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Defeat Of California Prop 37 On GM Food Labelling Just One Battle In A Long War

LOS ANGELES, November 13, 2012 () – As both a food and beverage analyst and a California resident, I read and heard a lot about California Proposition 37 and its defeat. Had it passed, the measure would have required labeling of genetically engineered food--with some exceptions--and also disallowed the practice of labeling genetically engineered food with the word “natural.”

Personally, I went with the majority of Californians and voted no on the measure, simply because I couldn’t understand why the proposition had so many exceptions, including: products that are certified organic, made from animals feed or injected with genetically engineered material (but not genetically engineered themselves); products processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients, administered for treatment of medical conditions; products sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; and alcoholic beverages.

But despite the bill being rejected by voters and despite the efforts of several major food and beverage companies to defeat the measure (various media reports had these companies spending upwards of $45 million to defeat Prop 37), proponents of the bill got the biggest victory of all:

It introduced the issue of GM foods to the public consciousness.

GM foods are nothing new. It’s been in grocery and convenience stores worldwide for years. We’ve all consumed them, whether we realize it for not. And that’s the entire point that proponents of 37 argued: That many people don’t realize they’re consuming GM products.

Advocates felt that the proposition would have given consumers the right to know what’s in the food they eat. Their point was that requiring labeling of food produced using genetic engineering would allow consumers to choose whether or not to buy those products.

Though advocates of 37 didn’t win this battle, putting forth the issue of GM foods without labels makes it more likely that other states and their consumers will take a closer look at the issue. The food and beverage industry may have won the first battle, but the war on GM food labeling is far from over.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence Inc. He feels that despite the defeat of California Proposition 37, the war on GM food labeling is far from over. He can be reached at

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