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California Ballot Initiative to Require Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods Submitted to Attorney General

Help the Organic Consumers Fund make GMO labels the law! Please DONATE and VOLUNTEER!SACRAMENTO, CA - Today, a wide-ranging coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations, food companies, and individuals submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the State Attorney General. The initiative requires genetically engineered foods (also known as Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs) and foods containing GMO ingredients to be clearly labeled, similar to current labels with other nutritional information.

A genetically engineered food is usually a plant or animal that has had its DNA altered at the molecular level in a lab to include genes that produce foreign compounds from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria. This genetic alteration is not found in nature and cannot occur naturally. Californians currently unknowingly are eating many different genetically engineered foods, because these foods are not required to be labeled.

" Genetic engineering adds completely new elements into our food. Because the FDA has failed to require labeling of GMO food, this initiative closes a critical loophole in food labeling law. It will allow Californians to choose what they buy and eat and will allow health professionals to track any potential adverse health impacts of these foods." says Andy Kimbrell, Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Genetically engineering food can cause unintended consequences and because there have been no long term studies, we are unsure of how GMOs may affect our health."

Manipulating genes in a lab is imprecise and unpredictable and the results aren't always controllable. Genetically engineering food can create new, unexpected toxicants, increase allergies, lower nutrition, and create other health risks. The two most common genetically engineered traits are the expression of an insecticide in "Bt Corn" and the expression of a compound in "Roundup Ready Soy" which enables high doses of Monsanto's Roundup weed killer to be sprayed while the plant survives. A genetically engineered salmon with genes from an eel that doubles growth rate is likely to be approved for sale soon in the US.

"Californians have a right to know what's in the food we eat and feed our children," says Robyn O'Brien, author and founder of the Allergy Kids Foundation. "I support labeling genetically engineered foods because allergy-sensitive people can exercise caution with essential information to make informed decisions about what they eat."

Fifty countries including the European Union and Japan have laws mandating that genetically engineered foods be labeled, but the United States does not have such a requirement. Public opinion polls indicate that over 90 percent of California voters support the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Efforts to enact labeling laws in Congress and the California legislature have been blocked by big food and chemical company lobbyists. This measure will take the issue directly to the people to decide whether genetically engineered foods should be labeled.

The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act was carefully and specifically written to avoid any unnecessary burden or cost to consumers or producers. California voters are expected to have the chance to vote on the initiative in November 2012.