California bill on genetically modified food labels fails in Senate

State Sen. Noreen Evans, left, pictured with Sen. Ellen Corbett, right, and Sen. Carol Liu, during a past Senate session.
(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

A bill that would have required labeling on food that contains genetically modified organisms fell short of the votes needed to stay alive in the state Senate on Thursday.

“It’s just about information and consumer choice,” said Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), who introduced SB 1381.

However, the vote on the bill was 19-16, two votes short of the majority needed for passage, after some Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.


Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said the bill is “overkill,” and would undermine worldwide efforts to develop crops and other food to prevent starvation in developing countries. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) countered: “I want to know what’s in my food.”

The failure of the bill disappointed consumer and environmental groups that had backed the measure.

“It is unfortunate that the California Senate did not allow this measure to move forward,” said Garo Manjikian, legislative advocate for CalPIRG. “Consumers have real concerns about the impact of GMOs. Despite the fact that a majority of Californians support labeling, big agribusinesses and the biotech industry lobbied heavily to defeat this bill.”

But the Senate action was welcomed by Cynthia Cory, director of environmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “We’re pleased the Senate did not fall for the proponents’ scare tactics and that they rejected this unnecessary, misleading and costly bill that would increase food costs for consumers,” Cory said.