What is in this article?:
- Attorneys warn that an upcoming food labeling ballot initiative could generate a bumper crop of litigation.
- Prop. 37's impact could be sweeping.
- The measure authorizes shoppers to sue under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, which doesn't require plaintiffs to show that they suffered any damages.
According to a new article in California’s premiere legal paper, The Daily Recorder, the consensus among defense attorneys is that November’s Prop. 37 will result in a “bumper crop of litigation.” The story can be found here.
"When I used to go and talk about Prop. 65 when it was on the ballot, I would say the biggest beneficiaries would be lawyers. I think that goes double for Prop. 37," said an attorney quoted in the story.
This view should surprise no one. The official proponent of Prop. 37, James Wheaton, also helped draft Proposition 65, a labeling measure from 20-plus years ago that has generated more than 16,000 actions against businesses and nearly $500 million in settlements, attorney fees and costs. Wheaton and the associations he represents have collected more than $3 million in legal fees and settlements suing under Prop. 65 in the last 10 years.
(For more, see: Junkyard dog mentality will defeat food label initiative)
Prop. 37 would essentially ban thousands of common food products that contain ingredients made from modern varieties of corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets and other crops produced with the benefit of biotechnology in California unless they are specially labeled as "genetically engineered." In addition, it would prohibit any food that is pasteurized, heated, dried, juiced or otherwise processed from being labeled or advertised as "natural." No such labeling requirements exist in any other state.
The overwhelming majority of the scientific community, including the World Health Organization and the National Academy of Sciences, agrees – foods made using biotech ingredients are safe. The US Food and Drug Administration has concluded that requiring special labels for foods that contain ingredients from biotech crops would be "inherently misleading" to consumers, since they are nutritionally the same as, and just as safe as food made from non-biotech crops.
In June, the American Medical Association stated: "There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods."
Prop. 37’s private bounty-hunter lawsuit enforcement provisions are nearly identical to Prop. 65’s. According to the non-partisan, independent Legislative Analyst, Prop. 37 allows trial lawyers “to sue without needing to demonstrate that any specific damage occurred as a result of the alleged violation.”
Under Prop. 37, trial lawyers can file a lawsuit against everyone in the food chain associated with a food product alleging that a non-labeled product contains GE ingredients. The suit can be filed without any testing or research on the product to determine whether or not it contains GE content.
Nevermind that the product is unlabeled because the product is GE free. Those hit with lawsuits are forced into a choice between proving themselves innocent by spending tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and tests, or settling out of court to make the lawsuit go away.