Connecticut: Lonely and Looking For Partners

Connecticut will become the first and only state so far to require food manufacturers to label products containing genetically modified ingredients — but there is a catch!

After Connecticut legislature passed the bill on Monday 134 to 3, Governor Daniel P. Malloy announced that he will sign the bill into law. Victory at last? Not so fast — the law won’t kick into affect any time soon according to trigger provisions that were included in the bill.

Before Connecticut activates the labeling rules, a number of conditions must be satisfied including one that four other Northeastern states with combined population of over 20 million must pass a similar labeling law. At least one of these four states must share a border with Connecticut.

At this time, over 20 states across the country are considering GMO labeling laws, including New York, Maine and Vermont in the Northeast. However, while there is broad consumer support for right to know about food, the laws have been stymied by intense corporate lobbying and constitutionality concerns from politicians.

Just on Monday, the New York labeling bill was defeated in committee after intense lobbying by Council for Biotechnology Information, a non-profit trade group that includes all top biotech seed companies, including Monsanto.

Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal told The New York Times, “we had the votes lined up to pass this, and then the lobbyist for Monsanto and the other big seed companies showed up and was speaking to members and calling them and visiting their offices.”

With prospects of genetically engineered food labeling in New York dimmed for the foreseeable future, a quick population count of Northeastern states suggests that virtually all of them would have to adopt GMO labeling rules to break the 20 million population threshold. That is unless the more conservative Pennsylvania gets in on the action.

Earlier in the year the Maine legislature passed a similar bill in the agricultural committee containing a similar provision for a threshold of five Northeastern states or any states with combined population of 20 million. However, it’s not clear whether a House of Representatives vote will be scheduled any time soon.

Labeling efforts in Vermont have stalled, as they had stalled in many other states across the country including in Hawaii which only got as far as unanimously passing a resolution asking US Congress to authorize a nationwide system for labeling and monitoring genetically engineered foods, according to Hawaii Reporter.

New Mexico legislature, just like New York legislature, failed to get their labeling bill out of committee. California ballot measure 37 was also defeated last year after a concerted effort by grocery manufacturers and ag-biotech lobby spent nearly $45 million in last minute ads.

Connecticut lawmakers broke new ground today, but this is an early victory.