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'Veggie Libel' Bill Fails in State Assembly

September 16, 1997|Martha Groves

A bill that would have required the California Department of Food and Agriculture to study the economic consequences of disparaging statements about produce and other crops failed last week in the state Assembly. Despite strong support in the Senate, the bill came up four votes shy in the Assembly, failing 37 to 37. Sen. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) had sponsored the measure, and growers and other supporters had hoped it would lead to a full-scale "veggie libel" law, like those that exist in 13 other states. Those laws allow damaged parties to sue individuals or groups that make untrue comments about beef, broccoli, berries or other crops. Growers said the measure was needed to demonstrate how badly the state's agricultural industry can be hurt when people speak ill of food crops. But farm-labor groups and 1st Amendment activists said such a measure would have had a chilling effect on food safety debates.

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