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Smart Voter
State of California November 6, 2012 Election
Proposition 37
Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling
State of California

Initiative Statute - Majority Approval Required

Fail: 5,986,652 / 48.5% Yes votes ...... 6,365,236 / 51.5% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Results as of Dec 3 10:07pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (24491/24491)
Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Yes/No Meaning | Official Information | Arguments |

Should labeling be required on foods containing genetically modified ingredients when such foods (whether raw or processed, plant or animal) are offered for sale to consumers in California?

Summary Prepared by the State Attorney General:

  • Requires labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
  • Prohibits labeling or advertising such food, or other processed food, as "natural."
  • Exempts foods that are: 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.

Fiscal Impact from the Legislative Analyst's Office:

  • Increased annual state costs ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million to regulate the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
  • Potential, but likely not significant, costs to state and local governments due to litigation resulting from possible violations of the requirements of this measure. Some of these costs would be supported by court filing fees that the parties involved in each legal case would be required to pay under existing law.

Meaning of Voting Yes/No
A YES vote on this measure means:
Genetically engineered foods sold in California would have to be specifically labeled as being genetically engineered.

A NO vote on this measure means:
Genetically engineered foods sold in California would continue not to have specific labeling requirements.

Official Sources of Information
Arguments Submitted to the Secretary of State

Summary of Arguments FOR Proposition 37:
Proposition 37 gives us the right to know what is in the food we eat and feed to our families. It simply requires labeling of food produced using genetic engineering, so we can choose whether to buy those products or not. We have a right to know.

Summary of Arguments AGAINST Proposition 37:
Prop. 37 is a deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme, full of special-interest exemptions and loopholes. Prop. 37 would: create new government bureaucracy costing taxpayers millions, authorize expensive shakedown lawsuits against farmers and small businesses, and increase family grocery bills by hundreds of dollars per year.
Contact FOR Proposition 37:
Gary Ruskin; California Right to Know
5940 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618
(213) 784-5656

Contact AGAINST Proposition 37:
NO Prop. 37, Stop the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme
(800) 331-0850

  Official Information

Secretary of State

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Arguments For Proposition 37 Arguments Against Proposition 37

YES ON PROPOSITION 37—because you should have the right to know what is in your food.

Voting Yes on Prop. 37 means three things

  • YOU WILL HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR FOOD, and whether your food is produced using genetic engineering.
  • FOOD WILL BE LABELED ACCURATELY. Food labels will have to disclose if the product was produced through genetic engineering.
  • PROTECTING YOUR FAMILY’S HEALTH WILL BE EASIER. You’ll have the information you need about foods that some physicians and scientists say are linked to allergies and other significant health risks.

The food we buy already has nutritional information on the labels. With Proposition 37, we will have information, in plain language, if the food was genetically engineered, which means the food has DNA that was artificially altered in a laboratory using genes from viruses, bacteria, or other plants or animals.

Because genetically engineered foods are controversial, over 40 countries around the world require labels for genetically engineered foods, including most of Europe, Japan, and even China and India. Shouldn’t American companies give Americans the same information they give foreigners?

There are no long-term health studies that have proven that genetically engineered food is safe for humans. Whether you buy genetically engineered food or not, you have a right to know what you are buying and not gamble on your family’s health. Labeling lets us know what’s in our food so we can decide for ourselves.

PROPOSITION 37 IS A SIMPLE, COMMON SENSE MEASURE. It doesn’t cost anything to include information on a label, and it’s phased in, giving manufacturers time to print new labels telling you what’s in the food, or change their products if they do not want to sell food produced using genetic engineering.

Proposition 37 also prevents the misleading use of the word “natural” on products that are genetically engineered.

Big food manufacturers and agrichemical companies and their lobbyists oppose this measure. Many of these are the same companies that lied to us about the effects of pesticides or fought to keep other information off food labels, such as the number of calories, or how much fat or salt is in their products. Now they want to keep us in the dark about their genetic engineering of our foods.

Whether you want to eat genetically engineered foods or not, PROPOSITION 37 GIVES YOU THE POWER to choose what foods to feed your family. The big chemical companies should not make the decision for you.

Consumers, family farmers, doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and small business people and NEARLY ONE MILLION CALIFORNIANS ALREADY STEPPED UP TO SIGN THE PETITIONS GIVING YOU THE RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT’S IN OUR FOOD. WILL YOU JOIN THEM?

Find out more or join us now at

When you vote on Prop. 37, please ask yourself just one question: DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT IS IN THE FOOD I EAT AND FEED MY FAMILY? The answer isYes on Proposition 37.

DR. MICHELLE PERRO, Pediatrician

REBECCA SPECTOR, West Coast Director
Center for Food Safety

GRANT LUNDBERG, Chief Executive Officer
Lundberg Family Farms

Rebuttal to Arguments For

37’s so-called “right to know” regulations are really a deceptive scheme, full of special-interest exemptions and hidden costs for consumers and taxpayers.

37 exempts milk, cheese and meat from its labeling requirements. It exempts beer, wine, liquor, food sold at restaurants and other foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

In fact, IT EXEMPTS TWO-THIRDS OF THE FOODS CALIFORNIANS CONSUME—including products made by corporations funding the 37 campaign.


37 was written by a trial lawyer who specializes in filing lawsuits against businesses. It creates a new category of shakedown lawsuits allowing lawyers to sue farmers, grocers, and food companies—without any proof of violation or damage.


More than 400 scientific studies have shown foods made with GE ingredients are safe. Leading health organizations like the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, National Academy of Sciences, 24 Nobel Prize winning scientists, and US Food and Drug Administration agree.

“There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.” —American Medical Association


Studies show that, by forcing many common food products to be repackaged or remade with higher-priced ingredients, 37 would cost the average California family hundreds of dollars more per year for groceries.

The official state fiscal impact analysis concludes that administering 37’s red tape and lawsuits would cost taxpayers millions.

Even 37’s largest funder admits it “would be an expensive logistical nightmare.”


California Farm Bureau Federation

DR. HENRY I. MILLER, Founding Director
Office of Biotechnology of the Food & Drug     Administration
TOM HUDSON, Executive Director
California Taxpayer Protection Committee

Prop. 37 isn’t a simple measure, like promoters claim. It’s a deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme that would add more government bureaucracy and taxpayer costs, create new frivolous lawsuits, and increase food costs by billions—without providing any health or safety benefits. And, it’s full of special-interest exemptions.


Biotechnology, also called genetic engineering (GE), has been used for nearly two decades to grow varieties of corn, soybeans and other crops that resist diseases and insects and require fewer pesticides. Thousands of common foods are made with ingredients from biotech crops.

Prop. 37 bans these perfectly safe foods in California unless they’re specially relabeled or remade with higher cost ingredients.

The US Food and Drug Administration says such a labeling policy would “be inherently misleading.”

Respected scientific and medical organizations have concluded that biotech foods are safe, including:

  • National Academy of Sciences
  • American Council on Science and Health
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • World Health Organization

“There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.”—American Medical Association, June 2012


“Prop. 37’s arbitrary regulations and exemptions would benefit certain special interests, but not consumers.”—Dr. Christine Bruhn, Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis

37 is full of absurd, politically motivated exemptions. It requires special labels on soy milk, but exempts cow’s milk and dairy products. Fruit juice requires a label, but alcohol is exempt. Pet foods containing meat require labels, but meats for human consumption are exempt.

Food imported from China and other foreign countries are exempt if sellers simply claim their products are “GE free.” Unscrupulous foreign companies could game the system.


It was written by a trial lawyer to benefit trial lawyers. It creates a new class of “headhunter lawsuits,” allowing lawyers to sue family farmers and grocers without any proof of harm.

“37 lets trial lawyers use shakedown lawsuits to squeeze money from family farmers and grocers—costing California courts, businesses and taxpayers millions.”—California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse


37 requires state bureaucrats to administer its complex requirements by monitoring tens of thousands of food labels. It sets no limit on how many millions would be spent on bureaucracy, red tape and lawsuits.

It’s a blank check . . . paid by taxpayers.


37 forces farmers and food companies to implement costly new operations or switch to higher-priced, non-GE or organic ingredients to sell food in California.

Economic studies show this would increase food costs for the average family by hundreds of dollars annually—a HIDDEN FOOD TAX that would especially hurt seniors and low-income families who can least afford it.

“37 would unfairly hurt family farmers and consumers. It must be stopped.”—California Farm Bureau Federation, representing 80,000 farmers

Join scientists, medical experts, family farmers, taxpayer advocates, small businesses.



National Academy of Sciences
California Family Farmer
California Small Business Association

Rebuttal to Arguments Against

Proposition 37—Say “Yes” to know what’s in your food.

Proposition 37 simply means you’ve the right to know what’s in your food. The way to do that is to make sure food labels are accurate.

Proposition 37 puts you in charge. No government bureaucracy, politician or agrichemical company will be able to hide whether your food is genetically engineered. Enforcement is only an issue if companies disobey the law! All they must do is tell you what’s in your food, as they already do in over 40 other nations throughout Europe, Australia, Japan and even China and Russia.

Proposition 37 doesn’t ban genetically engineered food. Big agribusiness and agrichemical companies and their lobbyists want to scare you. Under Proposition 37, you can keep buying your current foods, or you can select foods that aren’t genetically engineered. It’s your choice.

Proposition 37 doesn’t raise food costs or taxes. Because food companies regularly re-print labels and there’s a reasonable phase in period, Proposition 37 won’t raise prices.

Proposition 37 will help protect your family’s health. The FDA says “providing more information to consumers about bioengineered foods would be useful.” Without accurate food labeling, you risk eating foods you are allergic to. Why don’t the big food companies want you to know what’s in your food? With conflicting, uncertain science about the health effects of genetically engineered foods, labeling is an important tool to protect your family’s health.


JAMIE COURT, President
Consumer Watchdog

JIM COCHRAN, General Manager
Swanton Berry Farm

Pesticide Action Network

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