The California Right to Know campaign, which is pushing for mandatory biotech labeling within the state, has collected 971,126 signatures, nearly double the requirement, to qualify for a statewide referendum to be included in the Nov. 6 General Election.

If approved, the referendum would require all foods to be labeled by July 1, 2014, if produced using genetically engineered (GE) crops. Also, GE foods would be prohibited from being advertised as "natural." Restaurants, direct public sales and dairies would be exempt from the requirement.

Such a labeling requirement would essentially ban the sale of tens of thousands of common grocery products in California unless they are specially repackaged and relabeled just for that state.

(For more, see: GM food label battle gets Vermont test)

Meanwhile, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a legal petition last October with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) demanding that the agency require the labeling of GE foods. CFS also spearheaded a drive with the Just Label It Campaign which resulted in more than one million comments to the FDA in support of the petition. Several states also have labeling bills before their legislatures.

Over the last few decades, the FDA has studied and carefully considered the scientific and legal issues associated with labeling foods derived from modern biotechnology. FDA’s deliberations are reflected in its public documents and draft guidance on food labeling, which require labels to provide information that is “material” to the attributes of the food itself, rather than the process by which the food was made. According to its own finding, “FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any or greater safety concern.”

(For more, see: Mandatory GMO food labeling implies risks where there are none)