California Proposition 37, Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food (2012)
|Referred by:||Petition signatures|
|Status:||On the ballot|
If Proposition 37 is approved by voters, it will:
- Require labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
- Prohibit labeling or advertising such food as "natural."
- Exempt from this requirement 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."
James Wheaton, who filed the ballot language for the initiative, refers to it as "The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act."
Text of measure
Note: The original title given to Proposition 37 by election officials during the petition circulation stage was, "Genetically Engineered Foods. Mandatory Labeling. Initiative Statute."
The state's official voter guide includes two summaries for each statewide ballot measure. One summary, in bullet-point format, appears in the long-form description of each measure. A shorter form of the summary appears on the ballot label in the front of the voter guide, where there is a short description of each measure.
The long-form summary for Proposition 37 says:
The short-form (ballot label) summary for Proposition 37 says:
|"Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as 'natural.' Provides exemptions."|
Neither of the two summaries in the final voter guide is identical to the summary that was originally given to Proposition 37, when its sponsors sought a summary prior to circulating petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot. The summary that was given by election officials to Proposition 37 at that time said:
|"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 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."|
(This is a summary of the initiative's estimated "fiscal impact on state and local government" prepared by the California Legislative Analyst's Office and the Director of Finance.)
Note: The original fiscal note given to Proposition 37 by election officials during the petition circulation stage was, "Potential increase in state administrative costs of up to one million dollars annually to monitor compliance with the disclosure requirements specified in the measure. Unknown, but potentially significant, costs for the courts, the Attorney General, and district attorneys due to litigation resulting from possible violations to the provisions of this measure."
- Organic Consumers' Association
- Nature's Path
- The Institute for Responsible Technology
- The California Democratic Party
The arguments in favor of Proposition 37 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:
- Dr. Michelle Pero. Pero is a pediatrician.
- Rebecca Spector. Spector is the West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety.
- Grant Lundberg. Lundberg is the Chief Executive Officer of Lundberg Family Farms.
- Jamie Court. Court is the president of Consumer Watchdog
- Jim Cochran. Cochran is the general manager of Swanton Berry Farm.
- Dr. Marcia Ishil-Eiteman. Ishil-Eiteman is a senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network.
Arguments in favor
The arguments presented in favor of Proposition 37 in the state's official voter guide include:
- "You should have the right to know what's in your food."
- "You'll have the information you need about foods that some physicians and scientists say are linked to allergies and other significant health risks."
- "Over 40 countries around the world require labels for genetically modified foods."
|Total campaign cash|
Joseph Mercola is one of the main financial supporters of the initiative. He is an osteopath who lives in suburban Chicago. According to Mercola, "Your health care, your food supply, everything you need to live a healthy life is now being taken away and controlled by a massive industrial complex and corrupt government."
These are the $50,000 and over donors to the "yes" campaign as of September 23, 2012:
|Mercola Health Resources||$1,100,000|
|Organic Consumers Fund||$770,000|
|Nature's Path Foods||$610,709|
|Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps||$344,445|
|Wehah Farm (Lundberg Family Farms)||$250,000|
|Clif Bar & Co.||$100,000|
|Great Foods of America||$67,000|
|Cropp Cooperative (Organic Valley)||$50,000|
|Michael S. Funk||$50,000|
The arguments against Proposition 37 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:
- Dr. Bob Goldberg. Goldberg is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Jamie Johansson. Johansson is a family farmer in California.
- Betty Jo Toccoli. Toccoli is the president of the California Small Business Association.
- Jonnalee Henderson. Henderson is affiliated with the California Farm Bureau Federation.
- Dr. Henry I. Miller. Miller is a founding director of the Office of Biotechnology of the Food & Drug Administration.
- Tom Hudson. Hudson is the executive director of the California Taxpayer Protection Committee.
Other opponents include:
The arguments in opposition to Proposition 37 presented in the state's official voter guide include:
- "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."
- "It's full of special interest exemptions."
- "It authorizes shakedown lawsuits."
|Total campaign cash|
As of September 23, 2012, over $32 million has been donated to the "No on 37" campaign effort.
These are the $100,000 and over donors to the "no" campaign as of September 23, 2012:
|E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co.||$4,900,000|
|BASF Plant Science||$2,000,000|
|Coca-Cola North America||$1,164,400|
|Del Monte Foods||$674,100|
|The J.M. Smucker Company||$388,000|
|Council for Biotechnology Information||$375,000|
|Grocery Manufacturers Association||$375,000|
|Bumble Bee Foods||$368,500|
|Ocean Spray Cranberries||$362,100|
|Pioneer Hi-Bred International||$310,100|
|Dean Foods Company||$253,950|
|Biotechnology Industry Organization||$252,000|
|McCormick & Company||$248,200|
|Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company||$237,664|
|Rich Products Corporation||$225,537|
|Dole Packaged Foods||$171,261|
|Knouse Foods Cooperative||$135,831|
|Mars Food North America||$100,242|
Other food companies who have contributed to the "no" campaign (but with checks of less than $100,000) include Sunny Delight Beverages, McCain Foods, Dole Packaged Foods, Heinz, Idahoan Foods, Richelieu Foods, Land O'Lakes, Morton Salt and Godiva Chocolatier.
- See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted from September 17-23, 2012.
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|September 17-23, 2012||USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times||61%||25%||14%||1,504|
|October 7-9, 2012||SurveyUSA||39%||30%||31%||700|
|October 7-10, 2012||California Business Roundtable||48.3%||40.2%||11.5%||830|
|October 21-28, 2012||California Business Roundtable||39.1%||50.5%||10.5%||2,115|
Path to the ballot
- See also: California signature requirements
- James Wheaton submitted a letter requesting a ballot title for Version #11-0071 on November 9, 2011.
- Wheaton submitted a letter requesting a ballot title for Version #11-0099 on December 20, 2011.
- The ballot title and ballot summary for Version #11-0071 was issued by the Attorney General of California's office on January 5, 2012. The issue date for Version #11-0099 was February 14, 2012.
- 504,760 valid signatures were required for qualification purposes.
- The 150-day circulation deadline for #11-0071 was June 4, 2012, while the 150-day deadline for Version #11-0099 was July 13, 2012.
- Supporters filed about 970,000 signatures in early May on Version #11-0099.
- The measure was certified for the November 6, 2012 ballot on June 11, 2012.
- See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012
Supporters of Proposition 37 filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court on August 9, 2012. The lawsuit was successful. The purpose of the lawsuit was to force the California Secretary of State to revise the state's "impartial analysis" of Proposition 37 that appears in the state's official voter guide. The correction asked for by Proposition 37 supporters, and ordered by the court, amounts to the change of one word. Specifically, the court ordered that the word "some" replace the word "all" in this sentence: "Given the way the measure is written, there is a possibility that these restrictions would be interpreted by the courts to apply to some processed foods regardless of whether they are genetically engineered." (In the actual voter guide, the word some will not appear in underlined bold form.)
- Complete November 6, 2012 official voter guide
- Ballot title, summary and LAO analysis of Proposition 37
- Arguments for and against Proposition 37 in the official state voter guide
- Letter requesting a ballot title for Initiative 11-0099
- Proposition 37, an overview prepared by the League of Women Voters of California
- Proposition 37 on Voter's Edge
- Proposition 37 Cheatsheet from KCET
- "California Right to Know"/Yes on 37 website
- "Yes on 37" on Facebook
- "Yes on 37" on Twitter
- "Yes on 37" campaign finance disclosures
- Organic Consumer's Association "Yes on 37" campaign finance disclosures
- "Yes on 37 Lake County" campaign finance disclosures
- "No on Prop 37" website
- "No on Prop 37" on Facebook
- "No on Prop 37" on Twitter
- "No on Prop 37" campaign finance disclosures
- Why PepsiCo Is Fighting GMO Labeling in California
- The Mercenary Intent Behind Proposition 37's GM Food Labeling
- Is Team Organic Outspending Team Big Ag in the GMO Labeling Fight?
- Big-food company bucks make Prop. 37 unpredictable
- Mercury News, "Food labeling, 3-strikes join crowded Nov. ballot", June 11, 2012
- Wall Street Journal, "Foes of Genetically Modified Foods Seek Vote on Labeling in California", May 2, 2012
- Digital Journal, "Californians set to vote on labeling of genetically modified food", May 3, 2012
- Walnut Patch, "Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support", July 30, 2012
- Arguments in favor of Proposition 37 submitted to the official voter guide
- Sacramento Bee, "Dan Morain: Label this one 'Do Not Touch'", February 19, 2012
- Arguments against Proposition 37 in the California Official Voter Guide
- Walnut Creek Patch, "California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures", August 12, 2012
- Twin Cities (from the Los Angeles Times), "Campaign to defeat California GMO label law raises $12M", August 14, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, "Poll finds Prop. 37 is likely to pass", September 27, 2012
- FireDogLake Elections, "CA: Genetically Modified Food Labeling Initiative Likely to Make the Ballot", May 2, 2012
- In the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento, "James Russell Wheaton v. Debra Bowen", order issued August 10, 2012