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California lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a proposal to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients despite calls from advocates who say consumers should know when they're buying food that has been bioengineered.

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said her measure would have added California to the 64 countries around the world that have laws requiring labeling on genetically-engineered foods. Senate Bill 1381 would allow people who are concerned about their diets to have more information about what they eat, she said.

Opponents of GMO labeling – including major growers and biotech companies – have argued that genetic engineering is safe and labels are not necessary. The process is so common with certain crops, opponents argue, that labels would be required on most packaged food that is not organic. Most of the corn, sugar beets and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically engineered, and those commodities make their way into many common foods.

Evans' bill was supported by organic farmers and environmental organizations, and opposed by major business interests, including grocers, retailers, chambers of commerce and non-organic growers. The same interests engaged in a multi-million dollar battle in California in November 2012 when voters rejected Proposition 37 to label genetically-engineered foods.

Evans' bill fell two votes short of passage in the 40-member Senate. The measure is eligible for reconsideration Thursday.

PHOTO: Dr. Eduardo Blumwald holds genetically modified rice in a greenhouse at UC Davis in March 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling



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