At the end of 2012, Calif. voters didn’t approve a mandate, Proposition 37, that would have forced companies to label GMO foods. But the vote was a close one: 48.6 percent of voters were in favor, versus a vote of “no” from 51.4 percent of voters. With this quite narrow loss, and with momentum for GMO labeling laws building all over the U.S., Calif. is making a second foray into the quest of labeling GMOs for its citizens. According to a recent report, State Senate Bill SB1381, a measure very similar to Proposition 37, has been introduced by representative Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa.

While similar, SB1381 is being promoted as a “simpler, cleaner version” of Prop 37, and “Evans and other proponents of this new GE labeling bill claim that it removes the reasons that voters rejected Prop 37,” a report via Mondaq states.


The bill maintains the primary goal of Prop 37 — all GMO foods would have to be labeled with either “Genetically Engineered” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” — but it has removed a portion of Prop 37 some found problematic: “In what appears to be an effort to avoid some of the strongest criticisms of Prop 37, SB 1381 does contain new exemptions for farmers who are not manufacturers or retailers and for retailers who did not ‘knowingly and willfully’ fail to provide signs.”

While the bill will need to make its way down the debate chain and voted onto the ballot for voters to weigh in, we have faith that this bill can pass, given the right circumstances. Here’s what needs to happen if SB1381 is to become the initiative that would usher in the ground-breaking labeling measures in Calif. state:

  1. Voters will need to join the ranks of those who get, even though Big Food may tell them GMOs are safe, there is simply no consensus that GMO foods are indeed fit for human consumption in the scientific community.
  2. Voters will need to understand that GMO labeling isn’t likely to cost them any more money. While those in opposition of GMO labeling requirements argued that labeling GMOs could cost consumers in the hundreds, a 2012 study by Joanna M. Shepherd-Bailey of Emory University School of Law, found that “food prices [are] likely to remain unchanged for consumers.”
  3. Farmers will need to get on board. One thing that may help SB1381 is the aforementioned differences in exemptions; SP1381 would “contain new exemptions for farmers who are not manufacturers or retailers” and therefore may become more appealing. Even still, the reasons for GMO labeling will need to be conveyed to farmers all the same.
  4. We’ll need voters to scrutinize where most of the bad press against GMO labeling during the Proposition 37 battle came from. As of November 2012, the financial support for the pro-labeling groups weighed in at $8.7 million. The opposition to the proposition totaled $45.6 million in cash flow. Where did this huge chunk of change come from? Companies like Monsanto, Dupont, PepsiCo, the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, DOW Agrisciences, Bayer Cropscience, Syngenta, Kraft, Coca-Cola…and the list goes on and on. The point is, all of these companies are in the food and crop business and of course don’t want to label their GMO-laden products, as it could impact their sales. These companies lobbied, made all kinds of campaigns, and poured out dime after dime to make sure Prop 37 wasn’t passed. Shouldn’t we open our eyes and understand that this means companies with their own corporate interests in mind – and not the health and transparency made available to consumers – made this the bottom line for that vote?
  5. We’ll need everyone who wants to see GMO labeling to get involved – now! Listen, this GMO war is a big one. If it can be won, it means we can take back some control of our GMO-crazy food supply. Companies will be forced to label their foods or make some changes to avoid this labeling – which only means better, healthier food choices for everyone. Please, let’s make this happen, people. If something passes in Calif., we will continue to build the momentum we need to make a difference in the world of transparent food labeling. Visit Just Label It to find out how you can involved, and help us spread the word by sharing this information with everyone you know. Our health depends on it!

Image source: Alexis Baden-Mayer / Flickr