April 9th, 2014 by Nina Macdonald
From Keith Schildt
California Policy Committee Member
State Senate Bill 1381 (SB1381) was introduced by Senator Evans and co-authored by Senators DeSaulnier and Pavley. The bill would require labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients. This bill has a lot of roadblocks going forward but has seen some surprising initial success. Typically, a proposed bill once introduced will be assigned to one or two committees. SB1381 has been assigned to three committees, which means there will be three places the bill could get stopped. The three committees are: Health, Judiciary, and Agriculture. In terms of advocacy, no Orange County state senators sit on any of these committees.
In good news for those advocating for GMO labeling, after a lengthy day of testimony at a public hearing, on March 26, the bill passed out of the Senate Health Committee. The vote was 5-2. Voting in favor of the bill were Senators DeSaulnier, Evans, Beal, Monning, and Wolk. Voting against the bill were Senators Hernadez and Anderson. Senators Nielsen and DeLeon did not cast a vote. There was strong showing of about 30 people in support of the bill at the hearing but the opposition, also in attendance, was a well-organized and financed coalition of organizations including the Farm Bureau, University of California Davis, and the Grocers Association. This same coalition fought hard and successfully against the Prop 37 GMO Labeling initiative in 2012.
A slightly amended SB1381 now moves onto the Judiciary Committee. The co-chair of this committee, Anderson, is also on the Health Committee and voted against SB1381 in that committee’s vote. At this juncture, there are no committee hearings set for the bill. If it clears the Judiciary Committee, it will move to a very difficult Agriculture Committee.
Even though Orange County has no representation on any of these committees, the California Slow Food Policy Committee urges everyone to contact their state senator and ask them to contact their colleagues on the Judiciary and Agriculture committees and vote in favor of SB1381.