Fifty-three percent of Californians decided to vote down the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods Nov. 6 in a decision that would have made it the first in the nation to have such regulations.
The law, Proposition 37, was able to get 4,287,168 favorable votes, but failed against the 4,847,020 Californians who said no in the voting booth.
Proposition 37 was expected to put pressure on other states to do the same, and would have called for companies to inform consumers when a food product has been genetically altered.
“If the future of food is about anything, it’s about transparency. People want to know for themselves what’s in food, who produced it, how it was grown and where,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, in a statement. “No one expects pesticide companies to do anything but resist that future.”
The legislation would have delegated label-monitoring duties to the California Department of Public Health. Consumers also would have been able to sue manufacturers who failed to comply with the law even if there was no tangible evidence of harm caused by eating an unlabeled or improperly labeled product.
According to voter guides issued by the California Secretary of State, “in 2011, 88 percent of all corn and 94 percent of all soybeans produced in the U.S. were grown from GE seeds.”
Other foods that are usually grown in the same fashion include “alfalfa, canola, cotton, papaya, sugar beets, and zucchini.”
Roughly 40 to 70 percent of all food in California grocery stores are in some way genetically modified.
The federal Food and Drug Administration does not currently require companies that use genetically modified crops to inform consumers.
The proposition would not have affected restaurants serving food that is consumed as soon as it is prepared, alcoholic beverages, or foods that are labeled organic.
Proponents for the referendum say that the proposition failed because those against the measure poured millions into ads meant to bombard voters with false and misleading information in the days immediately before the election.