Industry arguments about additional consumer and business costs resonated with California voters, who on Tuesday defeated a ballot measure that would have forced the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to a standard stricter than in Europe.
Proposition 37 would have required that manufacturers using 0.5% GMO material as of 2014—and any quantity as of 2019—in raw agricultural commodities and processed foods label their products “in clear and conspicuous language,” with the phrase “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” California’s threshold would have been smaller than the 0.9% GMO material used by the European Union (EU).
Supporters of the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act—a coalition of environmental, consumer, and public health groups, plus smaller food retailers, and even food manufacturers (many of “natural” or “organic” foods) named “Yes on 37”—insisted any increases would be minimal and an affordable trade-off for learning just what is in those genetically-modified soybeans or corn.
But in their campaign against the measure, opponents of the measure—a coalition of GMO seed companies, farmers, chain retailers and larger food producers named “No on 37”—successfully spent $46 million to warn that Right-to-Know will cost California households up to $400 annually, as producers pass on costs whether they try to substitute with organic or non-GMO ingredients, according to a report issued for GMO supporters by Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants.
[For more on Proposition 37, see "Weighing the Costs of GMO Labeling".]
“The cost to consumers would be reflected equally in the cost to businesses. Not only do businesses have the costs that they have to pass on to consumers, but they would also have whatever additional costs they would have for liability as a result of this law,” Mark C. Goodman, a partner in the San Francisco office of the law firm Hogan Lovells, told GEN.