LOS ANGELES -- By more than a 2-to-1 margin, California voters favor an initiative to require food manufacturers and retailers to label fresh produce and processed foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
With less than six weeks until Election Day, Proposition 37 is supported by 61 percent of registered voters and opposed by 25 percent, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. An additional 14 percent were undecided or refused to answer.
The poll showed broad support among voter groups, but the interviews took place before Tuesday's start of a major television advertising blitz by opponents aimed at changing voters' minds on the issue.
So far, the opposition campaign has raised more than $32.5 million, collected mostly from businesses affected by the measure.
The first 30-second television spot complains that passage of the labeling initiative would foster more government bureaucracy and send food prices soaring. The commercial features Central Valley farmer Ted Sheeley. He warns that "the people least able to pay are going to be forced to pay more" for food. The ad calls the measure "the deceptive food labeling initiative."
Proposition 37 is sponsored by a coalition of farmers, food makers, retailers and consumer groups, mainly from the organic movement that touts a message that shoppers in California have "a right to know" what's in the food they eat.
If approved by voters Nov. 6, the labeling initiative would make California the first state in the nation to require labels on genetically engineered crops or processed foods. It would require labels on supermarket shelves or on food packages.
The California ballot issue is being watched closely by experts who say it could set the stage for battles in other states and perhaps thrust the issue of labeling genetically modified organisms to the forefront in Washington, D.C.
The telephone poll of 1,504 registered voters statewide was conducted Sept. 17 to 23 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in conjunction with American Viewpoint, on behalf of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. The margin of sampling error was 2.9 percentage points.