November 9, 2012

Post-Election: No Labels, Stem Cell Research, Congressional Committees

The election results are in, with consequences for several high-profile biotechnology issues at stake. Voters rejected California's Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods in the state (see here). A vigorous campaign occurred in the state, of which opponents outspent supporters by about 5 to 1. An effective source of opposition to the measure was based on arguments that this new law would have adverse economic consequences - for consumers (higher prices), businesses (compliance) and a cash-strapped state (administrative costs). The final vote was 53% opposed, 46% in favor; this would have been the first state to enact such a law. The movement to label GE foods continues, with upcoming efforts on deck in Washington and Oregon. In a separate issue, the reelection of President Obama cements his policy of allowing federal funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research (see here), so this biotechnology sector has stability for at least several years. At a meta-level, impacting the major life science agencies such as NIH and the FDA, neither house of Congress changed hands (keeping committee leaderships in place), so that leadership of key committees in the House, such as the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, remains a GOP preserve, while the Democrats retain control of the Senate and its Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). The Obama reelection also locks in the Affordable Care Act (see here). Lastly, Charles Darwin received 4,00 write-in votes in a Georgia congressional election where the incumbent Rep. Paul Broun (R), a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, is an outspoken opponent of the theories of evolution, embryology, and Big Bang cosmology. Broun was reelected.

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