

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Setting a good example

By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A5

No-till doesn’t help cold, wet farmlands

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Women and men want the same things in cars … usually

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

California state parks show off fall color

By Kimberly Yarris | From Page: A7

 
October is fall car care month

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Soda bottlers spend big to fight S.F. ban

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A9

 
Railroad work will close Eighth Street

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

Special education information night scheduled

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A9

 
Soroptimists offer ‘Living Your Dream’ grants

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Halloween Carnival planned Oct. 26

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Mondavi Center gift shop plans holiday sale

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Clinton sounding like a candidate in S.F. appearance

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A12

 
.

Forum

Bad business over the phone

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Vote no on Prop. 1, because it’s no solution

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

Slower travel on new stretch

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
David Fitzsimmons cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

Support choruses in schools

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Archer’s the go-to person

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Adams has what we need

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Life vests are a must when rafting

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Sports

UCD women’s soccer postseason hopes flickering

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A typical Blue Devil girls water polo win

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

DHS boys hold off Rio Americano in the pool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Devils are on track for volleyball playoffs after win

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Giants rip Royals in Game 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
AYSO roundup: Local winners have the Eye of the Tiger

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Alliance/Legacy roundup: Italia cruises past Chico

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Fipps earns another preseason hoops award

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Clement ‘George’ Hebert

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Mariana Brumbaugh Henwood

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics