Voters in the state of California will decide in November whether to adopt an initiative, Proposition 37, that will require many food products, with certain broad exemptions, to disclose the presence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Because the law will apply to herbal and other dietary supplements, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) included an article on the law and its possible impact on the trade in the September edition of the AHPA Report.
In addition, the newsletter's October edition will feature guest articles by representatives of California Right To Know, who will present a view on why Proposition 37 should be supported, and an opposing view from the No On 37 campaign that will discuss why this initiative should be voted down.
"AHPA has been out in front on this issue for many years, having adopted a position in 2007 to express support for labeling of consumer goods to identify genetically engineered herbal ingredients," said Michael McGuffin, AHPA's president and author of the September article. "While there are numerous AHPA members who have communicated strong support for extending this voluntary membership policy to a mandatory legal requirement, others do not agree that such labeling should be required. AHPA has therefore refrained from either endorsing or opposing this California initiative and believes that the best role we can play is to educate the industry on the details of this law."
McGuffin's article provides a succinct description of the initiative, pointing out such features as specific new labeling requirements, as well as the mechanisms in the law for establishing exemptions. The article also notes that the law would empower private plaintiffs to bring actions against food and supplement companies and to collect "reasonable attorney's fees and all reasonable costs incurred in investigating and prosecuting the action as determined by the court."
The full text of the initiative is available in California's Official Voter Information Guide (starting on page 110), and the Attorney General's summary and analysis is available on the secretary of state's website.
 Formally known as the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. Exemptions would be established, for example, for animals that are fed GE foods; alcoholic beverages, even if made from GE ingredients; and food served in restaurants, including fast food restaurants that serve foods that are products of GE. On the other hand, both dietary supplement companies and retailers who sell non-exempt products would need to comply with the law, which would go into effect on July 1, 2014.