Figures compiled from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 88 percent of the corn, 94 percent of the soybeans and 90 percent of the cotton planted in the U.S. last year were biotech varieties. Other biotech crops grown in the U.S. include alfalfa, canola, sugar beets, squash and papaya.

Opponents of the food labeling initiative point out that 80 percent of the processed food sold in U.S. grocery stores is reported to contain biotech products, so unless food processors want to label all their products, they will need California-only packaging.

Now here’s the kicker. The initiative would ban foods from being labeled or marketed as “natural” if they have been processed in any way – even if they contain no biotech ingredients.  That includes foods that have been dried, roasted, smoked, pressed, cooked, fermented, milled, frozen or canned. Think about that one. Rice and wheat are milled. Olives must be pressed to make olive oil.

It gets worse. The measure would allow anyone to sue, claiming a food company, grocer or farmer has violated its labeling provisions – even when they have no proof of any damages. Bring on the ambulance chasers! Farmers who don’t use biotechnology would be affected the most, as they would have to keep special records and track every ingredient of every product they sell in California in the event they are hit with a lawsuit. Sadly, the measure doesn’t do anything in terms of adding extra security for nutritional or health concerns for the consumer.

About that questionable donor cited above. His name is Joseph Mercola, an osteopath who lives in suburban Chicago and runs a website, Mercola.com, which promotes his alternative, though widely unproven, health-related products and ideas. Mercola donated $500,000 for the signature-gathering drive for the Golden State’s labeling measure. He has drawn the attention of the FDA that has issued three warnings for him to stop marketing a device he apparently claims can detect breast cancer.

His thoughts about the biotech labeling drive?  “There is more than enough evidence to suggest that this could be a very serious, if not the most serious risk, to the very existence of the human species,” he warns on a video. Oh, and by the way, he warns that chemotherapy kills rather than cures children with cancer; that prescription drugs kill huge numbers of people; and that raw milk is good for you, despite numerous safety recalls.

(For more, see: Dear Oprah: Biotech crops make sense)

You can easily see why family farmers, grocers, small businesses, food producers and agricultural groups are up in arms about this GM labeling drive. The California Legislative Analyst estimates the measure would cost millions of dollars in monitoring, enforcement and legal costs. An economic analysis of a similar measure that was rejected by Oregon voters in 2002 found that the type of labeling regulations in the California proposition could cost an average family hundreds of dollars per year in higher food prices.

The long and short of it is that consumers who wish to avoid biotech foods already have the option to buy foods that have been certified organic by the USDA and other third-party entities. Agriculture needs to bring a full-court press upon the proponents of this labeling measure and tell enviros that it’s had enough – that we are not going to suffer even harsher burdens by a group of uniformed fellow citizens and self-interest groups who are against modern-day farming technology for apparently no good reason.