News & Events

Do you have the right to know? California’s Proposition 37

Posted by: Jeanne Eisenhaure | Posted on: October 26, 2012 | 0 Comments

In the natural foods community, California’s Proposition 37, commonly called CA Right to Know, has been in the news for some time. For those who don’t know, Proposition 37 will require a label for foods that have been genetically engineered. Campaigning for and against Proposition 37 has heated up and battle lines have been drawn. On the pro side we have numerous celebrities, many natural food industry leaders, and noted food voices like Michael Pollan. On the con side we have some major producers of GMO seeds, such as Monsanto and DuPont (financial contributions above $12 million towards defeating Proposition 37), and large food companies such as Pepsi-Co and ConAgra (many of which own natural food brands). As those in the food industry know, California agriculture and food policy has a huge impact on the rest of the country. In his recent New York Times editorial, Michael Pollan suggests that the outcome of this California ballot measure will signal whether or not there is a true “food movement” in the United States. Pollan states, “The fight over labeling G.M. food is not foremost about food safety or environmental harm, legitimate though these questions are. The fight is about the power of Big Food.”

What do those in the natural foods space have to say about Proposition 37? In a recent media call hosted by Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, food manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and others in the natural foods space discussed why they support Proposition 37. Here are a few tidbits from the call:

Andy Berliner, CEO, Amy’s Kitchen, Petaluma, California: “As a food manufacturer in Europe where genetically modified foods are not available, food manufacturing costs have not gone up and in some cases are cheaper. The same products, Coke, Pepsi, Heinz, sell the same products without genetically modified ingredients.”

Arran Stephens, CEO, Nature’s Path: “We export to 40 countries where there are regulations mandating GM labels and have not faced increased costs.” Mr. Stephens muses that he finds it interesting that “the world’s largest junk food conglomerates in the world have joined the chemical and seed giants to spend over $1M a day to defeat Prop 37. It didn’t cost these companies anything to manufacture GM free in Europe.”

Michael Funk, Chairman and Co-Founder, UNFI: “I don’t see any evidence that this will create any burden on the food systems or on the distribution.”

Jimbo Someck, CEO, Jimbo’s … Naturally (four Southern California locations): “I do not believe this will be overly burdensome on manufacturers at all. Manufactures are given 18 months to update their labels; most labels change more frequently than that. I’ve been in this business for 39 years; if I thought there was indeed the possibility for lawsuits I would not be supporting Proposition 37.”

Additionally, there has been concern about how Proposition 37 will affect the ability of processed foods to be labeled as “natural.” According to the September 21 memorandum from Joe Sandler, of Sandler, Reiff, Young & Lamb, P.C., as provided by Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural Marketing: “…the language of Prop. 37 is clear on its face:  the prohibition on labeling a food as ‘natural’ applies only if the subject food ‘is not otherwise exempt from labeling’ as being genetically engineered.  Section 110809.1.”

Want more information?

Yes on Prop 37 No on Prop 37*
Health professionals support CA Right to Know Prop 37 Conflicts with Science
No loopholes Full of special interest loopholes & exemptions
No new bureaucracy More bureaucracy and taxpayer costs
No incentive to sue More lawsuits to enrich trial lawyers
No cost to consumer Higher food costs

*One misleading item from No on Prop 37’s website, right hand side: “Nearly Every Daily Newspaper in California Agrees: No Prop. 37;” however, the articles referenced are mostly from the opinion sections of the papers.


What are your thoughts on Proposition 37? Will this help or hurt Colorado small natural food companies? Comment below.

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