A bill that would require mandatory labeling of food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cleared the Connecticut Senate late Tuesday night.
The Senate approved the measure on a 35-1 vote, giving new life to a statewide grassroots effort that stalled out earlier this year. The bill will now go to the state’s lower chamber for debate and possible passage.
If the bill clears the House of Representatives and is signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, it will go into effect after at least three other states pass similar legislation. Currently, GMO labeling legislation is pending in more than a dozen states, including Vermont and Oregon.
In Washington State, activists are pushing for passage of a statewide ballot measure to mandate labeling of GMOs this November. Supporters of the measure, known as Initiative 522, say it will provide consumers with basic information about the food they eat, and will have the added benefit of protecting that state’s apple and wheat farmers from losing trade agreements with other nations that already require GMO labeling.
The Connecticut bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support.
“We’re not banning anything, we’re not restricting anything, we’re not taxing anything,” said Senate Republican leader John McKinney. “We’re just saying let moms and dads know what’s in the food their buying for their young kids. … That’s not a lot to ask.”
“This is a public health issue” said Democratic Senate President Donald Williams. “The step that we are requesting, the mere labeling of food, is a very modest step … but it is a very important one so consumers can take action to protect their health and the health of their children.”
Connecticut and other states are likely to face a barrage of opposition from biotech giants like Monsanto and Syngenta, who fear financial loss from consumer rejection of their genetically engineered seeds. The companies and their allies spent nearly $50 million to defeat similar legislation in California last year, Proposition 37.
Governor Malloy still hasn’t taken a stance on the issue. Andrew Doba, the governor’s spokesman, told interviewers tonight that “those that favor the labeling provision are passionate in their pursuit — the governor has heard and appreciates their concerns… (but) those concerns must be balanced with the needs of Connecticut’s farmers and small businesses, not to mention working families concerned about their grocery bill.”
“Connecticut is part of a national and global economy, and any solution must recognize that fact. The governor believes that finding the right balance is essential.”