The first state in the US has passed legislation requiring GMO foods to be labeled – thanks Connecticut!
You can see the enthusiasm for the move by the votes: it passed unanimously in the Senate and 134-3 in the House.
But there’s a catch: the legislation goes into effect when four other states pass GMO labeling laws (with a combined population of at least 20 million people) and one of those states must border Connecticut.
This was the compromise that enabled the bill to pass. The original Senate bill did not have a trigger and would have gone into effect in 2016. But there was concern that Connecticut shouldn’t "go it alone" for a number of reasons – it could affect food prices in the state, harm small businesses and of course, put them at risk from a Monsanto lawsuit.
This "trigger" could actually be a creative solution – it could be the impetus for the many states currently considering GMO labeling laws to take the leap.
"The hurdles in the Connecticut bill, if surmounted, would mean a critical mass in the marketplace that would emulate the impacts that would have materialized if California had passed its ballot initiative," Mark Kastel, co-director of Cornucopia Institute, told the New York Times.
Once the legislation goes into effect, anyone who sells or distributes products that aren’t labeled but contain GMOs would be fined $1,000 per product per day and the Department of Consumer Protection would be empowered to seize the products.
Governor Malloy says it’s a no-brainer to sign the legislation: "This is important stuff … and I think the rest of the world is starting to understand that. I know a lot of you are surprised. I’m not. I saw it coming. It’s an appropriate thing to do,"
reports CT News Junkie.
Senate President Donald Williams says, "We have made history in the state of Connecticut, and this issue is so important in terms of the safety of our food supply and the health of the men, women, and children in this country. We know these GMO foods are tied directly to increased use of herbicides and pesticides that are wreaking havoc in our environment."
Tara Cook-Littman, who has been lobbying for the bill for two years says: "This is a very strong bill . . . it represents the highest standard developed by GMO-labeling leaders throughout the country. To all those concerned about the trigger clause, we have nothing to fear,"
she told CT News Junkie.
This year, 37 labeling bills have been introduced in 21 states, including New York, and Vermont, and Maine could vote on it this week. It was recently voted down twice in the US Senate.
Grassroots Activism Did It
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney gives credit to strong grassroots activism for the bill’s passing.
Tara Cook-Littman of GMO Free CT talked to EcoWatch about the politics behind getting it passed. For a long time, she says, efforts went nowhere … they "were dismissed as a bunch of crazy moms and environmentalists," but that changed when they organized and were able to show they were a serious movement with political power.
There was formidable opposition from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (a leading opponent of California’s initiative) and Connecticut Farm Bureau. The industry even formed a front group with a nice sounding name, Connecticut Farm to Food. But the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association and Food Democracy Now! provided strong counterpoints.
A visit to the capitol by Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream also gave the issue a lot of credibility. "Politicians who had been against the bill were standing in line for ice cream and a photo opp with Jerry," she told EcoWatch.
There were many times the bill looked dead, but they kept on going. Face-to-face meetings with lawmakers were especially important, she says.