Why Dog Lovers Should Care About California Proposition 37

The ballot initiative involves labeling requirements for food -- and dog food -- that contains genetically modified organisms.

Julia Szabo  |  Oct 19th 2012


The general election is less than a month away, and California voters face a ballot initiative involving genetically modified food. Dog owners should give this one some thought.

It’s Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act. It would require most genetically engineered food sold in California to be labeled, with a few exceptions. So, if salmon is genetically modified and farm-raised, or cereal is made with “GMO” corn (“genetically modified organism”), consumers would be able to read that on the package label.

Most environmental groups support Proposition 37, while the majority of the scientific community opposes it. Both sides are collecting donations to further their goals. According to the Organic Consumers Association, “Monsanto and Dow and DuPont and major food processors like Pepsi and Coca-Cola have already put up $25 million to defeat GMO labeling in California.” The controversial biotech firm Monsanto is the leading donor to the No On 37 campaign, according to the group, having provided more than $7 million.

Why should dog owners care, even if feeding and eating organic food isn’t a high priority? Because if you care about the ingredients in your dog’s food, it could get very difficult to find out what you’re feeding your furry family member. Shortly after he was elected, President Obama promised, “We’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they are buying.”

If Proposition 37 is defeated, labels won’t tell us whether genetically modified organisms are in that bag or can of dog food. Many dog food brands are manufactured using GMO corn as a filler ingredient in addition to meat taken from animals fed GMO corn. So if your dog develops a digestive issue, say, it will be that much harder for Spot’s vet to make a diagnosis if Spot’s owners don’t know exactly what their dog has been eating.

As someone who reads food ingredient panels very carefully, especially pet-food ingredient panels, I’m all for transparency in labeling. I have digestive issues, and I eat organic as often as possible. (Even my preferred multivitamin brand is non-GMO: it’s New Chapter Organics.) I cannot risk ingesting genetically modified foods, because they don’t agree with me physically. I know from experience that when I scarf something made of nonorganic corn — which is to say, GMO corn — I always regret it, no matter how delicious that taco or movie-theater popcorn was at the time I ate it, because I get very sick to my stomach. But when I diligently avoid GMO food, I’m fine.

Incidentally, if you offer Spot the occasional popcorn treat, you might be interested to know that conventional, nonorganic popcorn is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 1999 Total Diet Study that lists the top 10 foods most contaminated with pesticides and chemicals. Nonorganic popcorn is listed as containing toxic chlordane, dieldrin, and toxaphene. (Also on the people-food front, I was surprised to learn that Horizon, producers of supposedly organic dairy products that I trusted for years, is on the “No on 37” side, so I’ve stopped purchasing its products.)

What we don’t know about the foods we consume and feed our loved ones could hurt us. Many dogs have digestive issues. As our pets’ guardians, we risk their well-being if we inadvertently feed them food whose ingredients we can’t readily identify. So in order to make an informed decision as to what — and what not — to feed our dogs, we need to know what’s in the package we’re buying. It’s as simple as that.

Dogster readers, is this an issue that’s close to you?

Please take a moment to read up on this issue, follow @CARightToKnow on Twitter, and make an informed choice on Election Day.

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