Some things should not come as a surprise. When it comes to the California Legislature, one of the least surprising things is that there are certain legislators who have an appetite for pleasing the Consumer Attorneys of California. State Senator Noreen Evans has done exactly that with SB 1381, which is related to genetically engineered food. Some of you might remember Proposition 37 from 2012, an initiative aimed at labeling genetically modified food. Well, it seems that Senator Evans was not happy with the fact that California voters rejected it, so she has quietly reinvented it in SB 1381.
Proposition 37 would have required labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food was made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. It also prohibited labeling or advertising such foods as “natural”. CALA opposed Prop. 37 because it would have created more opportunities for lawsuit abuse. This initiative was written by the same individual who wrote Proposition 65 back in 1986 which has led to rampant abuse of our legal system. And I am sure that person’s fingerprints are somewhere on SB 1831, which states that California consumers have the right to know, through labeling, whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering. The bill also allows people to sue for alleged violations of the labeling law and to collect attorney’s fees.
I support transparency when it comes to food and food sourcing, but I become suspicious when a bill that is meant to be about food includes a private right of action. To me, this becomes a total cash cow for the trial lawyers. We have seen this time and time again through the Americans with Disability Act, Proposition 65 and Proposition 37. It creates a cottage industry for the trial lawyers, encouraging lawsuits against businesses up and down this state and hurting job creation.
SB 1381 is the next Proposition 65. It will result in another cottage industry of trial lawyers shaking down businesses across this state (and probably even out of state, as we have seen with Proposition 65). California does not need more lawsuits, it needs to create more jobs and improve its business climate. More litigation is not the answer.