California lawmakers this week narrowly rejected a bill that would have mandated the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the state of California, following heavy lobbying against the measure from the food and biotechnology industries.
The bill, which needed 21 votes to pass the California Senate, garnered 19 votes in favor and 16 against.
Yet its backers say the close vote is actually a victory, given the industry's efforts to defeat it.
"This is one of the top bills [the food and biotechnology industries] wanted to defeat this year," Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director at Center for Food Safety, told Common Dreams. "They really wanted kill this bill.
She added, "We thought it was a huge step forward that the bill made it through several committees all the way to the Senate floor. It's very difficult to get these kinds of bills through the state, and we were very pleased with the progress."
While only one other U.S. state—Vermont—mandates GE labeling, as of April there were at least 65 active GE labeling bills in 26 states, according to Center for Food Safety. This includes an Oregon state-wide initiative to label GMOs, up for a vote in November.
Over 60 countries around the world have passed GE labeling legislation.
"More than 90 percent of Americans say they want to know if food is produced using genetic engineering. The FDA does not require labeling, but states can impose that requirement," said Spector, adding there will likely be future attempts to pass similar legislation in California.
According to an Organic Consumers Association statement about the California vote, "The grassroots team behind that legislation is not defeated—it’s invigorated. Activists will regroup, and make another run at lawmakers next year."