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Supporters of a proposal to require labeling for genetically engineered foods sold on California shelves took a step toward qualifying for the ballot by submitting nearly a million signatures today.

Initiative proponents announced today that they submitted 971,126 signatures to county election officials across the state. Roughly 504,000 valid voter signatures are needed to qualify for the November ballot.

"We're very confident that we'll be on the ballot in November," spokeswoman Stacy Malkan said.

Under the measure, raw foods and products made primarily from genetically engineered ingredients and some processed foods could not be advertised or labeled as "natural." It includes some exceptions, including for organic products, foods sold in restaurants and animal products supplemented with genetically engineered ingredients.

"This is about the right to know," Malkan said of the push for labeling. "It's a fundamental right, a bedrock American value."

Opponents, which include the California Farm Bureau Federation and the California Chamber of Commerce, say creating a California-specific labeling requirements will raise prices for consumers and lead to lawsuits. They also argue that the number of exemptions will end up misleading voters.

"Proponents want you to believe this measure is simply about labeling foods with GE ingredients. The truth is that this measure goes far beyond labeling and contains extreme provisions that will cost us all," Jamie Johansson, an Oroville farmer who serves as second vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said in a statement.

Supporters of the initiative disagree, claiming it would not raise food prices substantially or spark a wave of lawsuits.


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