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California lawmakers reject bill requiring labeling on GMO foods

By Jennifer Chaussee

(Reuters) - (This May 28 story was corrected in the seventh paragraph to delete erroneous reference to a genetically modified wheat)

California lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would require labels on foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the second time in two years such legislation has failed to take hold in the state.

Proponents of the bill had sought to make California the second state in the country after Vermont to require GMO labeling, but the measure failed to pass the state Senate by two votes.

Democratic Senator Noreen Evans, the bill's author, was planning to push a reconsideration vote on Thursday before the end of the legislative session.

The bill would require all distributors who sell food in California to label the product if any of the ingredients have been genetically engineered. The labeling law would exclude alcohol and food sold at farmers markets.

"This bill is a straightforward, common-sense approach to empowering consumers," said Evans. "If the product contains GMOs, label it. We shouldn't be hiding ingredients."

In 2012, a similar labeling bill looked poised to pass but was narrowly defeated by California voters after a last minute, $46 million media blitz funded by opponents, including PepsiCo and Missouri-based Monsanto Co, a multinational chemical, agricultural and biotechnology corporation.

More than 60 countries around the world have adopted GMO labeling, with supporters saying genetically modified organisms found in some food ingredients, like soy and corn, pose a threat to human health.

Labeling advocates also argue that consumers have a right to know everything that goes into their food.

Opponents say GMOs are not only safe but necessary to ensure the future of the world's food supply, allowing scientists to develop crops that are resistant to changing environmental conditions.

The 2012 defeat of the GMO labeling bill known as Proposition 37 prompted calls in Washington for a national labeling law.

A petition drafted by the Center for Food Safety, a national environmental advocacy non-profit, asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require distributors to label GMO ingredients in food products.

Earlier this month, Vermont became the first U.S. state to pass a GMO labeling law, and two counties in Oregon voted last week to ban farmers from growing genetically modified crops within their local boundaries.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Joseph Radford)

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