The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act (SB1381), proposed by Noreen Evans (D – Santa Rosa), attracted 19 votes in favor, with 16 votes opposed, just short of the 21 votes needed to pass.
SB1381 was billed as a “cleaned up” version of GMO labeling initiative Proposition 37, which failed to attract support from groups that might otherwise have backed it because of concerns that it would lay firms open to 'frivolous' litigation and contained overly restrictive stipulations over 'natural' labeling
SB1381 contained no reference to ‘natural’ claims, and excluded meat and dairy from animals fed GE feed from its labeling requirements - a bone of contention in some other GMO labeling bills.
Moreover, while it would have authorized the Attorney General or an injured resident to bring an action against a food company in breach of the legislation for injunctive relief and allow courts to award successful plaintiffs reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, it would have prohibited courts from awarding monetary damages.
While supporters of SB1381 - buoyed by the recent success of a GMO labeling bill in Vermont - were disappointed by the result, the near miss “bodes well for future efforts to label GMOs in California”, claimed Kristin Urquiza, co-coordinator of Californians for GE Food Labeling.
“We’re disappointed that big money lobbying won out over the will of the people of California but we will not give up until we win the right to know what’s in our food," she added.