Activists near Vote on Modified-Food Labeling; Initiative Likely to Be Met with Fierce Resistance

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Byline: Andrea Billups, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

California could become the first state in the nation to require food producers to label all genetically modified products after activists this week capped a successful petition drive to get the measure on the state's November ballot.

More than 971,000 signatures from 58 counties - almost twice the legal requirement - were collected in a 10-week ballot drive by the California Right to Know initiative, the group announced Wednesday afternoon at victory rallies held around the state.

We certainly believe it's a monumental achievement, said Stacy Malkan, media director for the campaign. Five to six weeks will be needed to certify the signatures.

We're expecting to be on the ballot in November and we're expecting a victory, Ms. Malkan said. We've seen huge support in the polls, with 91 percent of people in our state in national polls saying they support the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Nineteen states have considered bills on genetically modified food, including most recently Vermont, where backers have been stymied trying to hammer out a deal in the state legislature. Another legislative attempt remains alive in Connecticut.

But the California voter initiative is likely to meet fierce resistance from agricultural and business interests, who predict it will prove costly both for growers and consumers. Opponents warn the measure constitutes a right to sue initiative that will undercut sales of numerous food items that have been consumed safely for years.

The California Farm Bureau opposes the ballot initiative, along with the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Seed Association, the California Grain and Feed Association, and California Women for Agriculture. …