A California organization has reportedly gathered enough signatures to put a genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling initiative on the state ballot during the November 6, 2012, general election. According to a May 2, 2012, press release, the Committee for the Right to Know has registered 971,126 signatures, of which 555,236 must prove valid for the initiative to be included on the ballot.
Submitted to the state attorney general as an initiative measure, the proposed California Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act would require (i) raw agricultural commodities produced with genetic engineering to bear “clear and conspicuous” labels conveying this information, and (ii) all processed retail foods to display labels stating “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” The act would also prohibit such foods from being marketed as “natural,” but would not apply to prepared meals sold in restaurants and intended for immediate human consumption.
“Because the FDA has failed to require labeling of GMO food, this initiative closes a critical loophole in food labeling law. It will allow Californians to choose what they buy and eat and will allow health professionals to track any potential adverse health impacts of these foods,” said Center for Food Safety Director Andy Kimbrell in a November 9, 2011, press release first announcing the initiative.
Meanwhile, an opposition group known as Californians Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition has apparently described the ballot measure as little more than a ploy to expose food producers to additional lawsuits. “This measure isn’t about the ‘right to know’, it’s about the right to sue,” California Retailers Association President and CEO Bill Dombrowski was quoted as saying. “It creates a whole new category of lawsuits that will allow lawyers to get rich by suing small family farmers, grocers, retailers and other businesses. We’ll all pay for these frivolous lawsuits through higher costs at the checkout stand.” See Stop the Costly Food Labeling Proposition Press Release, April 26, 2012.