I arrived Friday at the annual convention of the California Republican Assembly. My hopes for this group to become relevant to the political discourse in California suffered another setback when I came across a man about 30 years of age that was gathering signatures to qualify a ballot initiative. This initiative was to require all genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such. His argument was that then the market could decide whether to eat these types of food. Almost every delegate that he asked to sign this petition did so with no questions. The man then said that voters could decide in November.
I did something I normally don’t do and that was try to engage him in a conversation about this petition. I started with the fact that this petition will be found unconstitutional because it violates the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. He did not care.
I tried to argue that all food is genetically engineered. Anyone ever hear of Gregor Mendel? All plant breading is genetically engineering. He tried to say that wasn’t what his petition was about. I said what about engineering food to provide more nutrients. He flatly stated that this was not possible and nobody was doing this. At this point—were there any doubt—I now had all the proof I needed that this man was a fool; no evidence would convince him that this was folly. However, I did cast a few more pearls.
I told him that the presumption of such a petition would be that all food was genetically manipulated and that all food producers would have to prove that their food was not. All food would have to be tracked from grower to mill to feedlot or cereal producer or grocery store. Anything that mixed field A with field B would need to be tracked. I and my family have been in and around agriculture for many years and this man claimed his expertise was that he had his own garden. BFD! I then told him that 97 percent of the food in his local grocery store was from outside California and the only way his bill would work is if every food producer in the world was tracked by batch from the field to the local grocery store, Only then could his initiative be enforced. I told him that the bureaucracy required to track this would cost tens of billions of dollars. He did not believe me. I said that this program would dwarf the government intrusion of AB32.
He said it would be worth it to let the market decide. Consumers needed a label with this information. He repeatedly named Monsanto and Dow as the villains of this imaginary drama.
I told him that this petition was the brain child of liberals from San Francisco and asked him how he could harmonize signature gathering for such an idea with his identification with a conservative Republican political organization. I also told him if he really wanted to do some good in the food market that banning ethanol would be much more beneficial than this he was pushing. The only glimmer of hope in the whole conversation was when he agreed that banning ethanol would be a good idea.
If Republicans in Southern California are this naive then what hope do we have on issues such as water?
Thankfully, the next day this ballot initiative was overwhelmingly opposed by delegates at the convention. The dozen or so that voted to support it were—according to my source—were mostly residents of Orange County.