A group of eight biology professors from throughout the site asked to weigh in on the state proposition that would label genetically modified food overwhelmingly urged a 'no' vote for the measure.
Proposition 37, which is on the ballot on Tuesday, would make California the first state in the union to require that certain plant or animal products sold be labeled if its genetic material has been modified. The law would also make it illegal for food companies to label genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, as “natural.”
To get a scientific perspective on the issue, Patch reached out with an email survey to more than 25 professors across the state with a background in biology or genetics to ask them how they would suggest Californians vote. Of the eight professors who responded, seven told Patch they would urge a 'no' vote.
Neelima Sinha, a professor of plant biology at the University of California, Davis wrote that she was suggesting a 'no' vote because scientific research has not shown GMOs are unsafe to consume.
"GM food is no more safe or unsafe than anything else we eat," Sinha wrote in an email. "In fact most outbreaks of food poisoning have been from non-GM but poorly stored or treated food. Much of what we consume is already GM – all cheeses, many drugs."
Alan McHughen, a plant biotechnologist and professor at the University of California, Riverside who has written extensively on GMO food issues and been involved in government panels on how to regulate them, suggested that the measure will impose more costs on low-income citizens.
"There’s no question Prop 37 will cost a lot of money, and only serve the purpose of satisfying the curiosity of a few," McHughen wrote. "Why should poor people pay more for food when they don’t care about the label? It’s all about the majority paying more for food to satisfy the curiosity of the 1%"
However, De Anza College biologist Judy Cuff-Alvarado, the lone respondent to urge a 'yes' vote, said she does not buy the argument that the measure will raise the cost of food.
"Consumers need to know what they are eating and have informed choice," Cuff-Alvarado wrote. "I do not believe the argument that this is going to drive prices up dramatically. Just look at the European model. They're doing fine."
According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis, since GMOs entered the U.S. market in 1996, a vast majority of corn and soybean grown in the United States is genetically modified. According to some estimates, 40 percent to 70 percent of food found in grocery stores is genetically engineered.
A September USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that more than 60 percent of Californians support Prop. 37.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with a link to the publishing record of one of the biologists quoted above.