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Food Coop Hopeful Despite GMO Labeling Defeat

Head of the Sustainable Sea Cliff Cooperative says California's "no" on Prop. 37 was disappointing, but isn't the end.

The head of a local group promoting awareness about the dangers of genetically modified foods called California's Nov. 6 rejection of a labeling law a small setback for a movement that refuses to give up.

"It was certainly disappointing, but not unexpected," said Amy Peters, president of the board of directors for the Sustainable Sea Cliff Cooperative. "There was a ton of money spent toward anti-labeling ads."

Peters said efforts to pass the law, which was voted on directly through a state ballot measure, were not enough to offset the $46 million campaign mounted by food producers. She accused those companies of using scare tactics to "make people think that if GMO's had to have labels, it would make people's grocery bills increase by more than $400 per year."

The law would have required food products containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such in California. Peters pointed out that the rule exists in 61 other countries, and that some places have harsh attitudes about the scientifically altered crops. Hungary recently destroyed more than 1,100 acres of GMO corn, she said, and in the U.S. there are many local movements to phase out such crops. Boulder County, Colo. is presently working to rid itself of GMO cropland, and 23 states are working on labeling laws.

"There's a lot of forward motion. According to the Non-GMO Project, 92 percent of Americans want GMO's labeled," said Peters. She said awareness is increasing, and mentioned that "a lot of people" at her group's recent potluck dinner did not know about the issue and asked for pamphlets after hearing Peters speak about it.

She said the issue is one she believes is especially relevant to residents on Long Island, which has a "huge contingency of people dealing with autism and food allergies - and a link has been made between those things and GMO's."

She said people are voting with their wallets against products that use GMO ingredients, and the first place a person can make a difference is in their own kitchen. 

"It's so vast. You literally can't buy one thing in the cereal aisle that isn't made with GMO corn or soy," Peters said. "I've been sacrificing for a long time. Hellman's mayonnaise is made from GMO soybeans. I love that stuff, but I'm not going to eat it."

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