Supporters of GMO labeling efforts are claiming a victory today, following the Connecticut Senate’s unanimous vote June 4 which sent the nation’s first labeling law to Governor Dannel P. Malloy for signature. The state’s House of Representatives last week passed the measure with a resounding 134-3 vote, and the governor says he will sign it.
There are a couple of requirements which must still be met before consumers can expect to see any change in their food labeling, however. Food Safety News reported this morning that at least four neighboring states must pass labeling bills, and one must share a border with Connecticut.
Passage of the Connecticut bill came following a “deal” of sorts was forged by the governor and other supporters. A statement by the Governor’s office on June 1 disclosed the agreement which assured that Connecticut would become the first state to pass GMO legislation. Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey is quoted in that statement as saying, “Connecticut will be the first state in the nation to pass a GMO labeling law and this sets the stage for other states to join the growing movement to give consumers more choices. As a small state, Connecticut couldn’t go it alone – this compromise strikes the right balance.”
There are no estimates, however, regarding how long it might take for other states to join Connecticut.
Giving hope to the supporters of labeling efforts was last week’s news that a bill requiring disclosure of genetically modified organisms sailed through Vermont’s House of Representatives on May 10 with a vote of 99-42. Because the biennial legislative session ended in that state, its Senate will consider the legislation when it reconvenes in January.
A New York bill died in committee on Monday, although that bill’s lead sponsor Linda Rosenthal has vowed to try to find a way to reintroduce it prior to the June 20 session end.
In Maine, supporters claimed a small victory Tuesday night when the state legislature’s Agriculture Committee voted in favor of a bill prohibiting retailers from labeling products containing GMOs as “natural.” The bill will now go to a vote in the state’s House of Representatives, even though Maine’s attorney general has predicted that any measure passed into law will likely face legal challenges. Past efforts to enact labeling legislation have failed four times.
Maine law currently allows retailers and food manufacturers to label their products as “organic” or “GMO-free,” but the proposed bill would require disclosure of any GMO products. This proposal also contains a provision that unless five other states adopt similar legislation by 2018, it would be nullified in Maine.
In other parts of the nation, only Washington State has scheduled a popular vote on the labeling question. Known as Initiative 522, supporters plan to launch a statewide campaign in favor of labeling this summer prior to the November ballot. A bill, known as Proposition 37, was defeated in California last November in a relatively close vote, despite what proponents called an unfair influx of financial support against the proposition which would have required mandatory labeling.
Proposed labeling takes different forms in different states, but GMOs are most often defined as Food or ingredients in food that is destined for human consumption, or seeds that are intended to grow or produce food for human consumption, which have been genetically altered by scientists in a lab and cannot exist independently in nature.
Attention has been focused on individual state labeling efforts since a bill was defeated in the U.S. Senate last month which would have specifically allowed state’s to pass such laws. That vote came literally on the eve of the planned nationwide March Against Monsanto, organized by anti-GMO supporters, who have since vowed to work not only for labeling, but for a total ban on genetically-modified ingredients in the food supply.