What's So Bad About GEs?

People often ask me, "What's so bad about GEs?" I'm not an expert by any means, but here's my answer: Genetically engineered foods -- also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs (it's basically two ways of saying the same thing) -- are plants that have had their DNA changed in a laboratory.

Most of these changes involve pesticides (and you know how I feel about those).

According to Earth Open Source, a full 75 percent of GE crops are engineered to withstand large doses of pesticide or to release a pesticide at a certain point in its growth cycle -- meaning the pesticide becomes part of the genetic makeup of the food.

That's the short answer. Here's some more background:

A report from the Organic Center found that farmers applied 318 million more pounds of pesticides over the first 13 years of commercial GE crop production -- from 1996 to 2008 -- than ever before.

Most of the foods on our supermarket shelves today have been genetically engineered: corn (85 percent), soy (91 percent), sugar beets (95 percent) and cotton (88 percent).

Foods produced with genetically engineered ingredients are required to be disclosed on labels in 49 countries, including Europe, Japan, Russia and China.

American companies -- including Coke, Pepsi, Nestle and Kellogg -- currently disclose GEs on labels of the foods that they export to these countries, but not for the same foods that they sell in the United States.

Nine out of 10 American voters say that they want to know if their food contains GEs.

Yet according to Right to Know, new campaign finance reports showed companies including Nestle recently donated $10 million to fight California's Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

What are these companies willing to pay this kind of crazy talk money to prevent? Prop 37 would require companies to disclose on their labels whether the food is "partially produced with genetic engineering" or "may be partially produced with genetic engineering." The law would also prohibit companies from marketing genetically engineered foods as "natural."

As we saw from what happened with flame retardants, California represents a massive 17.5 million people, and the opportunity to change the law here will affect the entire country.

I believe we have a right to know what's in our food -- from calories to fat content to genetically modified ingredients -- so we can choose healthier foods for our families.

That's why I buy organic foods as much as I possibly can -- in addition to being produced without pesticides, they are also certified to be GE-free.

And that's why I'm voting yes on Proposition 37. If you're in California, will you join me?