The California statewide ballot initiative Proposition 37 that would have required food containing genetically modified (GMO) crops to be labeled was defeated by a 53 percent to 47 percent vote.
The initiative’s proponents were touting it as a “right-to-know” issue, questioning the technology’s safety. Opponents, such as farmers, food manufacturers, grocers and seed providers, believed that the label would be used by anti-biotech groups as a warning statement despite the fact that many scientific organizations, including the American Medical Assoc., World Health Organization, National Academy of Sciences, and US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), have concluded that biotech foods are safe.
Support for Prop. 37 was, at first, widespread but had plummeted as election day approached. A California Business Roundtable/Pepperdine U. poll on Sept. 27 revealed that 66.9 percent of voters supported Prop. 37. The same poll taken on Oct. 11 had 48.3 percent of voters backing the initiative and only 39.1 percent as of Oct. 30.
Nearly every newspaper editorial board in the state came out against Prop 37, not on the grounds of the merit of labeling, but, rather, that the bill was poorly written.
The defeat of Prop 37 is not the end of the drive to require labeling for biotech food products. Supporters of Prop 37 are still claiming victory in that the high-profile campaign in California raised national awareness of GMOs. Other attempts already are underway. Signature gathering is ongoing for a similar ballot initiative in Washington State in Nov. 2013 as well as legislative efforts in Connecticut and Vermont. In addition, a petition with more than a million signatures has been filed with the USFDA to reconsider its long standing policy on labeling. There also will be renewed pressure on President Obama in his second term on this issue.