Genetic engineering is used to change the genetic material of plants and animals in order to generate food sources. A large number of vegetables produced in the U.S. are grown from genetically engineered seeds. Federal law does not regulate genetically engineered foods but the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has placed limits on the use of GE crops that have the potential to harm other plants. Similarly, the state of California is not required to regulate genetically engineered foods but the Dept. of Public Health does regulate the safety and labeling of most foods grown in the state.
Proposition 37 changes state law to require the regulation of genetically engineered foods.It requires most genetically engineered foods to be labelled as "Genetically Engineered" upon the front label or package. If the item does not have a label, the words "Genetically Engineered" must appear on the shelf where the item is displayed. Processed foods that are produced through genetic engineering must be labeled with the words “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” Genetically engineered products could not be labelled or advertised with terms like "natural" or "naturally grown".
Businesses which sell labelled foods would be responsible for observing that each genetically engineered food product they sell is correctly labeled as such. Products that are not labelled correctly must be documented as "exempt from labeling". Retailers could document a product as exempt by receiving a sworn statement by the provider of the product that the product has not been genetically engineered. Retailers could also obtain certification from an independent reviewer that the product does not contain genetically engineered ingredients.Some food manufacturers and farmers would be responsible for maintaining records.
Under the measure, certain food products are considered exempt from the labeling requirements. This includes animal products that were not produced through genetic engineering, even if they've been fed genetically engineered crops.
Under Proposition 37, the state Dept. of Public Health would be responsible for regulating the labeling requirements of the measure. The department is given authority to adopt regulations it deems as necessary. Prop. 37 includes language regarding enforcement. State or local government, or private parties could prosecute violations and courts are allowed to award prosecuting costs to these parties. The state Consumer Legal Remedies Act would cover individuals who bring suit on genetic engineering labeling violations.