SACRAMENTO -- Proposition 37, the genetically engineered food labeling initiative, was trailing badly late on election day.
With just over a fifth of the statewide votes counted, the measure was losing with 42.7% yes to 57.3% no.
It was polling strongly ahead five weeks ago but fell steadily in the polls under a barrage of negative campaign television advertisements funded by a food and biotech industry war chest of more than $44 million.
The initiative, backed by the organic food industry, consumer groups and health-conscious shoppers, would have required that fresh produce and packaged foods be labeled if they contain or might contain ingredients that had been genetically altered in a laboratory.
Supporters of the measure argued that consumers have a right to know what's in their food and that information should be made available on labels. About 60 countries around the world already require such labels, proponents stressed.
Opponents countered that labeling foods would cost families hundreds of dollars a year in higher grocery bills. They also accused the initiative of sowing fear that genetically engineered foods are unsafe.