The governor of Connecticut hosted a ceremonial signing outside an organic restaurant in the city of Fairfield on Wednesday to commemorate the state’s passing of what could be the first GMO labeling law of its type in the United States.
Voters in Connecticut decided back in June to approve a bill requiring that all foods meant for human consumption that contain genetically-modified ingredients be properly labeled. Unless some neighboring states in the region follow suit, however, the status of that law remains in limbo.
The Connecticut bill requires at least four other Northeastern states with a combined population of no fewer than 20 million to approve similar acts before it can officially go on the books. And while so far proponents of a GMO labeling initiative have found allies in one adjacent state, it could very well be a long-time coming before the proper support is rallied.
Voters in Maine have already elected to pass a near-identical measure, but residents in a region that includes Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont must come together to do the same in at least three other locales.
Outside the Catch A Healthy Habit restaurant in Fairfield on Wednesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy implored his counterparts to consider joining in their fight.
“I am proud that leaders from each of the legislative caucuses can come together to make our state the first in the nation to require the labeling of GMOs,” Malloy said, according to Fairfield’s Daily Voice. “The end result is a law that shows our commitment to consumers’ right to know while catalyzing other states to take similar action.”
Tara Cook-Littman, the director of GMO Free Connecticut, applauded the efforts by advocates in the state and country working towards new laws.
“As the catalyst for GMO labeling in the United States, Connecticut residents should feel proud,” she told reporters. “We are hopeful that legislators throughout the Northeast will follow the lead of Governor Malloy and all our legislative champions by passing laws that give consumers transparency in labeling. It is a great honor for all of us to stand with Governor Malloy as he signs the first in the nation GMO labeling law.”
More than 60 countries across the world have approved mandatory labeling laws for GMO foods already, and polling suggests that the vast majority of Americans are in favor of doing the same. So far, in fact, almost half of all US states have introduces bill that, if approved, would either require labeling of GMO foods or prohibit them altogether.
"Surveys have always found 80 to 95 percent of people wanting labeling," Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen told the Rodale News health site back in April. "People are paying attention to food, and because of that they're more interested in GMO issues and buying food that's more local and food without pesticides and other added ingredients."
Now with Connecticut taking the lead, Gov. Malloy hopes other states will do the same.
"This is a beginning, and I want to be clear what it is a beginning of," he told the Fairfield Citizen before Wednesday’s event. "It is a national movement that will requiring (food) labeling."
"People need to demand GMO labeling," Malloy told WFSB News on the day of the ceremonial signing. "Some companies are doing this and we need to move in that direction."
"This is the time," he said to the Citizen. "You better get ready; people are coming and this is not a movement you are going to stop."
Malloy was flanked by state lawmakers from both the right and the left at Wednesday’s event, and Republicans and Democrats alike are now aligning themselves in the fight.
“This bill moves forward and reinforces our fundamental right to know what is in our food so we can make informed choices about what we feed our families,” said Rep. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield-Trumbull), according to reporter Christina Chiarelli. “Consumers may or may not wish to purchase foods that they know to be genetically modified, but they need the information made available to them to make those informed choices.”
“Passing this bill is courageous and monumental,” added Rep. Philip Miller (D-Essex). “It is an affirmation for healthy, sustainable agriculture and responsible stewardship of our food supply. The ever growing grassroots efforts of Connecticut citizens has come to fruition with the passing of this legislation. I thank Governor Malloy for being a champion of our right to participate in building our economy as fully informed consumers and citizens.”
Currently 15 nations in the European Union require labels on GMO products, and Zambia, Benin and Serbia have all instated prohibitions against products. Just earlier this week, China for the fifth time blocked a cargo shipment of US corn from entering the country, citing concerns of GMO contamination.