Most citizens, having better things to worry about, probably were oblivious to the outcome of Proposition 37 on the California ballot in the recent U.S. election. If you didn’t know, the proposition was lost — it proposed that all food containing genetically modified ingredients be labelled as such. The vote result was more a matter of common sense over any actual consumer benefit. Hopefully, this will be the trend in citizen’s perspectives on issues that are nothing more then exercises in political correctness and busybodiness by duplicitous lobby groups.
The American democratic process allows for citizens to vote directly on issues at the ballot box, if the necessary amount of signatures are obtained to get it placed on the ballot. In Canada, such referendums on issues do occur, but usually only at the desecration of the party in power. The American process is true citizen power and has resulted in governments having to do things politicians were not always in favour of — like limiting tax increases. Of course, the side effect is that absurd propositions can be placed on the voting ballot. Proposition 37 was a classic example of such mindless consequences.
For years, self-appointed and self-righteous green and consumer lobby groups have waged a PR war against genetically engineered (GM) crops and food products. Their motives were entirely mercenary and had nothing to do with food safety or any danger to human health that GM might present.
In the 15-year history of humans consuming GM food products, there has not been a single death or illness attributed to GM ingredients. But that reality is but an inconvenient truth to overzealous lobby groups. For them, it’s not a matter of the truth, but what issue they can fearmonger into donations to their organizations — after all, they have budgets to meet.
Such lobby groups in North America have been spectacularly unsuccessful in moving public opinion and governments into placing any restrictions on GM plants, ingredients and food products. But for lobby groups, it’s not the cause that is important, but the ongoing campaign. Getting Proposition 37 on the ballot was the goal, not whether it was passed. In fact, it’s failure was the success — it meant lobby groups could now continue the campaign, with the result being a continued flow of donations into their respective coffers.
The reality is consumers already have a choice whether to buy food products that are free of GM ingredients. So-called organic and all-natural food products take great pride in stating prominently on their labels that they do not contain GM ingredients. One could rightfully assume that if such a claim is not made on a product label, that it might well contain GM ingredients. I think most consumers are intelligent enough to make that assumption.
However, the nefarious presumption of lobby groups is that if consumers were made more aware of what foods contained GM ingredients, they would naturally stop buying those products. Theoretically, that would stop GM crops from being in demand and agricultural production would return to non-GM crops. That approach has worked well in Europe, but then, consumers over there are never given the choice, as consumers are in North America. The consequences for European consumers has been higher-priced food and higher-priced production costs for growers. On the long-term for European food production and consumers, that can’t go on forever. Particularly as more of world food production switches over to the benefits of GM crops.
But such reality does not seem to discourage lobby groups. They will continue their anti-GM battles (after all, that’s what they are paid to do). You can count on more propositions being brought forth in the U.S. at their elections, and continued efforts by lobby groups to instigate gullible (or is it just plain dumb) Canadian MPs to introduce insane bills (hello NDP) to thwart the marketing of GM food products in Canada. However, if the defeat of Proposition 37 in California is any indication, consumers are no longer being fooled by duplicitous lobby groups.