Lisa F. Clark, Camille D. Ryan, and William A. Kerr
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

It is often convenient to divide the world into those countries that have been generally accepting of agricultural biotechnology and those that are not. While the debate over biotechnology continues to rage where biotechnology has not been accepted, in adopting countries the debate is often seen as being over. This has been the case for the United States. In fact, the debate over agricultural biotechnology has continued but has not had a high profile. The debate in the United States has been re-energized due to California’s 2012 Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GM-foods in the state. Given the importance of California in both the national food system and national politics, Proposition 37 had national and international ramifications. While Proposition 37 was rejected by a narrow margin, it has spurred other state- and municipal-level initiatives regarding the regulation of biotechnology. This article examines the political dynamics underlying Proposition 37 and the economic implications of similar regulatory initiatives becoming law in the future. The article argues that proposed measures can have a major influence on attempts to regulate in other jurisdictions.

Key words: Agricultural biotechnology, California, direct democracy, economics, labeling.