Family farmers, grocers, food companies and small businesses have all come together to form a grassroots coalition against a proposed ballot initiative that would impose extreme and costly food labeling requirements throughout the state of California. The measure in question has yet to qualify for the ballot, but if it does, critics contend that costs would not only be higher for consumers but also for the family farmers, food producers and grocers who form a vital industry in our economy. Proponents of the proposed measure want all food products that contain “genetically engineered” ingredients to feature a label on the package.
However, opponents point out that this poorly written law is completely unnecessary when one realizes that the majority of packaged food and beverage products contain some GE ingredients, as modern genetic engineering (GE) techniques have been used to develop improved varieties of corn, soybeans, fruits and other foods that grow faster, are more resistant to pests, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, thereby enhancing nutritional and health benefits. Essentially, tens of thousands of products would be affected by the proposed initiative, which would force those in the food industry to navigate a complex process and hamper the competitive edge businesses need to survive.
At a time when the state is struggling economically, the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Initiative is touting the findings of the LAO, which concluded the initiative would cost taxpayers millions of dollars in monitoring, enforcement, and lawsuit costs. And the price of food would also be impacted and some estimates suggest that an average family could face hundreds of dollars per year in higher food costs.
For more about the campaign against the food labeling initiative, see here.
In around 40-plus other countries -- including all of Europe, Japan, China, Russia, Brazil – companies are forced to label food products if they contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. An initiative campaign is underway here in California in order to force the same standards in our local supermarkets. LabelGMOs.org is the group behind the campaign initiative and the SoCal director of the organization, Stacey Hall, commented the following:
“The GMO labeling initiative is a grassroots effort to try and get genetically engineered organisms in our food labeled so that we have choices as to whether or not we eat it. […] They won't let us do it here, so we are taking matters into our own hands and trying to create the right to choose what we feed our families and educate the public so the public can make educated decisions, basically.”
The deadline is fast approaching for the initiative to qualify, as April 22 is when signatures must be submitted. There is much controversy and debate over the health effects and safety of genetically modified food. The Daily News reports that “The FDA does not conduct studies on the possible health effects of GMOs because, as FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey says, they don't have the resources.”
After the uproar over “pink slime” in ground beef products in stores across the country, Americans and particularly Californians may be extra sensitive to food issues and therefore all the more eager to approve this initiative.
The campaign's website can be seen here.
One particular initiative that will have a prominent position in the upcoming election battles is a proposal to curb the political power of unions. Opposing sides are already preparing by filling their war chests. Unions are looking to defeat the initiative because employee payroll deductions would not be able to fund political action committees. While corporations would also be affected by the initiative, unions in particular would be impacted because they rely on payroll deductions to fund campaigns. In addition, labor groups and corporations would no longer be able to directly contribute to a candidate. The competing campaigns are expected to engage in a multimillion-dollar battle.
The Bee reports on some of the funding that has flooded to the pro-side of the equation:
“Stop Special Interest Money Now has recieved $460,000 in donations since Jan. 1 to support the measure, according to California Secretary of State filings (embedded after the jump). Of that, $200,000 came from Californians Against Special Interests. That group, in turn, is backed with money from Charles T. Munger Jr. and others. Munger is a son of Charles Munger, the billionaire vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.”
As we move closer to the June and November elections, it may prove useful to get a refresher on the terms that will continue to make headlines. What’s the difference between an initiative and a referendum? What is the process to qualify a measure? Luckily KCET News has done the legwork for you in a column than can be thought of as Elections 101. Here is an excerpt:
“What is a proposition?
"Proposition" is a blanket term for any ballot measure to be voted on by the people. It can be an initiative or a referendum.
What is an initiative?
An initiative is a brand new law or constitutional amendment proposed and voted on by the people. It is a law initiated by the people.
In California, we use the direct initiative process, which means a petition with the required number of signatures automatically qualifies for the ballot. Some states allow only indirect initiatives, in which a measure that receives the necessary signatures moves next to the legislature for further action.
What is a referendum?
A referendum is a vote by the people to approve or reject an existing law.
A referendum can be triggered in one of two ways. First, the legislature can send a proposed bill directly to the people instead of deciding on it themselves. In other words, a referendum occurs when a law is referred to the people. In this case, it is called a legislative referendum. In California and most other states, constitutional amendments automatically trigger a referendum, since they require the direct approval of the people to pass.
Nothing in life is free, but some high school seniors are calling for an initiative that would make university tuition free for full-time, in-state students who maintain a 2.7 GPA in college or perform 70 hours of community service each year. So how exactly would this proposal be funded? That’s the not-so-free part, as the young proponents suggest that raising income taxes would pay for the tuition and people earning more than $250,000 would be stuck with the bill. The students at Oakland Unity High School got the idea for the initiative from a class project that they decided to make a reality….or at least attempt to make it happen. The whole issue seems more like a media campaign to raise awareness about tuition costs because even the students have acknowledged they are unlikely to find little momentum for qualifying for the ballot. They have only collected around 2,000 signatures and around one million are necessary.
Southern CA Public Radio reports:
“The students maintain that they want to restore the tuition-free education policy the state Legislature embraced in 1960 when it adopted the California Master Plan for Higher Education. The total cost, however, would be $2.8 billion. ‘We certainly have an issue in California in terms of college affordability,’ said Linda De Angelo, of UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. ‘This coming year will be the first year that students will be putting in more for their educations than the state.’”
The student campaigners do have a website up and running so you can check out their arguments or sign a petition here.
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