A group of environmentalists is reportedly seeking to qualify a voter initiative
in California that would require special labels on foods containing genetically
engineered (GE) ingredients. With 504,760 signatures needed by June 4, 2012,
to be eligible for the November 6 ballot, the environmentalists claim that the
Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies have not adequately
regulated GE material.

“After 20 years of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous
genetically modified foods to animals and humans—aided and abetted by
the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations—a critical mass of food and
health activists have decided it’s time to move beyond small skirmishes and
losing battles and go on the offensive,” asserted Ronnie Cummins, national
director of the Organic Consumers Association, one of the organizations
supporting the petition. Cummins evidently hopes the initiative will mimic
California’s Proposition 65, a 1986 voter initiative that requires consumer
warnings about exposures to chemicals known to the state to be carcinogens
or reproductive toxicants.

According to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the proposed
initiative would require labeling on “raw or processed food offered for sale
to consumers if [the] food or any of its ingredients contain or are made from
plants or animals with genetic material that has been changed in specified
ways.” Exempted foods would be “certified organic; unintentionally produced
with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with
genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves;
processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered
ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for
immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.” The
initiative could cost state and local governments “several millions of dollars
annually” to monitor and enforce its requirements. See California Secretary of
State Press Release, January 5, 2012; Inside Cal/EPA, January 13, 2012.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.