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VEGGIE FOES MAY HAVE TO EAT WORDS

Remember when your mother told you to shut up and eat your vegetables? Now a state law says you better shut up and not say anything mean about them.

Legislation dubbed the "veggie hate crimes bill" was signed into law this week by Gov. Fife Symington. The measure allows farmers and produce shippers to sue anyone who maliciously spreads false information about Arizona farm products.The bill, widely ridiculed in the news media, was prompted by a scare several years ago involving Alar, a chemical sprayed on apples to promote uniform ripening.

Since then, laws governing false claims against perishable produce have been passed in several states, including Florida, Louisiana, Idaho and Georgia.

State Sen. Jim Buster, the bill's sponsor, defended the measure.

"This bill has been misrepresented, it has been misunderstood and unfortunately been trivialized," he said.