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Why the First GMO Labeling Law in the U.S. Doesn’t Matter

Why the First GMO Labeling Law in the U.S. Doesn’t Matter

It’s here! On Wednesday, Connecticut because 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.

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113 comments

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7:37AM PST on Jan 15, 2014

Needed to come back to this story to clarify the follow up. Thank you!

12:49AM PST on Jan 10, 2014

Thanks for posting.

10:34AM PST on Dec 20, 2013

Grazie per la condivisione.

8:53AM PST on Dec 20, 2013

If China refused a huge delivery of American GMO corn seed is concerning to me.

3:22AM PST on Dec 20, 2013

Thanks for sharing

3:03PM PST on Dec 19, 2013

I hope so as well.

8:50AM PST on Dec 19, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

3:56AM PST on Dec 19, 2013

We have a right as consumers to know what is in our food so that we can make our own choices, and not have them made for us by Big Ag. When laws for labeling for nutritional content were being proposed, we heard the same Chicken Little crap - prices will skyrocket at the grocery store. Well guess what - the laws passed, prices did not increase and now consumers can make their own choice.

It is not relevant to this discussion of labeling laws to debate the safety of GMOs. The issue is our right as consumers to make our own, informed choice.

I don't think the CT law is worthless but it was not particularly bold either. I do understand the difficulty of this issue going state by state in terms of local farmers and local markets.

1:31PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

say no to GMO!

10:12PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

There is no difference between GMO and NON GMO!! They are the exact same thing. Noticing many on here wanting to ban something they don't even understand! There is no point in labeling GMO, all it will do is raise the cost of basically everything in the grocery store.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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