GM Food Labeling Effort Is Rejected; Creve Coeur-Based Monsanto Gave $8 Million toward Defeat of Proposition in California; BUSINESS

Article excerpt

A California ballot initiative that would have required labels on genetically modified foods was defeated in Tuesday's election and now supporters of labeling say they will focus on a federal effort.

The measure, known as Proposition 37, was defeated 54 to 46 percent, with voters apparently responding to messages that the labels would raise food prices and open the door to lawsuits.

Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co., the world's largest agricultural biotechnology company, threw more than $8 million toward defeating the measure, joining rival DuPont and food manufacturing giants, PepsiCo and Kellogg's, among others, which contributed a total of about $50 million.

Supporters of the measure raised about $9 million, saying their efforts were overwhelmed by the might of the chemical and food industries in recent weeks, as polls had indicated wide support for the measure before the fight over it escalated.

If the measure had passed, California would have been the first state to require labels on genetically modified foods, joining about 60 countries, including those in the European Union, that have similar requirements.

"Consumers have decided that Proposition 37 is not in their best interests," said Thomas Helscher, a Monsanto spokesman, in an email. "Consumers have choices and can select the products they prefer." Genetically modified ingredients are in an estimated 60 percent of the foods found in grocery stores, from ketchup to cereal to granola bars. …