“I’m sure what’ll happen if this bill becomes law is that companies will face an avalanche of lawsuits that allege purported violations of the genetically modified labeling law”
Venable partner Angel Garganta spoke with Law360 in a March 28, 2014 article about a proposed California bill mandating labels on genetically engineered food. If the bill, which was approved by the state Senate Health Committee last week, becomes law, it could lead to an increase of consumer class action suits.
“I’m sure what’ll happen if this bill becomes law is that companies will face an avalanche of lawsuits that allege purported violations of the genetically modified labeling law,” said Garganta. “And we won’t just see private enforcement actions. We’ll see class actions as well.” Under the proposed bill, retailers who do not manufacture or produce food cannot be sued unless they knowingly and willfully fail to provide point-of-purchase labeling on unpackaged agriculture products. However, according to Garganta, retailers still have the onus of proving they did not intentionally avoid labeling a product. “Retailers will potentially have to conduct investigations to determine what is or isn’t genetically engineered to be able to put up the signs,” he added. “I think that itself is a huge burden.”
The proposed bill also requires that citizens who sue show they have been “injured,” which, according to Garganta, may be as simple as showing they spent money to buy the food which should have been labeled. “This measure would require such a large part of the food supply to have labels,” he said. “The prevalence of Prop 65 warnings has made them almost meaningless. What will it mean if everything we see in the grocery store has a genetically modified warning?”