Despite the recent passage of a genetically engineered (GE) food-labeling law in Vermont, and similar bills appearing in legislatures in other states, proponents of labeling have again failed to pass such a law in California. On Thursday, the most recent GE food-labeling initiative, SB 1381 (Evans), failed on the Senate floor.  The defeat follows on the heels of the failure of Proposition 37 in 2012.

As noted in a previous alert, SB 1381 was advertised as a cleaner and simpler version of Proposition 37. However, the proposed language would have created a compliance framework that would be anything but simple for the food industry.  Changes made to the bill in committee only exacerbated the problems, making private- enforcer litigation easier, and defenses for food manufacturers more difficult [].

On May 29, despite last-ditch efforts to generate support, proponents of GE food labeling failed to generate enough support to move SB 1381 past the Senate.  SB 1381 fell short of the 21-vote threshold necessary to pass out of the upper chamber by three votes (19 for and 16 against).

While the call for GE food labeling has quieted again for now, it would not be a surprise if the language of Proposition 37 / SB 1381 rose from the dead yet again in the coming year.  The proponents of GE food labeling are spreading their message through legislatures in more than half the states, and California remains their prime target.