Question and Answer interview with Ken and Melanie Light on their book Valley of Shadows and Dreams.

California will be the battleground state for GMO food labeling in November

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The debate over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) is heating up in California and across the nation. According to a recent New York Times article, more than twelve states are proposing bills that would require the labeling of food containing GMO's. The biggest battle is slated to take place in California, where the organization California Right to Know announced that they collected "971,126 signatures for the state's first-ever ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods." The article in the New York Times states that "tens of millions of dollars are expected to be spent on the election showdown" in California.

According to the California Right to Know 2012 Ballot Initiative official website: "The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act is simple: The initiative would require food sold in retail outlets such as grocery stores (not including restaurants) to be labeled if it is produced with genetic engineering. In addition to this disclosure, genetically engineered foods are prohibited from being advertised as 'natural.'"

However, the fight over the ballot initiative in November may not be so simple. A recent blog post on "The Salt," National Public Radio's (NPR) food blog, suggests that the legislation may cause more confusion than clarity for Californians. "A new analysis of the labeling initiative suggests that if it passes, it would create a complex mandate for food companies that may make it harder — not easier — for consumers to figure out what's really in their food. That's because the initiative muddies the definition of a "natural" food."

In May of 1992, U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle announced that genetically modified foods would be regulated the same as foods produced by more conventional techniques. This established the U.S. Government's official stance on the issue, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has continued to hold the same opinion on GMO's throughout the years. According to its website, the FDA "has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding."

Dr. Vandana Shiva an environmental activist from Delhi, India provides another perspective on the issue of GMO's. In the video below from Ripe for Change, she "reveals what drove her to becoming an activist was attending the first meeting of the biotechnology industry where they set up the World Trade Organization and treaties were created to force third world countries replace traditional agriculture systems with mono-culture and GMO’s. How the patenting of life has boosted the application of genetic engineering in agriculture, leading to ecological contamination and the prosecution of farmers whose crops become contaminated. That California and genetically engineered foods have a long history beginning with the FLAVR SAVR tomato. The FLAVR SAVR tomato was the first genetically engineered crop product to be commercialized and California was where it was farmed. It was the first genetically engineered crop to fail. Mendocino County was the first county in the US to prohibit GMO’s."

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