San Francisco supported Proposition 37!

By Razib Khan | November 20, 2012 12:15 am

A few weeks ago I alluded to the controversy around proposition 37. This was the GMO labeling law proposal. Many life scientists in California opposed this law. One aspect of this issue is that it is an area where the Left may be stated to be “anti-science.” This is why this was highlighted in Science Left Behind. But there’s a problem with this narrative: the survey data for it is weak. There are broad suggestive patterns…but the reality is that the strongest predictor of skepticism of genetically modified organisms is lower socioeconomic status. The GSS has a variable, EATGM. Here are the results by ideology:

Don’t care whether or not food has been genetically modified151617
Willing to eat but would prefer unmodified foods555352
Will not eat genetically modified food303031


I would caution that the sample size is small. But, if you dig deeper into the survey data you can find evidence that conservatives are more unalloyed in their support of biotech.

And yet with all this said, today I noticed that the California proposition 37 results are rather stark in their geographic distribution. The measure failed statewide, but 2/3 of the people in San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties supported it, as did 60% of the people in Marin (interestingly, only a little over 50% supported it in San Mateo and Santa Clara). I couldn’t find a tabular list with the results by county, but there are interactive maps. If someone was industrious (and had more time than I do) they would go and collect the data from the maps, and do a loess of “support proposition 37” vs. “support Obama.”

The main problem is that from what I can tell a lot of Left-liberals who support anti-GMO policies, explicit or implicit, do so because they believe that that is anti-corporate. My argument is that whatever issues one might have with agribusiness, one should litigate the question of scale in agriculture directly and forthrightly, rather than focus on sidelights like GMO.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Agriculture, Politics
MORE ABOUT: Proposition 37

Comments (11)

  1. Dwight E. Howell

    When one addresses the issue honestly the assumption is that you have fewer health risks with non GMO foods and that may not be true. The GMO crop may be much more nutritious. On the other hand when you start putting genes for toxins in plants people eat you need to do some serious long range studies before you claim they are safe and that hasn’t been done to my satisfaction. Companies also want to punish others because their genes ended up in other people’s crops when as often as not the other people didn’t want them there. They have also tried including genes that cause seed to be non viable and you clearly don’t want crap like that getting into food crops or I don’t. When your GMO crops cause my heirloom seeds to fail I tend to think you should be hanged because you are a threat to the foundations of civilization: food production.

  2. #1, stop regurgitating, and add some value (declaration, not request, so no response is invited).

  3. iron0037

    I find this debate kind of silly. The genome of a crop is different than its wild counterpart the second it becomes domesticated. Should we label all dogs as “genetically modified wolves?” What’s wrong with using modern technology to extend the progress we’ve made manipulating genes for the past 10,000 years? Is there some specific modification procedure that people get uppity about?

    While I’m on my soapbox, I am frustrated by the label “organic” attached to certain produce. Are the tomatoes inorganic?

  4. #3, see link above to the original discussion. it’s all be said.

  5. peter

    Is the question here the pros and cons of GMO foods or is it the labeling of them? We include on food labels all sorts of things like sucrose, salt, sodium bicarbonate, agar etc. in, I would hope, an enlightened effort to let people know what is in the foodstuffs they are spending their money on. I know many people (I am not one of them) who would not purchase tofu made from GMO soy beans just as I prefer not to buy salted butter. Salt. GMO soybeans. Our motivations are different but why should that matter? GMO soy beans. Salt. Just put it on the label.

  6. I assume the question is, do Prop 37 results show that the left is anti-science in its own way, just as the right is, or are they actually anti-corporate? As someone familiar with leftists in both SF and SC, I’m going with “they don’t see the difference”. So it’s hard to argue that they’re not “anti-science” when they will vote that way if a corporation is involved. The right has similar biases, I’m sure, and they don’t get a pass.

    To clarify: the blue vote is pro-37?

  7. the blue vote is pro-37?


  8. #5, please see the link to the previous discussion. no need to repeat.

  9. Douglas Knight

    Here’s the data as a table. Here is a loess, weighted by vote total, which is also the opacity of the scatterplot.

  10. Anthony

    There was, of course, lots of facebook debate on Prop 37. Almost my entire f-list are liberal Democrats. The arguments for Prop 37 were almost entirely emotional appeals to the evils of Monsanto, with a little bit of the “everywhere else does it, even China”, and “right to know” arguments thrown in. Besides myself, the people I saw arguing against Prop 37 were mostly appealing to the science of the matter – that GMOs aren’t in any substantial way different (or less safe than) non-GMOs.

    The appeal of the anti-Monsanto argument was very strong – even pointing out that Monsanto would be the corporation *least* affected by Prop 37, and that independent growers and grocers the ones most likely to be hurt by it wasn’t enough to convince anyone.

    A few people may have changed/made up their minds against Prop 37 because of the argument that all it would do is result in labels which nobody would pay attention to, like the Prop 62 signs one ignores everywhere. Those were mostly people who were balancing between the argument from the science versus the “right to know” argument, I think.

  11. And if interested, displayed in GIS. Thanks for posting the data Razib


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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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