Editorial: Proposition 37 is unnecessary

October 4, 2012
Victorville Daily Press
Steve Williams, Opinion Page Editor

Proposition 37 is, at bottom, another means of adding income to those lawyers — and they seem to be legion — who seek remuneration by bringing suit under what would otherwise be frivolous circumstances.

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What Prop. 37 supporters claim is their intent is to warn the public about foods that have been genetically modified, via labeling. The labeling burden, of course, would fall on the sellers of the food. Backers believe consumers are entitled to know about what is in their food, so they demand that government require such labeling.

If Prop. 37 passes, lawsuits will abound. Those lawsuits will further enrich the lawyers, but what it will really do is raise the price of food. That’s because labeling costs, enforcing the resultant labeling laws, and ultimately the cost of litigation will be borne, not by growers, distributors and sellers of the food, but by consumers.

At one point, Prop. 37 says a retailer “generally must be able to document why the product is exempt from labeling.” In other words, any foodstuffs sold that do not have labels will be assumed not to have been genetically altered, but the seller must defend the non-labeling in any lawsuit filed. That will be expensive.

Our view is that all of this is unnecessary. The Orange County Register noted the other day that Berkeley attorney James Wheaton, Prop. 37’s author, “has made a career of filing lawsuits enabled by Prop. 65. Enacted by voters in 1986, Prop. 65 required disclosure of hazardous chemicals.” That’s where the signs on public buildings in this state warning that something on the premises is “known to the state of California to cause cancer” came from. Mr. Wheaton is simply adding to the mountain of unnecessary regulation imposed on business, in this case distributors of foodstuffs.

The Register also noted that the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Prop. 65 has spawned “16,000 legal actions — some legitimate, some designed to force business to settle quickly to avoid litigation costs.”

This is all paranoia run rampant. The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization have said that “genetically modified organism” foods have been grown, harvested and consumed all over the world in vast quantities, with no discernible ill effects on the health of said consumers.

Does no one realize that if there indeed were ill effects on the health of the consumers of such edibles, those ill effects would long since have been noted and genetically modified organism foods outlawed, and never mind simply labeled. But that hasn’t happened, and for good reason.

Prop. 37 is unnecessary. If retailers want to voluntarily label their products for consumers who seek such labeling, the marketplace (the ultimate arbitrator) will encourage it.

In the meantime, vote no.

Read the full article here.