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Colorado voters to weigh in on GMO food labeling

By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Colorado voters in November will have their say on a proposition that would require labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, or GMOS.

Proponents of GMO labeling initiatives, who say they have the right to know what is in their food, have been gaining steam in the United States. Their wins have come despite well-funded opposition from GMO crop backers ranging from PepsiCo Inc to Monsanto Co who say GMOs are safe, labels will confuse consumers and switching to non-GMO ingredients would significantly increase the cost of food.

Colorado's Secretary of State on Wednesday confirmed that supporters submitted enough valid signatures to get the GMO labeling measure, which will be Proposition 105, on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"If GMOs are safe, as companies say, then why not label them on food?" Right to Know Colorado campaign Chair Larry Cooper said on Thursday.

GMOs were introduced to the public in the 1990s. More than 90 percent of U.S. corn, canola, soybean and sugar beets are GMO and those ingredients are widely used in U.S. food production in everything from snack foods and soups to strawberry-flavored milk. Organic foods do no contain GMOs.

GMO crop developers and their supporters say genetically modified crops have been overwhelmingly proven safe.

That has done little to quell a backlash from consumers and critics, who call for independent research on the impacts of GMOs on human health and the environment.

Vermont in May became the first U.S. state to mandate labeling of GMO foods. As expected, industry groups representing U.S. food makers are challenging that law.

Oregon also will have a GMO labeling initiative on its November ballot.

Dozens of other states have considered similar measures this year. The effort failed in California, where massive spending by GMO labeling opponents led to a stinging defeat in 2012.

Connecticut and Maine already have passed laws that would go into effect if other northeastern states approve similar legislation.

With much at stake, the developers of genetically modified crops and the $360 billion U.S. packaged food industry have taken their fight to the nation's capital, where they are pushing for passage of a bill in Congress that would nullify any state law to require labeling of GMO foods.

Some U.S. companies already have opted to label GMOs or eliminate them from their supply chain.

Natural and organic grocer Whole Foods Markets Inc has announce that it will require all products sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores to carry a GMO label by 2018. Popular burrito seller Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc has removed virtually all GMOs from its supply chain. And, after a push from consumers, General Mills Inc said it would reformulate its "yellow box" Cheerios to remove GMOs.

(Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; editing by Andrew Hay)

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