Sunday, June 2, 2013

Connecticut first state to require GMO labeling

Connecticut first state to require GMO labeling
June 2, 2013 | GM Watch

1.Breaking News: Senate Amends and Passes a Strong GMO Labeling Bill
2.Politicians react as a grassroots movement comes of age to force GMO labeling
1.Breaking News: Senate Amends and Passes a Strong GMO Labeling Bill
GMO Free CT, June 2 2013

We are thrilled to tell you that a short while ago, the Senate amended and voted on HB 6527, the GMO labeling bill voted on by the House last Thursday.  After several days of intense negotiation between the Senate, the House, and the Governor’s office, a compromise was reached this afternoon.  All four leaders of the House and Senate, Senator Williams, Senator McKinney, Representative Sharkey, and Representative Cafero, are all sponsors of the amended bill.

Today’s GMO labeling agreement is historic and we are proud to have played a role in its development.  YOU should all be proud.  Connecticut will now set the standard for states around the country to follow.  We are grateful to all who worked to make this possible.  Thank you to all our champions in the House and the Senate.

The amended version of the bill is without the exemption for farmers grossing less than 1.5 million dollars, which undermined the entire intent of the bill.  However, there is a more reasonable trigger clause included.  The bill will go into effect when “Four states, not including this state, enact a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with the provisions of this subsection, provided one such state borders Connecticut; and (2) the aggregate population of such states located in the northeast region of the United States that have enacted a mandatory labeling law for genetically-engineered foods that is consistent with this subsection exceed twenty million based on 2010 census figures.” While we believe we have a right to know what is in our food today, we are satisfied that the language of the GMO labeling bill will give CT consumers transparency in labeling that will allow them to make informed decisions once the law is triggered.

This agreement will provide momentum for our fellow activists throughout the country as they fight to know what is in the food they feed their families.  We are confident that our counterparts throughout the country and the northeast will accomplish what we have in Connecticut.  We pledge our support to them.  We urge lawmakers across the country to follow Connecticut’s lead and give their citizens the right to know.

We just took on the most powerful industry on the globe and the power of the people triumphed. Congratulations to each and every one you.  The House will be voting on the bill after the weekend.

If you would like to read the new version of the bill, click here:

With Gratitude and Excitement,
Tara and The Team at GMO Free CT
2.Politicians react as a grassroots movement comes of age to force GMO labeling
Mark Pazniokas
The CT Mirror, June 2 2013

With a deal that revives a bill requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods, Connecticut’s legislative leaders Saturday acknowledged a movement that has muscled its way from the scientific fringe to political mainstream.

Senate and House leaders announced a bipartisan compromise that is expected to make Connecticut the first state to require labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Derek Slap, a former TV reporter who is the Senate Democrats' chief of staff, said the effective use of social-media by GMO Free CT was reminescent of how gun-control advocates kept up pressure on legislators earlier in the session.

"I think it's a relatively new phenomenon," Slap said. "You can organize relatively large numbers of people very quickly and impact public policy."

It was not unnoticed by Sharkey and Malloy.

Sharkey and the Malloy administration were adamantly opposed to a bill that would make Connecticut the only state with a labeling law, arguing that it could drive up food prices. GMO Free CT urged supporters to call Sharkey and Malloy.

Thousands did.

It passed the Senate unanimously with little debate and was sent to the House, where the leadership promises final passage before the adjournment deadline of midnight Wednesday.

A week ago, the measure appeared dead. Then a grass-roots group, GMO Free CT, used social media to focus the movement's ire on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, whom activists deemed responsible for the apparent defeat.

Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said the outpouring made the difference, leading him to stand with Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, outside the Senate and announce a deal for passage with Sharkey and Malloy.

"We're very pleased that Connecticut will be leading the nation," Williams said.

"It's an extremely important bill," McKinney said. "We both realized we had a commitment not to let it die."

Tara Cook-Littman of Fairfield, a self-described PTA mom and food blogger behind GMO Free CT, called the turnaround a pleasant surprise and a significant push for a labeling movement that has changed the food industry in Europe, but not the U.S.

“Honestly, it’s incredibly important,” said Cook-Littman, reached by phone. “This is going to provide momentum for other states.”

The Senate had passed a bill favored by Cook-Littman’s group, only to see the House pass a competing version on May 24 that advocates viewed as deliberately ineffectual. Both votes generated a reaction showing the movement’s political muscle on social media.

Williams and McKinney, who counts Cook-LIttman as a constiuent, each found themselves lionized on GMO Free CT’s Facebook page.

“The day the Senate passed the first bill, over a million Facebook hits,” said James Leahy, a former grass-roots organizer who is their Connecticut lobbyist. “I think the depth of their grass roots is unprecedented in my experience.”

Just as Williams and McKinney were praised, Sharkey and Malloy were vilified. The contrast took on an added political dimension, given that McKinney is seriously considering challenging Malloy for governor in 2014.

“When word went out on the House version that wasn’t acceptable, the message went viral,” Leahy said.

The House version exempted nearly all local food producers and included a hard-to-meet trigger: The law would take effect only if New York and four other states with an aggregate population of 25 million passed a similar bill.

Under the original Senate bill, the labeling requirement would take effect in 2016, sooner if three other states passed a similar law.

Under the compromise announced Saturday, the exemption for local producers was minimized to cover farm-stand sales and food prepared for immediate consumption.

“Once that exemption was removed, the integrity of the bill was there,” Cook-Littman said. “Then the question was whether we could come to compromise and find a trigger clause the leadership could live with.”

The trigger was changed so that four other states in the Northeast with a total population of 20 million must pass a similar law, and one must border Connecticut. Cook-Littman said the new trigger is reasonable, and Sharkey said it guaranteed that Connecticut would not stand alone.

“We needed to protect two things: One, the consumer’s right to know what’s in their food. The second is the consumer’s right to have affordable food available in the state of Connecticut.”

Malloy issued a statement praising the compromise.

"This bill strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers’ right to know what is in their food while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage," Malloy said.

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