California — where some say state ballot initiatives are a substitute for warfare — may soon decide whether genetically engineered food should be labeled.


An initiative to require GMO labeling will be on the California ballot Nov. 6 if, as it now appears, the Right-to-Know campaign obtained enough petition signatures.

The campaign has four rallies planned Wednesday in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Francisco to unveil the signatures before turning over the petitions to election officials for qualification.

If adopted by voters, the measure would require food manufacturers to identify genetically engineered ingredients on the labels of food products sold in California.  Supporters predict manufacturers would avoid the cost of dual labeling by just using the California packaging throughout the U.S.

It’s also possible the dual-labeling issue could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where GMO labeling might be struck down, as was the recent California mandate on euthanizing non-ambulatory, or “downer,” cows.

The Right-to-Know campaign says it collected at least 850,000 and perhaps as many as 1 million  signatures by the April 22 deadline  Since then, it has worked on required verification procedures.

Qualifying for ballot placement in California requires just over a half million valid signatures.  If the Right to Know campaign has 850,000 signatures in hand, its initiative should easily make the Nov. 6 ballot.

Ballot rules, however, are not simple.

California uses both random sample and full check methods to verify signatures. Signature gathers must obtain 110 percent of the required amount to qualify for random check.

Raw totals under random check are due today (May 2).  Counties then certify the number to the Secretary of State, who has until June 28 to determine if enough valid signatures have been collected.

Just getting enough petition signatures, however, is a huge milestone in a California ballot initiative effort.

Since 2010, ballot access has cost most successful petitions $2- to $3 million. Most of that money goes to petition firms who charge to gather signatures.

The Committee for the Right to Know, which reports raising $27,472 through March 31, has  instead relied on volunteers described as “concerned mothers, farmers, fishermen, business leaders, students and volunteer leaders.”

If the measure makes the ballot and is approved in November,  “Californians will join citizens of over 40 countries including all of Europe, Japan and even China who have the right to know they are eating food containing genetically engineered ingredients, in order to make informed choices about what they eat and feed their children,” says campaign spokeswoman Stacy Malkan.

With the petition task accomplished, the campaign is going to turn its attention to fund raising with the goal of raising $1 million during the month. However, that amount is a drop in the proverbial bucket in California.  Total spending in a contested California initiative can easily exceed $10 million in some of the nation’s most expensive media markets.

  • Keen Observer

    Don’t count your chickens until the signatures have been officially verified. Anti-technology activists are brazenly dogmatic to a fault but they definitely are not renowned for strict adherence to truth and fact. No one would be at all surprised if most of the marks presented as signatures are bogus.

  • G

    To Mr. Keen Observer (Monsanto troll). You are incorrect on this one. MOST of the signatures are valid and the initiative will be on the California ballot in November. No matter how crooked Monsanto is, they can be stopped

  • Choice Is Good

    Another keenly bogus observation —
    Nationally, 1.1 MILLION signatures were legally submitted to FDA calling for GMO labeling

  • federal microbiologist

    Big Ag is NOT going to like this development !
    If the signatures are accepted and the measure goes to a ballot, expect major agitprop against it from the agrochemical industries, research scientists who are financially supported by agrochemical companies, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and corporate ag advocacy groups like the Farm Bureau and the American Soybean Association.
    I also expect heated anti-ballot rhetoric from Big Ag public relations personnel – like Charlie Arnot at the ‘Center for Food Integrity’, and Dan Murphy at the Drover’s Cattle Network.
    Also look for heated campaigns to discredit efforts to label GMOs from duplicitous grass-roots organizations like the ‘US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’, ‘Truth About Trade and Technology’, and the ‘Center for Agricultural Science and Technology’.
    Anticipate rhetoric from a host of bloggers who are adamant that ‘sound science’ supports the ‘safety record’ regarding consumption of GMOs….. bloggers anxious to ‘tell our story’, about ‘modern agriculture’ and how it is vital to ‘feeding the world’.
    Things are going to get very interesting as the year moves along…………..

  • Deceptive Petition

    Be sure to read the actual petition. It is a mess. It would create more deception rather than provide choice. Foods made with GMO enzymes, for example, will NOT have to be labeled as GMO and even would be allowed to be labeled as “natural.” People will be deceived into thinking they are buying GMO-free food when it is not. People with buy “natural” food rather than organic, thinking “natural” means not made with GMOs.
    Stick with organic. That way you know what you are getting.

  • stacy

    What is the difference between a gmo enzyme and gmo food? Lord ….does there always have to be a damned loop whole? What the hell? And does Organic mean none gmo? Always?

  • GovtOutOfMyBiz
    This is an article from about a year ago that is a great primer for people trying to explain to others what GM foods are about.