Prop 37 vs. Obama (by county)

By Razib Khan | November 22, 2012 11:12 pm

Following up my request a reader crunched the numbers (here is his data table) to show the association between supporting supporting Proposition 37 and voting for Barack Obama by county in California:

From what I know this issue really polarized people in highly educated liberal enclaves in the state of California. Many of my Left non-scientist friends supported the measure because of an anti-corporate animus. But, another issue that sometimes came up was transparency and fair play, in a “teach the controversy” fashion. My own contention is on the scientific point there is no controversy.

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Comments (15)

  1. There is some funkiness in the gist table – not observed in the graph

    The numbers for LA are off I think…

    county obama romney yes no
    los-angeles 1998 471 1416606 1333987

  2. Razib, do your lefty friends not read your blog? I don’t understand how they are still Left and yet are also aware of your reasoning. I’m not trying to flatter you but you’d think they’d realize you’re much smarter and more well informed than them so it’d be best to just copy whatever you do, right? Or, at least, strongly question their own sentiments. What’s their excuse? What sites to they read? Salon? Alternet?

  3. Douglas Knight

    Actually, I mangled the Los Angeles numbers in a way that effectively removed it from the data, so the curve didn’t change much. Here is the corrected table and the corrected graph.

  4. There is more to prop 37 than anti-corporate animus. Even if there were no evidence that GMOs are directly harmful, there are still rational reasons to support labeling. The first is that we don’t have sufficient evidence to be completely certain that GMOs aren’t harmful to the environment and health, therefore the precautionary principle may apply. Personally I think the precautionary principle has proved its worth over the years when it comes to diet and drugs.

    The second, broader point is that GMOs are another step toward the extreme industrialization of the food system. Industrialization has benefited us in certain ways for sure, but it’s important to acknowledge that (broadly speaking) it has also hurt us quite a bit as our diets have drifted away from what is ‘natural’ for our species. One interesting example of this is that the concentration of specific minerals in plant foods has declined by as much as 70% in the last 50 years, apparently due to the development of high-yield cultivars (some conventionally selected, some GMO). GMO labeling is just one part of the struggle to allow people the right to choose food that has been less industrially manipulated. If you believe on principle that less industrially manipulated food is something that’s valuable, then it makes sense to want the information required to be able to apply that principle.

  5. I consider myself someone who is interested in traditional and small-scale methods of food productions, but I do not think GMO-labeling is the right way to approach questioning of the current food system. I do not think making people aware of an issue is a reason to create expensive and fragmented labeling laws. I do not think there is much evidence, if any, that GMOs are related to the diseases of civilization that seem to plaque consumers of industrialized food. Anyone who studies California Agriculture should be much more worried about how fruits like strawberries are fumigated and the laws requiring wildlife removal from farmland for food safety purposes. I do not want to rally behind the anti-GMO banner, a banner that I feel is more associated with woo than rational precautions. And one that I think serves to distract from more destructive properties of industrial food.

    I am much more interested in seeing reform of biotechnology laws to recognize the unique concerns related to genetically engineered food, such as addressing the problem of genetically modified organisms (particularly those that are patented) “trespassing” genetically on other people’s heritage breeding lines.

  6. Careful with the word “natural”. It can mean so much. The natural diet for our species is probably a diet that most modern people would find quite revolting: insects, larvae, grasses, carrion, and so on. Our diet has always been very removed from what is “natural”, ever since we invented fire.

    Fire was probably the first chemical treatment of our food. And we continued ferociously after that by pickling, freezing, drying, and so on. Fire is a strong force that does a lot to alter the chemistry of food items by say breaking down muscle fibre so that it is more easily ingested.

  7. “GMO labeling is just one part of the struggle to allow people the right to choose food that has been less industrially manipulated.”

    The assumption that non-GM food must be less natural than traditionally bred food is false. GM allows specific genes to be targeted, so that a GM variety can be (genetially) 99.99% “natural”, while traditional breeding ends up altering a much larger percentage of the genome to get a certain trait expressed.

  8. David Carswell

    Well I for one feel GMOs should be labeled-Monsanto is famous for their Agent Orange and DDT of which we are fully aware of the catastrophes on wildlife, humans and the environment and the coverup that went on for years. Also it is well known that their GMO crops are designed to withstand a well known herbicide (RoundUp) which just like Agent Orange and DDT are showing up in breast milk, rivers, oceans, and detectible in us all. They are destroying our environment and agricultural farmers with the self terminated seeds. Creating a monopoly on seed. Also the RoundUp ready crops are already requiring more and more chemical poisons as the targets are becoming immune to the current recipes and quantities. Thereby making the poisoning of everyone/thing quicken.

    Perhaps that is ok with you people that claim GMOs are safe. Well go bathe in some roundup, have some babies and then tell me you are ok with it. These GMO crops are spreading poison near and far. Mosanto is setting the planet up for an epic mass scale extinction.

    And a note for those interested. The politicians and Monsanto’s employees (the company cafeteria) do not eat or serve them and opt for organic only. Now what do they know that they aren’t telling us.

    Personally it has very little to do with genetics but more about the chemical/poisoning, industrialising and destruction of agriculture, the environment and the small farmer. In fact it is a crime against humanity. And that IS NOT over reaching.

    There. Done. Thank you.

  9. Sandgroper

    Stephan – “we don’t have sufficient evidence to be completely certain that GMOs aren’t harmful to the environment and health, therefore the precautionary principle may apply.” When is science “completely certain”? This is a fundamental flaw in the precautionary principle which renders it a wonderful tool to trot out in order to oppose pretty much anything.

    One of the reasons we don’t have sufficient evidence: criminals destroy research and get let off by judges, despite clearly understanding that they have knowingly committed crimes, and showing no remorse for having done so: When are criminals not criminals? When they’re ‘activists’ engaged in ‘the struggle’.

    It’s unlikely to be a prime reason, but Prop. 37 serves another purpose – it conveniently labels for targeting by activists.

    Good blog, by the way. I have already enjoyed reading some of your posts, and will read a lot more.

  10. Justin

    This was a breath of fresh air to analyze. Very eloquent negotiating.

  11. Chuck Currie

    Reclaimed water is most likely safer to drink than GMOs are to eat, yet, we do not drink it, and it is clearly labeled as non-potable water. What would you say if you found out your water supplier was using reclaimed water without telling you? Exactly! So why should GMOs get a pass on labeling?

    What makes this argument laughable to me, is, people eating crap in a box and crap in a bag, which is where you’ll find the majority of GMOs, have a lot more to worry about, health wise, than whether the crap they’re eating has GMOs in it.

    Real food doesn’t need a label – so just eat real food.


    P.S. Stephan is right.

  12. Hi Lab Lemming,

    I think it’s misleading to say that GMOs are “natural” because their genes are 99.99% identical to conventional varieties. I could insert a few genes that cause a vegetable to produce cyanide and it would remain 99.99% identical to the parent strain. What matters is function, not percentage genetic homology. GMO technology allows us to change an organism’s function rapidly and dramatically while leaving almost the entire genome untouched. That doesn’t automatically make it harmful to health or the environment, but the technology does give us that potential, and therefore we have to be cautious with it. Different people have different thresholds for caution, and it makes sense to give them the information they need to apply their own threshold.

    Hi Sandgroper,

    “Completely certain” was a poor choice of words on my part, of course that is setting the bar too high. However, we have a disturbing tendency to assume safety on the basis of very little evidence. I think a prime example of that is pesticides. For most pesticides, we have very little data on the long-term effects of low-level pesticide exposure on human health. The data we do have are mostly from academic epidemiological studies, not so much from systematic investigation of these compounds before government approval (particularly for the older ones that have been grandfathered in). My personal guess is that pesticides aren’t a major player in health problems on a population level in the US, but I can’t prove it, and neither can anyone prove the contrary.

  13. “That doesn’t automatically make it harmful to health or the environment, but the technology does give us that potential, and therefore we have to be cautious with it.”

    If you were buying viable seeds, then sure. Ditto if you are doing the GMing. But if you are buying canola oil, the genetics of the plant’s pest resistance are irrelevant to the end product.

  14. Sandgroper

    Stephan – As I understand it, one of the arguments against this legislation is that the proposed labeling is totally uninformative. It just serves as a meaningless ‘scare label’. Don’t get me wrong, I am in favour of informative food labeling, I just don’t see that this serves any positive purpose at all. It tells me nothing. Just like the purveyors of organic foods don’t tell me the organic fertilizers and pesticides they have used on their crops, or what the bacteria count in their produce is.

  15. Chuck Currie

    I am totally blow away buy the amazing improvement in the health of Americans, and the total prevention of food born/caused disease, since the institution of food labeling.



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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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