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Tuesday, Oct 16 2012 11:00 PM

PAUL TOWERS: Californians must be allowed to know what's in their food

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    Paul Towers

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In a few weeks, California voters will decide a question that impacts our lives every day: Who gets to choose what's in our food? Do we the people have the right to select what we eat and feed our families? Or should we leave it up to the world's largest pesticide companies to make those decisions for us?

A "yes" vote on Proposition 37, the California Right to Know initiative, is a vote for our right to know what's in our food.

The overwhelming majority of people in California and across the nation say genetically engineered foods should be labeled. Also called GMOs, these foods are created by forcing the genetic material from one species into the DNA of another species, in ways that don't occur in nature.

Concerned about the health risks of GMOs, the huge increases in pesticide use, the genetic contamination of organic farms and other problems associated with GMOs, millions of Americans have lobbied the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state governments to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods -- labels that 50 other countries already require.

Yet despite this groundswell of support, and despite 20 years of effort by America's most respected food safety organizations, our government has refused to label genetically engineered food because of the enormous influence of Monsanto and the pesticide industry.

Those same pesticide companies are now spending tens of millions of dollars on a cynical, dishonest ad campaign to confuse voters about Prop. 37. The dishonesty and lack of integrity of the anti-consumer No on 37 campaign was exposed at the outset, when they were forced to yank their first television ad off the air because it misrepresented Stanford University.

The ad was reshot and put back on TV, but its credibility problems keep getting worse. Every hour of every day, television viewers across the state heard Henry Miller making false statements about Prop. 37.

Who is Henry Miller? Although emails from the No on 37 campaign touted him as a trusted scientific source that people should believe over their friends and families, Miller has a long history of making dubious scientific claims and opposing the public interest -- for example, defending the tobacco industry's claims that cigarettes aren't harmful, arguing to dismantle FDA's drug safety assessment system, and campaigning to bring back the notoriously toxic pesticide DDT.

Miller epitomizes the lack of credibility of the campaign against our right to know what's in our food. Who are they going to trot out next -- the president of the Flat Earth Society?

The only honest thing about the No on 37 ads is the disclaimer at the bottom that tells us who's funding this campaign of deception: Monsanto and DuPont, the same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe.

When you hear their stories that labeling will increase costs or mobilize "shakedown" lawyers, please consider the source and look into the facts. Food costs didn't go up in any of the other countries that implemented GMO labeling, and they won't go up here; and the only people getting "shaken down" with lawsuits are the thousands of farmers that Monsanto is suing for patent violations after Monsanto's GMO seeds drifted accidentally into their fields.

The decision about Prop. 37 comes down to who should we trust -- the special interests that have lied to us before, or the nation's leading health, faith, labor and consumer groups?

Stand together with the American Public Health Association, the California Council of Churches, United Farm Workers, Consumers Union, Public Citizen, the Center for Food Safety and more than 2,000 other organizations that are saying yes on 37; and the millions of moms, dads and consumer advocates who are demanding the right to know what's in our food.

Join the people's movement at www.Yeson37.org for our right to know what's in our food. Please vote yes on Proposition 37 this November.

Paul Towers is the organizing and media director at Pesticide Action Network North America, and a new father. He works with farmers, farmworkers and rural residents to reduce pesticide use and support healthy agriculture.

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