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Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods

Prop. 37 would require labeling of any raw or processed food that is made from plants or animals which have had their genetic material altered. The measure would prohibit marketing genetically engineered food as "natural". Certain foods are exempted.

Semi-Official Election Results:

Yes: 6,088,714 [ 48.6%]
No: 6,442,371 [51.4%]


Pro / Con


Proponents of Prop. 37 believe that the measure will better inform consumers on what ingredients are in food products. They say the measure will help consumers identify health risks and allergies that may exist with certain ingredients. They also claim that Prop. 37 will bring California into line with industrialized countries around the world that have labeling laws.


Californians Right to Know [Website archived in Internet Archive]


Opponents of Prop. 37 say that the measure will introduce greater government bureaucracy while raising taxpayer costs and increasing food costs. They claim that the measure will open the door to frivolous lawsuits. They also say that many respected scientific and medical organizations believe that genetically modified foods are safe.


No on Prop 37 [Website archived in Internet Archive]





Genetic engineering is used to change the genetic material of plants and animals in order to generate food sources. A large number of vegetables produced in the U.S. are grown from genetically engineered seeds. Federal law does not regulate genetically engineered foods but the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture JGenetic engineering of wheat cellshas placed limits on the use of GE crops that have the potential to harm other plants. Similarly, the state of California is not required to regulate genetically engineered foods but the Dept. of Public Health does regulate the safety and labeling of most foods grown in the state.

Proposition 37 changes state law to require the regulation of genetically engineered foods.It requires most genetically engineered foods to be labelled as "Genetically Engineered" upon the front label or package. If the item does not have a label, the words "Genetically Engineered" must appear on the shelf where the item is displayed. Processed foods that are produced through genetic engineering must be labeled with the words “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” Genetically engineered products could not be labelled or advertised with terms like "natural" or "naturally grown".

Businesses which sell labelled foods would be responsible for observing that each genetically engineered food product they sell is correctly labeled as such. Products that are not labelled correctly must be documented as "exempt from labeling". Retailers could document a product as exempt by receiving a sworn statement by the provider of the product that the product has not been genetically engineered. Retailers could also obtain certification from an independent reviewer that the product does not contain genetically engineered ingredients.Some food manufacturers and farmers would be responsible for maint(Wikimedia Commons)aining records.

Under the measure, certain food products are considered exempt from the labeling requirements. This includes animal products that were not produced through genetic engineering, even if they've been fed genetically engineered crops.

Under Proposition 37, the state Dept. of Public Health would be responsible for regulating the labeling requirements of the measure. The department is given authority to adopt regulations it deems as necessary. Prop. 37 includes language regarding enforcement. State or local government, or private parties could prosecute violations and courts are allowed to award prosecuting costs to these parties. The state Consumer Legal Remedies Act would cover individuals who bring suit on genetic engineering labeling violations.


Voter Resources

Voter Resources

Official CA Documents

Official Voter Information Guide

Campaign Finance Information

Cal-Access Check out how much money is being raised and spent to pass or defeat this measure, and where the money is coming from.

Cal-Access Ballot Measure Summary Data Search Select "General 06 November 2012" and "Proposition 037" from the drop-down menus. Cal-Access provides financial information supplied by state candidates, donors, lobbyists, and others.

Nonpartisan Analyses


California Initiative Review - Pacific McGeorge Capital Center for Public Law and Policy.

California's Proposition 37: A Legal & Policy Analysis,California Environmental Law and Policy Center, Oct. 2012.

Maplight: Voter's Edge

League of Women Voters: Pros and Cons







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