A battle is raging over a ballot measure in California that would require the labeling of foods that have been genetically engineered (GE). It's no surprise that opposition to Prop 37 comes in large part from the makers of GE seeds — biochemical companies like Monsanto and Dupont — who are major funders of the "No on 37" campaign that is outspending supporters of the measure 10 to 1. What does come as a surprise, is the opposition to Prop 37 by the California NAACP and other organizations representing people of color.
It is well documented that people of color in the United States are more likely to face serious health issues like type 2 diabetes and obesity, and the same companies opposing Prop 37 are the ones that are largely behind this public health epidemic. Compared with white adults the risk of diabetes is 66% higher among Latinos, and 77% higher among African-Americans. Additionally, about half of African-American women in the U.S. are obese, compared to 30% of white women.
These statistics might lead one to assume that the NAACP would support Prop 37, as studies have linked serious health issues like type 2 diabetes and obesity to eating GE foods. For instance, scientists in Norway performed a 10-year study that showed a positive link between GE corn and obesity. In the study, animals that were fed a GE diet gained weight more quickly and retained that weight longer compared with animals fed a non-GE diet. The researchers also found that rats fed fish that had consumed GE grain showed the same results. A more recent study has also linked GE corn to massive tumors, organ damage, and early death.
So why would the NAACP oppose a proposition that would only make people more aware of the foods they are eating? Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP California State Conference, says that it “would increase the grocery bills of the average California family by hundreds of dollars a year.” However, a study conducted by Joanna Shepherd Bailey, Ph.D., a tenured professor at Emory University School of Law, found that, “Consumers will likely see no increases in prices as a result of the relabeling required.” And it’s not just studies that show this – 61 other countries label GE foods, and in Europe, for example, there were no changes in food costs due to labeling of GE foods.
Is it that much to ask that California join China and Russia and begin labeling GE foods? No one is surprised to see big business and organizations opposed to any government regulation coming out against Prop 37. I am not only disappointed, but also disheartened that the NAACP could be duped into taking a position that goes against their organizational mission. The NAACP should strongly reconsider perpetuating the lies and misinformation of Big Agriculture, and instead support educating the public about what’s in our food.