A poll released this week surveying more than 1,000 likely California voters found strong support for Proposition 37, a California ballot initiative that would require labeling of products derived from genetically engineered sources.
The poll, which was conducted by Jayson Lusk and Brandon McFadden of Oklahoma State University's Ag Economics department, surveyed voters on knowledge of the legislation, likely vote and reasons for vote.
The authors found that 71% of respondents said they would vote yes because "people have a right to know what is in their food," while 16% said a yes vote would "make the food supply safer."
Of those voting no, 35% said the reason was "to avoid higher food costs." Of the remainder, 22% said "it will impose unneeded costs on farmers" and 17% said it was "because genetically modified foods are not harmful."
The legislation, which will appear on the ballot in California's Nov. 6 election, requires labeling on raw or processed foods that are made from animals or plants with genetic material "changed in specified ways," according to the California Secretary of State's voter summary.
Prop 37 also includes several exceptions: alcohol, restaurant foods and products from animals fed or injected with GE material.
Though initial poll responses backed the measure, authors of the study found potential for voters to change their minds.
When respondents were asked specifically about higher food costs, the authors found with "any price increase greater than 11.9%, more than 50% of likely voters will vote against the proposition."
Some of the respondents were also shown either negative or positive advertisements about the proposition. The original group was divided in halves: one group watching "Yes Prop 37" ads and the other half watching "No Prop 37" ads. The percentage of voters who watched the pro-Prop 37 ad and remained in support of the measure was 77% -- comparable to the percentage of voters who originally supported the measure.
Of those that watched the ads opposing Prop 37, 59% still intended to vote yes.
Though arguments for and against Prop 37 have divided California voters, study authors say farmers throughout the nation could be most affected by the vote. The authors cited effects from similar legislation in the EU.
"The European Union’s mandatory labeling requirement for GE food and their slow pace at approving some GE seed varieties has caused trade disruptions between the U.S. and the EU, litigation at the World Trade Organization, and has led to logistical difficulties for food firms working in the U.S. and Europe," they wrote. "Similarly, Prop 37 could disrupt the flow of agricultural products to and from California."
The poll was conducted Sept. 20-27 and administered to a random sample of Californians.