Whole Foods Market, the upscale seller of organic products and other "natural" foods, has endorsed a California initiative that would require the labeling of genetically engineered food ingredients.
The Austin, Texas, company said it's backing Proposition 37 on the November ballot "because it has long believed its customers have the right to know how their food is produced."
That "right to know" is the main argument for the measure, which has strong support from farmers, processors and sellers of organic foods and opposition from biotech companies, grocery manufacturers and the soft drink industry.
The grocery industry contends that genetically engineered foods are healthful and no different nutritionally than organic fruit, vegetables and grains.
Opponents so far have raised about $25 million to fight Proposition 37, while supporters reported $3.5 million as of Sept. 1, according to Maplight.org, a nonpartisan voter information service.
Whole Foods' endorsement of Proposition 37 came with a couple of strings attached.
In a Sept. 11 press release, the market complained that a 0.5% thresh hold was too low for exempting a product with a small amount of genetically engineered content from the labeling requirement.
The company also objected to a provision that would allow private attorneys to sue on behalf of the state, alleging a violation of the labeling mandate, should it become law.
Stacy Malkan, the spokeswoman for the Proposition 37 campaign, welcomed the Whole Foods endorsement.