By Greg Cahill
THE RECENT DRIVE to garner 413,000 signatures to qualify the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Ballot Initiative for the November state election fell far short of its goal. Organizer Bob Cannard and a cadre of volunteers collected just 100,000 signatures in the 150 days allowed under state law. Cannard plans to reassess the effort, which would have required manufacturers and retailers to label GMO products, and may take another shot at it.
Last month, the federal Food and Drug Agency released its long-awaited recommendations on GMOs–Cannard was one of hundreds who spoke at a series of four public hearings held nationwide by the FDA. The decision: The FDA will not require food-safety testing or additional labeling of GMO products.
Meanwhile, Cannard reports several “hopeful signs” in the campaign to inform consumers about their food sources. State Sen. Tom Hayden has introduced a GMO labeling bill in the California Legislature, Rep. Lynn Woolsey is co-sponsoring a similar bill in Congress, and Sen. Barbara Boxer has followed suit. Cannard urges voters to write to legislators and support those bills.
In the corporate world, concern about consumer backlash has led fast-food giant McDonald’s to stop using GMO potatoes for its french fries, and Frito-Lay has instructed contract farmers not to grow genetically engineered corn for the company’s chips.
Further information about the biotech debate and Cannard’s organizing efforts is available at www.calrighttoknow.org.
From the May 25-31, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.