Fresh off global protests against Monsanto, the Connecticut House and Senate agreed on a bill to label genetically modified foods.
"There is mounting scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods are harmful to our health," said Senate President Donald E. Williams (D-Brooklyn). "There's an increasing avalanche of public support (for labeling GMOs)."
The original legislation would have made GMO labeling mandatory in Connecticut by 2016, but a compromise was made this week to add a trigger to the law requiring other states' participation.
The trigger amendment states the law will go into effect when:
Four states, not including this state, enact a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with the provisions of this subsection, provided one such state borders Connecticut; and (2) the aggregate population of such states located in the northeast region of the United States that have enacted a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with this subsection exceed twenty million based on 2010 census figures.In other words, either four other states or another state with the equivalent of 20 million citizens must adopt similar legislation to trigger labeling in Connecticut. The reasoning for the trigger is that it may be unfeasible to demand food labeling only for Connecticut's 3.5 million residents.
"Connecticut will be the first state in the nation to pass a GMO labeling law and this sets the stage for other states to join the growing movement to give consumers more choices. As a small state, Connecticut couldn’t go it alone – this compromise strikes the right balance," said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden).
Another amendment stripped the exemption for farmers grossing less than $1.5 million in annual sales, which many feel will add additional regulations for small farmers.
Even with these amendments many lawmakers are calling the bipartisan bill a bold first step.
"This is a great day that we in Connecticut can lead the way on helping moms and dads across Connecticut, but I believe this can catch on across the nation, so that they can be informed and make informed choices when they buy foods," said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield).
"This law doesn't ban, or restrict, or tax anything. It simply lets moms and dads know what's in the food they're buying for their children," said McKinney. "I’m pleased Connecticut is a pioneer in passing this common sense legislation. I urge Washington follow our lead."
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy was directly involved in the negotiations indicating his intention to sign the bill which would make it the first state in the nation to pass GMO labeling laws.
"This bill strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers’ right to know what is in their food while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage," said Governor Malloy in a press release.
This past fall, California voters narrowly voted down Prop 37 to label GMO foods on election day. Many attribute the loss to a $50 million anti-labeling campaign by GMO giants like Monsanto and other big food companies.
Another New England state, Vermont, also passed a bill to label genetically modified foods in their state House. However, the bill in Vermont has stalled in the Senate. Maine also has pending GMO labeling legislation.
Currently sixty-four nations including China, South Africa, and all countries in the European Union require GM foods to be labeled. Yet all attempts to label genetically engineered food at the federal level in the U.S. have so far failed.
Most recently an amendment to the current farm bill sponsored by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have required GMO labeling was defeated in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 27-71.
Connecticut's bill may be the first to become law having already unanimously passed the state senate 34-0 on Saturday, with the House expected to approve it and the Governor eager to sign it.
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