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Robyn OBrien's picture

It’s hard to believe the election is just a few days away.

After months of ads, speeches, debates and campaign rallies, it seems that many of the issues that mothers and families really care about have gotten lost in all the noise.  Tuesday is an important day for mothers across the country to make our votes count and weigh in on the issues we care most deeply about.

While California isn’t a swing state, many eyes will be on the state Tuesday as Californians vote on Prop 37, a ballot initiative that would make California the first state to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. The measure would ensure that Californians have access to key information about the foods they purchase.

Why does this matter?  Especially to moms like me who don’t live in California?  Because California represents such a large percentage of our country’s food production.  And if labeling is enacted there, it could change the way our food is produced.  You only have to look back to when they tried to label a potentially cancer-causing agent in our sodas, to the swift response by the beverage industry to simply remove that ingredient from their products, to realize the impact the state can make on the food supply for our country.

But winning won’t be easy with the opposition – which includes the powerful food lobby and chemical companies – spending more than a million dollars a day to defeat this initiative with an ad campaign that could put fear in the heart of any budget-minded shopper.

Regardless of what happens at the polls on Tuesday, there is reason to be hopeful that one day soon we will all have the right to know about our food.  California has raised the dialogue on this vitally important food issue and Prop 37 is an important step toward what must ultimately be a national policy.

Over the past months, I have continued to hear more and more about food issues from friends and other mothers, from stay at home moms to household names. I believe this issue has caught on because it is so deeply personal to so many of us. Food is something that brings us together as families – we gather together for family dinners, we celebrate holidays with special meals, and some of us still use recipes that we watched our grandmothers prepare when we were children.

As mothers we also know that healthy food is vital to the well-being of our children. So learning that it has been injected with ingredients that aren’t on the label is hard to hear.  Like parents around the country, I want my kids to have every opportunity to grow and lead happy, healthy lives without having to worry about whether the food they eat is going to make them sick or negatively affect their long-term health.

We are concerned because we don’t know the health effects of GE foods and there have been no long-term human health studies on these ingredients. The FDA doesn’t conduct these tests and as hard as it is to learn this, there’s not a single pediatric safety study showing that these foods are safe for our kids to eat.  Genetic engineering is becoming increasingly prevalent in our food supply, yet we have no way to distinguish these foods and make informed choices about what we purchase. Meanwhile health problems like food allergies, obesity and diabetes continue to rise, and these conditions don’t know party lines.

The Just Label It (JLI) campaign is continuing to fight for our right to know about the food we eat and feed our families. To date the campaign has collected more than 1.2 million signatures urging the FDA to support national mandatory labeling of GE foods. JLI is also asking Congress to stand up for our right to know.

JLI has made great strides but there is still a lot of work to be done. I hope that you will continue to make your voice heard about the issues that are important to you and your family by voting and asking your representatives where they stand on the important issues.

If you live in California I hope that you will turn out and vote for Prop 37 on Tuesday. And for mothers across the country, I hope you will join the campaign and tell your representatives that it’s time to Just Label It! Because together, we can affect remarkable change.


Robyn O’Brien is the founder of Allergy Kids and board member of Just Label It.

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