Like so many Orange County residents, I buy healthy food (organic, non-GMO, etc.) to feel like I’m better than other people. It’s a natural desire, especially in the land of Range Rovers, Botox and pre-nuptial agreements. So when I heard that Proposition 37 required food companies to label whether or not food was genetically engineered, I was all for it. Who wouldn’t want to more easily and efficiently assert moral dominance over his fellow shoppers?
Sadly, like so many other great ideas, Prop. 37 would be terrible if ever applied to reality. The short-form ballot summary says that Proposition 37 “requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as ‘natural.’ Provides exemptions.”
I didn’t last too long in biology here at UCI, but when I read that the proposition “[p]rovides exemptions,” I knew something was up. “Processed” and “genetic material changed in specified ways” stand out as awfully vague too. It would be an expensive pain for retailers and food companies to implement the new rules. But if a few people had to lose their livelihood so I could more easily discern Frankenfood from organic, then I was game. Fair trade-off to me!
My only concern, then, was that the regulations are correctly enforced. I thought it wouldn’t be an issue, since knowledgeable bureaucrats would be enforcing the regulation. But there is no legion of regulators.
Instead, the law will primarily be enforced by lawsuits brought about by consumers — essentially asking for endless frivolous lawsuits.The financial harm from the volume and severity of forthcoming lawsuits would be serious — so serious that I couldn’t display my aura of moral dominance any longer because some of my favorite spots could face closure.
A lot of Americans, libertarians especially, talk of their dislike for government regulations. But few are opposed to regulating food, so long as it’s done correctly. The authors of this well-intentioned and fatally flawed proposition should go back to the drawing board and come back with a more specific, well-written proposition that has a feasible enforcement strategy.
My vacuous sense of superiority depends on it.
Adam O’Neal is a third-year literary journalism major. Please send all relocation recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion