Voters to Decide on GMO Labeling Initiative: Certified for November Ballot
June 12, 2012
You might've gotten an informal education on genetically modified foods from one of the activists canvassing grocery stores and farmers markets in recent months, as they've pressed clip boards toward thousands of shoppers.
Those canvassers successfully gathered 12,195 signatures in Monterey County, about 2 percent of the total turned over to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen supporting a ballot measure that would require labeling of GMO foods.
Bowen's staff found 78.6 percent of Monterey County signatures were valid, slightly better than the state average of 74.7 percent.
Bowen certified the signatures Monday, which means the citizen-led initiative will land the GMO labeling rule on the November ballot.
Between now and then, you can expect ramped-up voter outreach efforts both by labeling proponents and the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition, sponsored by farming, ag tech and food processing groups, with major funding from the Council for Biotechnology Information and Grocery Manufacturers Association.
"Our goal is to educate California voters about the deceptive nature of this ballot measure and why it will raise costs for consumers," says Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the coalition.
California Right to Know, representing a variety of consumer, health and environmental groups, is backing the initiative. “The whole point of this is that people should have a choice," Pamm Larry, an initiative organizer, told the Weekly earlier this year.
“A staggering majority of Americans want to know when they are eating GMO food. With up to 80 percent of the non-organic products on our shelves containing GMO ingredients, and little to no long-term studies on their effects, people are concerned,” Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, said in a statement.
Fairbanks says exemptions the labeling rule could grant—for foods sold in restaurants, meat and dairy, and alcohol—undermine the credibility of the pro-labeling platform. "If this is really about the right to know, why exempt two thirds of the food people eat every day?" she says.
The labeling initiative would apply to the most prevalent GMO products—soybeans, corn, sugar beets and canola—which are present in virtually all processed foods in the U.S.