It’s here! On Wednesday, Connecticut became the first state in America to pass a law that requires food manufacturers to indicate the presence of genetically-engineered ingredients on the label.
If you’re surprised, you’re not the only one. After bitter defeats at the hands of big food lobbyists in California and Washington, I would have thought that we’d have to wait a long time to see another labeling measure with even a slim chance of passing. Yet here is Gov. Dannel Malloy, commemorating a bill that finally honors Americans’ right to know what’s in their food.
Well, once I took a closer look at the bill itself, it became clear why we didn’t see a knock-down, drag-out fight between food labeling advocates and Big Food like in California and Washington.
According to a statement from Gov. Malloy’s office: “Connecticut’s GMO labeling law goes into effect only after four other states enact similar legislation. Additionally, any combination of northeastern states with a combined population of at least 20 million – including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey – must adopt similar laws.
“The bill also includes language that protects Connecticut farmers by ensuring regional adoption of the new labeling system before requiring local farms to analyze and label genetically engineered products.”
So, while the law sounds great, and Connecticut legislators are patting themselves on the back for the accomplishment, it means absolutely nothing. Although the bill is now law, it doesn’t change a thing for Connecticut families, and doesn’t require food companies to do anything differently. Perhaps the only comforting thing is that we can tack a “yet” onto the end of that sentence.
What Connecticut has essentially said is, “we hear Americans crying out for GMO labeling, and we know that Americans should have the right to know what’s in their food. But we’re too scared to go out on this limb alone. We don’t want to be the only target of the biotech and food industry’s wrath, so we’re going to put this on paper with the expectation that someone else will stand with us.”
Normally I’d say, well, it’s the thought that counts, but in this case the thought doesn’t count for squat.
However, it’s very hard to be the first. Monsanto and its cronies have made it quite clear that they intend to buy their way to a food system riddled with hidden GMOs, whether the American people like it or not. So to be the first state to show its cards is admirable, if a little lackluster.
Perhaps Tara Cook-Littman, director of GMO Free CT, summed it up best: “As the catalyst for GMO labeling in the United States, Connecticut residents should feel proud. 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.”
I hope so, too.