The Davis Food Co-op's Endorsement of Proposition 37

The Davis Food Co-op would like to publicly voice its support for Proposition 37 on the November California ballot. For us, Proposition 37 is fundamentally about information, disclosure, and consumers' “right to know” – not a judgment about genetic engineering in agriculture.

The consumer cooperative movement has a long history of leadership in advancing consumer education and empowerment, particularly around food. The Rochdale Pioneers in the mid-19th century promoted food education. Retail food cooperatives in Berkeley and Palo Alto pioneered ingredient and nutrition labeling on grocery packages in the 20th century. The Federal “Fair Packaging and Labeling Law” of 1966 received broad support from cooperative organizations and home economics professionals.

“Education, training, and information” is one of the seven cooperative principles that guides our organization. In the spirit of consumers' “right to know” and our ongoing commitment to education that leads to informed choices about health, food systems, the environment, and cooperatives, we've examined Proposition 37 and the arguments for and against it. We've also listened to a diverse array of opinions from our member owners, who are represented by our democratically-elected Board of Directors.

Some contend that Proposition 37 is not about the “right to know,” but rather about limiting choices and that labeling is designed to scare rather than to inform. Some claim that the initiative is poorly written. The Center for Science in the Public Interest believes that irradiated and cloned foods should be added to the proposed legislation. While we respect these opinions and our member owners who endorse them, our assessment is that labeling proposed in Proposition 37 will advance consumer education and empowerment about food choices.

We know that fair-minded and cooperative people have different opinions about the use of genetic engineering in agriculture. We have supported debate, in our newsletter and in the aisles, and we are committed to providing a welcoming and respectful space where members of the Co-op and our community can discuss this important issue.

We would like our decision making about displaying lawn signs in support of Proposition 37 to be transparent. We have endorsed Proposition 37 and our endorsement is listed on www.carighttoknow.org. We have information about our endorsement on our website. We were approached about displaying lawn signs and in the spirit of saying “yes” when possible, we agreed. Several of our members subsequently expressed that the lawn signs made them feel unwelcome in our store. On balance, we decided to take down the signs and, instead, to articulate this more detailed and nuanced view.

The choices we make in operating our cooperatively-owned grocery store often have an explicit or implicit political dimension. Our product sourcing, our business practices, and our community giving reflect our cooperative values. We are very proud of what a diverse group of people can accomplish together and we are committed to continued efforts to provide opportunities for cooperation with in the Davis community.

We'd like to thank those members of the community and the co-op who care passionately about agriculture and democracy and who have shared their views on this issue. We know that we cannot please everyone with each decision, but we hope that we can continue to provide an arena for debate and a welcoming store for everyone.