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GMO Food Labeling Measure Draws Early Cash; Initiative Would Label Genetically Modified Foods

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page, Millions Against Monsanto page, and our California News page.

It has not even qualified for the ballot yet, but a state initiative to slap labels on genetically modified food is shaping up as a major battle between agribusiness and the organic movement.

Friday, supporters and opponents of the effort lodged a whopping $875,000 in campaign donations with the Secretary of State's office, an early tally that pushed total spending close to $2 million, about two-thirds from labeling supporters trying to gather enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.

"We're not banning (genetically modified organisms) or genetically engineered food. We're just saying that people have a right to know," said Doug Linney, a campaign consultant for Label Genetically Engineered Foods 2012, a coalition of activists behind the effort.

The initiative should be closely tracked in Santa Cruz, which has a long history of supporting organic foods but also calls agriculture its top industry. According to California Certified Organic Farmers, 123 local growers are certified organic.

Friday's campaign filings included the first donations to come in against the nascent measure. Both come from Washington, D.C.-based industry groups, including $375,000 from the Council for Biotechnology Information, whose members include Monsanto, DuPont, Dow AgroScience and $250,000 from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Opponents of labeling fear the initiative will stigmatize modern farming practices that are not harmful. They have organized an opposition group, Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition, and say the measure will mean higher prices and unnecessarily scares people. 
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