According to the Associated Press, voters spurned a ballot measure that would have made California the first in the nation to affix labels on breakfast cereals, baked goods, and other processed foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. With 100% of precincts reporting, Proposition 37 failed 53.1% to 46.9%.
Under Proposition 37, most processed foods would have had to bear the label “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering” on boxes, cans, and bottles by 2014. The words “genetically engineered” would be required to appear on the front package of a small variety of produce or on store shelves. Such products also would be prohibited from using the terms “natural” or “naturally made” in their advertising.
Consumer activists and the organic food industry said shoppers crave information about what they’re eating and should be given all the information they need to decide for themselves whether to buy products containing genetically altered ingredients. Opponents fear labeling would amount to placing a skull-and-crossbones symbol on their products even though studies show bioengineered food to be safe. They also warn of higher grocery bills if the initiative passes.
A win would have put California at odds with the federal government, which does not require such labels because bioengineered foods are not significantly different in taste, texture, and nutrition. More than a dozen U.S. states this year introduced GMO labeling bills, but all failed. A citizen’s petition to mark genetically engineered foods nationwide is pending before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.