Margaret Smith, Cornell University professor of plant breeding and genetics and agricultural Extension leader whose research concentrates on corn breeding, made a short sensible comment on the local and national implications of California Proposition 37–the initiative on the ballot this November to require food producers to label all products that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Smith explains that there won’t be a lot gained by labeling products that might contain GMO ingredients. Her comment as provided by the Cornell University Press Office is as follows:

“You could ask: We label many things about our foods, so why not label whether they were produced from crops that have been genetically engineered? The U.S. has a strong tradition of right-to-know regulations, and this proposal would allow those who are concerned about genetically engineered crop content in their food to avoid it.

“But it’s not always that simple.

“In 2012, genetically engineered varieties were grown on 88 percent of U.S. field corn acres, 93 percent of soybean acres, and 94 percent of cotton acres. A majority of packaged foods on typical grocery shelves include some ingredients derived from corn, soybean or cotton, so if this law passes, most packaged products would have to carry a genetically engineered label.

“That leaves consumers in about the same place they are now: If they prefer not to consume these products, their primary alternative would still be to choose certified organic.

“One needs to ask what benefit will be gained by this new label and is it worth the cost, since labels will not be developed separately for products to be sold in California and the additional cost of labeling, however small, will likely affect all U.S. consumers.”