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Ad Watch: Anti-Proposition 37 ad somewhat misleading

Published: Saturday, Sep. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Friday, Apr. 11, 2014 - 11:00 pm

Opponents of Proposition 37, which would require new labels identifying foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, have launched a statewide radio campaign blasting the measure. Here is a text of the ad and an analysis by Laurel Rosenhall of The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Male announcer: They're at it again. Special interests pushing a proposition that would create more government red tape, more lawsuits and higher costs. This time it's Prop. 37. A food labeling scheme written by trial lawyers to benefit trial lawyers.

Female announcer: 37 would ban thousands of common food products in California unless they are specially relabeled to meet complex new requirements and restrictions that would only exist in our state.

Male announcer: 37 would cost California taxpayers millions for more bureaucracy and red tape. And increase food costs for a typical California family by hundreds of dollars per year.

Female announcer: And, 37 would give trial lawyers a special new right to file shakedown lawsuits against farmers, grocers and food companies over the wording on food labels.

ANALYSIS: The ad says the measure will ban products that don't carry the required labels, but those foods could still be sold – without the labels – if the manufacturers go organic or use ingredients that are not genetically engineered.

In fact, the assertion that Proposition 37 will raise grocery prices is based on the belief that many companies will switch to costlier non-genetically engineered ingredients instead of putting the new labels on their food.

That was the conclusion of an economic study paid for by the No on Proposition 37 campaign – which is funded largely by biotech companies and major food and beverage manufacturers. The report said the typical California household would see a $350 to $400 annual increase in grocery prices if companies switched to non-genetically engineered ingredients. No independent studies have confirmed those estimates.

The assertion that the measure would "cost California taxpayers millions for more bureaucracy and red tape" exaggerates estimates from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, which figures regulation of food labeling would cost a few hundred thousand dollars to $1 million annually.

It's true that Proposition 37 allows consumers to sue manufacturers, grocers and farmers who do not comply with the new labeling requirements. But there is no evidence the measure was inspired or funded by the trial lawyer lobby.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Laurel Rosenhall

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