Connecticut GMO Bill Needs Northeast Cooperation

By Josh Long Comments
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HARTFORD, Conn.— Gov. Dannel Malloy plans to sign legislation that would require the labeling of genetically-engineered food sold in Connecticut.

However, proponents of GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling should wait to throw a party. There are major caveats to the legislation before the labeling requirements take effect.

Not only must four states including one that borders Connecticut pass similar bills, House Bill 6519 includes an additional requirement. The GMO bills must be passed by any combination of Northeastern states (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) representing at least 20 million people.

The provisions are intended "to keep from putting retailers and farmers at a competitive disadvantage," Peter Yazbak, press officer for Gov. Malloy, said in a brief phone interview Wednesday.

The governor is awaiting the final bill after the state Senate passed it on Saturday and the House gave the legislation its final approval on Monday.

"Connecticut is the first state to pass a GMO labeling bill, and has the opportunity to serve as a leader on this issue as proposals move through state legislatures and are being considered across the country," Yazbak wrote in an emailed statement to Food Product Design.

Maine and Vermont are among more than 20 states considering similar legislation, according to Just Label It, an organization that supports GMO labeling. Representatives for Just Label It and the Center for Food Safety, which are both tracking the status of the state bills, were not available Wednesday to comment.

“Connecticut’s victory marks an important step in the national movement for GE labeling, and signifies growing support for the consumer right-to-know," said Scott Faber, Executive Director of Just Label It, in a statement Tuesday.

National support for GMO labeling has been growing in spite of a vote last November by California voters to reject Proposition 37.

In April, lawmakers on Capitol Hill—Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon—introduced bipartisan legislation that would require labels for genetically-engineered whole and processed foods. If the legislation was passed by Congress, America would join 64 other countries that require the labeling of genetically-modified foods.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded GMO food is safe to eat. Even so, most Americans are in favor of GMO labeling, according to Just Label It and others.

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