Will the new California proposition 37 on GMO food labeling force the "natural" label off basically all processed food that isn't also "organic"? That's the contention of some:


Reading the initiative (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures.htm) the relevant sections are:

§110809.1 Misbranding ofGenetically Engineered Foods as "Natural"

In addition to any disclosure required by subdivisions 110809, if a food meets any of the definitions in section 110808(c) or (d) , and is not otherwise exempted from labeling under section 110809.2, the food may not in California, on its label, accompanying signage in a retail establishment, or in any advertising or promotional materials, state or imply that the food is "natural" "naturally made", "naturally grown", "all natural" or any words of similar import that would have any tendency to mislead any consumer.

Sections 110808(c) and (d) read:
(c) Genetically engineered.
... lots of stuff about what qualifies as GE

(d) Processed food. "Processed food" means any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any food produced from a raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing such as canning, smoking, pressing, cooking, freezing, dehydration, fermentation or milling.

Section 110809.2 has a bunch of exemptions including:

* animals who were fed or treated with a GE origin product;
* raw agricultural products unintentionally mixed with GE seed (e.g. unexpected cross pollination);
* processed food that merely uses enzymes or processing aids of GE origin (this provision saves cheese from being labeled as GMO);
* alcoholic beverages (even ones that use GE corn!);
* foods with very small amounts of GE ingredients;
* a confusing provision that seems to be there so that if groups like the NonGMOProject make a mistake when certifiying a product GMO-free, the farmer/producer can't be sued (but I'm not sure);
* all organic food under USDA rules;
* restaurant exemption;
* medical food

So a clear reading of this seems to be: If a food is GE or it is processed (110808(c)) and it is not one of the items in 110809.2. then it can't be labeled as natural. But I don't know how "and" and "or" really work in legal writing.

The specific example used in some of the news stories is conventional olive oil versus organic olive oil. Both are definitely processed per 110808(c). The conventional oil doesn't appear to have an exemption in 110809.2. So ... maybe?

Any lawyers want to chime in? :)
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