A Popeyed Bill
IT'S OK IF YOU DON'T WANT TO eat your vegetables — but don't even think about insulting them. If a bill recently introduced in Sacramento becomes law, libeling a legume in California could get very expensive. ...
Last week, Assemblywoman Audra Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) introduced AB 698, which would allow growers to sue those who abuse their asparagus — or their spinach, or broccoli or any other "perishable agricultural product." The bill states that the disparagement could be disseminated to the public "in any manner." So any food-purity fanatic with a blog and a distaste for genetically modified crops or E. coli in his spinach could get an unpleasant notice from a lawyer.
Food libel laws started springing up after CBS' "60 Minutes" aired an episode in 1989 about the chemical Alar, thought to be a carcinogen, being sprayed on apple trees. Now 13 states have such laws, which got their first court test in 1996, when Texas cattle ranchers used the state's agricultural libel law to sue talk-show host Oprah Winfrey because she aired an episode critical of practices thought to increase the risk of mad cow disease. They lost the case. That didn't discourage Strickland, who introduced her bill after the state's growers were hit hard by an E. coli outbreak last fall traced to California bagged spinach. [Emphasis added]
Apparently Ms. Strickland doesn't have enough to do in Sacramento.