California Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) has introduced legislation (S.B. 1381) that would require labeling for genetically engineered (GE) foods but also place limits on potential litigation arising from the failure to label such products. under the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, “any raw agricultural commodity or packaged food that is entirely  or partially produced with genetic engineering” would need to bear labels stating that the product in question was “Produced with Genetic engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic engineering.”The bill would allow the state attorney general or an injured resident “to bring an action for injunctive relief against a violation of these provisions, as specified.”

Unlike previous efforts, however, the current proposal would “authorize a court to award a prevailing plaintiff reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and would prohibit a court from awarding monetary damages in an action brought under the bill’s provisions.” It would also protect farmers and retailers from litigation, providing a defense under the law if a retailer relied on a wholesaler’s or distributor’s disclosure that the food was not produced through genetic engineering. 

“California paves the way for federal laws,” said a spokesperson for the Center for Food safety, which helped draft the measure. “since the u.s. Food and Drug Administration has to date refused to label GE foods, it is up to individual states to lead the way and protect our state’s interests, including public health, consumers right to know, and our farmers and agricultural lands.” See CFS Press Release, February 21, 2014; Law360, February 24, 2014.