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State Senate approves GMO labeling – StamfordAdvocate

May 21, 2013


HARTFORD — The state Senate on Tuesday night approved controversial legislation that would require food products to include labels telling consumers of any genetically modified organisms.

But the bill’s future in the House is in doubt, amid criticism from majority Democrats who are concerned that the legislation would require the action of surrounding states.

The Connecticut Food Association warned that labeling could become an unacceptable expense for grocers and supermarkets. And advocates for the chemical industry said that science has not proven that GMOs are harmful.

About 500 people gathered outside the Capitol for a rally in support of the legislation, which has bogged down in the House this year, but was revived in by Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.

The Senate voted 35-1 to approve the legislation, with the only dissenting vote coming from state Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, whose 32nd District includes Seymour and Oxford.

Under the legislation, the labels of products containing GMOs would be required by July 1, 2015 if three other nearby states adopt similar legislation, or a year later if the nearby states do not.

“Those who oppose labeling don’t want to be truthful or honest, nor do they want us to be enlightened” said Tara Cook-Littman of GMO Free Connecticut, who led the rally. “If the bio-tech and food industry is so convinced that GMOs are safe, let’s just agree to label them and let the public make their own decisions.”

“What we’re embarking on is nothing less than the most-important fight of our generation when it comes to food,” said Williams, D-Brooklyn. “These genetically modified foods are engineered so we can increasingly pour increasing amounts of pesticide and herbicides on our farmland.”

McKinney said that co-sponsors of the legislation cross party lines. “One of the basic obligations of government is to protect its people and that goes beyond just fire and police officers,” he said. “That means public safety and protecting what you’re eating. We’re saying let moms and dads know what’s in the food we’re buying for their young kids.”

Plants and animals that are engineered to contain the genes of other plants and animals fit the definition of GMOs. Agricultural and chemical companies have done the engineering to increase crop yields and resistance to insects.

Advocates of the bill cite a number of studies that found animals who ate GMO corn and soy products developed liver, kidney and bone marrow damage. The bill would also require GMO seeds to be labeled.

Majority House Democrats caucused the issue Tuesday afternoon, and Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey said a few hours later that the bill could be amended in the House out of concern that it would require action from other states in the region.

Stan Sorkin, executive director of the Connecticut Food Association, said Tuesday that the state’s grocers and supermarkets are worried about higher costs.

“The concerns are that specific labeling legislation could put a burden on supermarkets to be watchdog on products coming into the store,” he said in a phone interview. “We would incur additional expenses, as would the manufacturers and those costs could go up for consumers.”

Paul Pescatello, a board member of Connecticut United for Research Excellence, an industry-supported group, said not enough of the science has been absorbed by those critical of GMOs.

“I think there’s a lot of emotion surrounding this bill right now,” said Pescatello, who also said the bill could violate constitutional rights for free commercial speech.

“You can only require labeling and make a business say something if there’s a compelling state interest,” he said. “There’s an implication that there’s something wrong with GMO food. It would be unfortunate for people not to use GMO foods out of an unfounded fear.”

State Senate approves GMO labeling – StamfordAdvocate.

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