Domino effect tipped for GMO law
Monsanto's worst nightmare, a consumer pushback against unlabelled GMOs in their food, is close to being realised with the Connecticut House and Senate this month agreeing on a bill to label genetically modified foods.
There are caveats on the legislation for now but commentators predict the legislation, once enacted, is likely to have a domino effect, as other states are predicted to follow suit.
Connecticut is the first state in the US to pass a GMO labelling law which sets the stage for other states to join the growing movement to label foods as such.
The issue for proponents of the legislation, and for thousands of consumers around the world, is that labelling which reflects GMO components in food should be mandatory because it gives shoppers the right to choose whether to put those foods in their trolley.
There are already requirements for producers to label foods that have been produced in a certain way and shoppers know what to expect from such labelling.
New Zealand exports to the US although it is not known how the labelling requirement will impact on it or other countries which have GM products in their animal feeds.
"There is mounting scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods are harmful to our health," said Senate president Donald E Williams. "There's an increasing avalanche of public support [for labelling GMOs]."
Since the bill was first introduced to the senate, there have been some changes to it.
The original legislation would have made GMO labelling mandatory in Connecticut by 2016, but a compromise was made which adds a trigger to the law requiring other states' participation.
In essence, four other states not including Connecticut or one state with the equivalent of 20 million citizens must adopt similar legislation to "trigger" the labelling legislation in Connecticut. The reasoning for the trigger is that it may not be feasible to demand food labelling only for Connecticut's 3.5 million residents.
Mr Williams said the bill would make a "critical difference".
"We have made history in the state of Connecticut and the issue is so important in terms of the safety of our food supply and the health of the men, women and children in this country.
"We know these GM foods are tied directly to increased use of herbicides and pesticides that are wreaking havoc on our environment."
Representative Diana Urban said Maine, New Jersey and New York were well on their way to passing similar legislation.
"This is history," she said. "Its a do-able trigger, and I am just thrilled. Sixty-two other countries either ban (GMOs) or label them, and we're the first in the nation to stand up and do this."
The bill requires food intended for human consumption and seed or seed stock intended to produce genetically engineered food to be labelled "produced with genetic engineering".
The label must be displayed in the same size and font as the ingredients in the food label's nutritional facts panel.
Among other things, the bill also: Explicitly includes infant formula in the definition of "food" for purposes of the bill's labelling requirements as well as other provisions in the state Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Specifically excludes genetically engineered foods from the definition of "natural food" for purposes of the the laws regulating the advertisement, distribution, or sale of food as natural. Fairfax NZ