Connecticut to label GMO food

SUBHEAD: Connecticut makes history with the first in the nation GMO labeling bill - It's time to turn up the heat!

By Jacqueline Wattles on 3 June 2013 for CT News Junkie -

Image above: Tara Cook-Littman, a Connecticut advocate who pushed for the labeling bill celebrates her victory. From ().

[IB Editor: Unfortunately, Connecticut's bill will only go into effect after at least five other states (with at least one bordering Connecticut and with a combined total population of at least 20 million people) adopt a labeling bill. At least they tried.]

A bill that would mandate labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients passed the House Monday, making Connecticut the first state in the nation to pass this type of legislation.

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are crops that have been manually altered using modern technology in order to be resistant to herbicides and pesticides or take on other characteristics such as a longer shelf-life. Connecticut’s legislation came in response to a national campaign to mandate labels on foods that contain GMOs.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined activists and House and Senate leadership to celebrate the bill’s passage, assuring them that the bill’s last step before enactment - his signature - would not be an issue.

“This is important stuff. . . and I think the rest of the world is starting to understand that,” Malloy said. “I know a lot of you are surprised. I’m not. I saw it coming. It’s an appropriate thing to do.”

Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the bill would make a “critical difference.”

“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,” Williams said. “We know these GMO foods are tied directly to increased use of herbicides and pesticides that are wreaking havoc in our environment.”

The bill’s passage came after a different version of the bill was shuffled between the House and Senate for weeks before leadership in both chambers came to a compromise.

The issue was whether to allow the law to go into effect automatically, or tack on a “trigger” that would require neighboring states to pass similar legislation before Connecticut’s law would become effective. The idea behind the trigger, as House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said, is to ensure that Connecticut won’t “stand alone” with the bill and cause undesirable economic consequences.

But the House and Senate resolved their differences last week when compromise legislation was passed by the Senate. The new version requires that four other states pass similar legislation in order to “trigger” Connecticut’s labeling requirement. One of the states must share a border with Connecticut and their combined population must equal at least 20 million people.

If the trigger is met, sellers or distributors who sell products containing GMOs that are not labeled would be subject to a daily $1,000 fine per product and the Department of Consumer Protection would be able to embargo the products.

Sharkey said he was pleased with the compromise.

“We were able to come together and compromise to protect consumers and the economy in the state of Connecticut,” he said. “I think it’s a tremendous achievement.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said the reason the bill came back after hitting so many legislative roadblocks was because of the grassroots activism that was louder than ever this session.

“Everyone was committed to making sure we got something passed,” he said. “Sitting down, doing the hard work, listening to the advocates, and getting the bill passed…[the advocates] are the reason.”

The bill received bipartisan support, passing the Senate unanimously and winning a 134-3 vote in the House.

Though the compromise weakens the Senate’s original bill, which would have gone into effect in 2016 regardless of whether other states were on board, the advocates that pressed the legislators for action said they support it.

Tara Cook-Littman, the face of the Right to Know GMO campaign in Connecticut, has spent the past two years lobbying for GMO-labeling legislation. She said was “thrilled” about the legislation and is not concerned about the trigger clause.

“This is a very strong bill . . . it represents the highest standard developed by GMO-labeling leaders throughout the country,” Cook-Litmann said. “To all those concerned about the trigger clause, we have nothing to fear.”

Rep. Diana Urban, one of the bill’s main proponents, said Maine, New Jersey, and New York are “well on their way to passing similar legislation.”

“This is history,” Urban said. “It’s a doable trigger, and I am just thrilled. Sixty-two other countries either ban [GMOs] or label them, and we’re the first in the nation to stand up and do this.”

Sharkey added that passing this bill is instrumental in getting other states to follow suit.

“The hardest thing that we can ever do is get that very first state to say to the country that this is the way we as a people want to see our country go, and Connecticut is going to lead the way,” he said.

Activists that lead GMO-labeling advocacy groups in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all traveled to Hartford to celebrate with the Connecticut advocates. and said they are hopeful Connecticut’s bill will help push proposed legislation in their own states through.

Jim Garrison, a potato farmer and a member of Maine’s Right to Know GMO coalition, said the Maine House of Representatives may vote on a GMO-labeling bill as early as Friday and the bill has 123 co-sponsors.

Martin Dagoberto, a member of the Massachusetts Right to Know GMO coalition, said he felt Connecticut’s action would pressure other states to follow suit.

“This win for Connecticut is a win for all of us,” Dagoberto said. “It feeds our collective momentum, and we will not be stopped. The trigger clause is nothing more than a way to encourage other states to share the burden of defending the integrity of our democracy and our food supply because powerful corporate interests want to keep us in the dark.” GMO-labeling legislation has also been proposed in the lower house of the New York State Legislature, a state Urban said is instrumental in getting on board because of its big economy, but no votes have been taken yet.

Food Democracy Keeps Up Fight

By Lisa Stokke on 6 June 2013 for Food Democracy - 

What a difference a week makes! Last week Food Democracy Now! reported that efforts in Connecticut to label genetically engineered foods had hit a roadblock when the House passed a different version of the bill and last minute amendments deeply compromised real prospects of a GMO labeling bill passing this year in the state.

Undeterred, we issued a grassroots call to action to stand with local Connecticut activists on the ground to make sure that their elected officials did the right thing. After more than 40,000 phone calls from across the country, and as far away as Netherlands, a compromise was reached with leaders in the House, Senate and Governor’s office that makes Connecticut the first state in the U.S. to pass a strong, common sense GMO labeling bill.

Over the weekend the Connecticut Senate voted 34 to 0 to pass an amendment to HB 6527 to label GMOs in Connecticut and 2 days later, the CT House passed the bill 134 to 3. But we need your help to finish the fight to label GMOs in ALL 50 states.

From the beginning Food Democracy Now! has supported mandatory state and federal labeling of GMOs. Right now, Connecticut, has led the way, but we need help to pass a similar bill in Maine, New York and Massachusetts. With GMO labeling in one state, the momentum is already spreading across the country like dominoes falling and Monsanto is panicking.

Because of Monsanto's threats to sue any state that passes a stand alone GMO labeling bill, leaders in the Connecticut House, Senate and Governors office reached a compromise that says GMO labeling will go into effect in Connecticut once 4 other states pass a mandatory GMO labeling.

According to the provision, which is meant to insulate the state of Connecticut from an expensive lawsuit, one state must be touching the Connecticut border (New York, Massachusetts or Rhode Island) and that the states in the North East region have a population totaling 20 million.

The great news is that Maine, Massachusetts, Pennslyvania, New Jersey and New York all have GMO labeling bills in the current session and could follow Connecticut in a matter of weeks so we need your help to keep the pressure on!

Already 26 states have introduced GMO labeling bills this year, with Vermont passing a version in their state House and Maine close to passing one now. Also, this November in Washington state, we’ll fight to win ballot initiative I-522 to make sure we have another state that supports mandatory labeling of GMOs in the U.S.

With your help we can help put a crack in the wall that Monsanto’s corrupt lobbying practices have held up for so long. Earlier this year, you stood with us as Food Democracy Now! helped lead the charge against the Monsanto Protection Act with more than 300,000 signatures and we need you now more than ever!

Last year, Monsanto spent nearly $6 million on lobbying, we’ll never match them financially, but we have something more important – YOU – and an army of grassroots activists dedicated to standing up for our basic right to not only know what’s in our food, but also to protect America’s farmers, our environment and our health from Monsanto’s flawed genetically engineered technology.

With the Senate’s recent failure to allow a floor vote on Senator Merkley’s amendment to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act and the discovery of illegal and unapproved Monsanto GMO wheat in an Oregon farmer’s field, we need your help more than ever!

Because of your help in the past, we’ve been able to take on the most powerful and despised company on the planet. Join Food Democracy Now! today to:Support state’s rights to label GMOs!
  • Continue our fight to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act!
  • Expose the shoddy science behind Monsanto’s GMOs and their toxic chemicals.
  • Protect America’s farmers from unwanted contamination of their crops through our lawsuit against Monsanto.
Remember, democracy is like a muscle, either you use it, or you lose it!
Click here to support GMO labeling and the fight to stop Monsanto. With your help we can win!

1. “Politicians Flinch as a Grass-Roots Movement Comes of Age to Force GMO Labeling” The CT Mirror, June 2, 2013.

2. “Monsanto shares fall as South Korea joins pause in wheat imports”, The Washington Post, May 31, 2013.

3. “HB 6527 Amendment LCO 8508: An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food”.

4. How Grassroots Advocates Beat the Biotech and Food Lobbies”, Huffington Post, June 5, 2013.


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