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State Sen. Noreen Evans proposes labeling GMO foods in state (w/video)

  • Peter Breyfogle feeds his daughter, Katherine, 1, an organic package of pureed fruit and grains as Abraham Schroeder, left, feeds his son, Nathaniel, 8 months, a jar of organic pureed peas during lunch at Five Guys on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 in Petaluma. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

State Sen. Noreen Evans plans to introduce legislation today that would require all foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled in California, a move sure to reignite a contentious and costly battle that the state's voters last weighed in on in 2012.

The Santa Rosa Democrat says genetically modified organisms have been linked to health problems ranging from allergies to cancer, and that babies, in particular, are at risk of getting sick, in part because their immune systems are not fully developed.

"For parents, it's important that they not have to rely on the food industry before deciding what they feed their children," Evans said Thursday. "Parents should be able to make their own choices."

Evans originally was planning to target only baby foods. But later Thursday, her staff announced that her bill has been broadened to require GMO labeling for all foods used for "human consumption" in California. That more closely mirrors Proposition 37, which voters rejected in 2012. The senator's staff said about 85 percent of all foods on store shelves in California contain genetically modified organisms.

Evans did not respond to a request seeking comment on the changes made to the proposed legislation. Teala Schaff, her spokeswoman, said the changes were made at the request of the California State Grange, which pushed for the original bill.

"It's still a consumer-choice bill. She's always been a strong consumer-choice advocate," Schaff said.

Mike Greene, director of legislative affairs for the California State Grange, on Thursday attributed the last-minute changes to a "lack of communication between us and the senator's office."

The grange has about 10,000 members in about 45 California counties. Greene said the organization passed a resolution at its annual meeting in October calling for GMO labeling on baby foods. He said in November, a coalition of 17 groups, including the Grange, Pesticide Action Network and Organic Consumers Association, amended that stance to call for such labeling on all foods sold for human consumption in California.

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