Calif. initiative will test appetite for GMO food

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – Food labels tell consumers about the calories, nutrients and serving size of a product.

Will they want to know if their food is genetically engineered? That question is at the heart of a California ballot initiative that seeks to require certain foods that contain genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such.

Proponents say people have a right to know what they’re eating. Opponents say grocery bills will be higher if the measure is passed next month.

Genetically engineered crops have existed for more than a decade. Most of the biotech crops are used for animal feed or as ingredients in processed foods including cookies, cereal, potato chips and salad dressing.  The federal government and many scientists have said such foods are safe to eat.

Proposition 37 at a glance

What it would do: Require most genetically engineered processed foods and produce sold in supermarkets and other retailers to be labeled as such. GMO foods also will be prohibited from using the phrase “natural” on their labels. Meat, dairy, alcohol and restaurant foods are exempt.

Support: Consumer groups and the organic food industry say the measure gives shoppers more information about what they’re eating and allows them to decide whether they want to buy food made with genetically modified ingredients.

Oppose: Agribusiness, food producers, pesticide companies and retailers say grocery bills would increase if the initiative succeeds. They also say it could lead to frivolous lawsuits against grocery stores, which would have to ensure proper labeling under the initiative.

Campaign donations: Backers of the measure have raised about $4.1 million, mostly from alternative health practitioner Joseph Mercola. Opponents have raised about $34.5 million, largely from Monsanto Co.

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