Voters of California will likely have an opportunity to vote to require labeling of some genetically modified foods. The California Right to Know campaign filed over 970,000 signatures to the Secretary of State. Even if a significant percentage of the signatures are found to be invalid, the initiative will likely clear the 504,760 valid signature threshold to make it on the ballot. Barring some unusual developments, this mean the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” would appear on the general election ballot in November.

If approved, the initiative would require food that is sold at retail outlets to be labeled if it contains ingredients that have been genetically engineered. The information would be included below the product’s ingredient list.  The measure would not require such labeling for foods that are not packaged or food prepared for immediate consumption, i.e. at restaurants.  The campaign claims there are already 50 other countries, including those in the European Union, that require similar labeling.

This initiative could easily have implications well beyond California, given the incredible size of the California market. Roughly 12% of the country lives in the state. It is possible companies will not want to deal with the added cost and difficulty of doing two different labels, one for California and one for the rest of the country.  As a result they might start labeling the presence of genetically engineered food all over the country.  Either way, expect an intense battle if this initiative qualifies for the ballot.