Calif. GMO labeling initiative update

GMO initiative seeks to require food products to bear a label disclosure for the presence of genetically engineered ingredients and would prevent such products from using the team "natural".

June 5, 2012

2 Min Read
Calif. GMO labeling initiative update

The effort to get a GMO (genetically modified organism) food labeling initiative on the upcoming November ballot in California is nearing victory. With three weeks to go, the petition has more than half of the signatures requiredrandom sampling is used to gauge the number of signatures. To date, the petition has 315,273 projected valid signatures, which is about 62% of the 504,760 required to get a statute on the ballot, but only 56% of the 110% (555,236 signatures) by sampling required to automatically certified it for the ballot. If the results certified by June 25 sample at least 95%, but less than 110%, a full check of the validity of signatures is required, and the initiative is delayed until the next ballot. You can track the sampling of signatures at the CA Secretary of State website (note: many counties have not had existing signatures sampled, so the results could jump quickly.)

Of course, even if it reaches the ballot, California voters will have their say in the November elections. Many natural products insiders believe the measure will reach the ballot and pass, because of the populous nature of the initiative, but the industry will still try to educate California voters if the measure reaches the ballot.

Much like Prop 65, which covers labeling of cancerous chemicals in consumer products, this GMO initiative would require most food products to label known GMO ingredients. This would include dietary supplements. Exempt from this would be medical foods; food products not knowingly made with GMO ingredients; food derived from non-genetically engineered animals, even if they have ingested GM feed or drug; organic foods under the National Organic Program (NOP); foods whose only GM ingredients are processing aids or enzymes; food not packaged for retail sale but intended for immediate consumption (such as in restaurants); and alcoholic beverages subject to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. There is also a provision exempting, until July 1, 2019, any processed food in which no sole GM ingredient is more than one-half of one percent of total weight, and there are no more than ten such ingredients in the product.

If the measure passes, foods not exempt will be required to carry the label disclosure "genetically engineered," and it is prohibited from then using the terms "natural," "naturally made", "naturally grown" or "all natural" on its label.

Similar to Prop 65, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act would allow for any California citizen to file a lawsuit against companies in violation of the labeling requirements. This can result in steep financial penalties and fees, as well as bad press and difficulty doing business in California.

Read the full text of the initiative, filed by the Oakland-based Law Offices of James Wheaton, at the website for the California Attorney General's Office.

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