WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers are urging their colleagues in neighboring New York to consider legislation that requires genetically modified food to be labeled for consumers, hoping passage there will ultimately lead to the final enactment of Connecticut's new labeling law.
Connecticut's mandate can't take effect until other Northeast states pass similar labeling rules.
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, and Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Windham, the co-chairman of the General Assembly's Public Health Committee, have both submitted testimony for a New York legislative committee to consider at a hearing Tuesday.
Legislation under consideration in New York would require food or food products that contain genetically modified organisms or are produced with genetically modified material to be labeled, with some exceptions. Penalties would be imposed for false labels and misbranding.
Connecticut's labeling law, enacted this year, requires labeling of food intended for human consumption, as well as seed or seed stock, that that is entirely or partially genetically modified. The labels must bear the words "produced with genetic engineering." Packaged foods must be labeled on the package while wholesale foods must be labeled on the bill of sale. Raw agricultural goods must be labeled on the retail store shelf or bin.
But Connecticut's law won't take effect until four other Northeast states with a combined population of 20 million people pass similar legislation. One state must be a border state. The requirement was added after concern was voiced regarding the cost of labeling products for only Connecticut, which has a population of about 3.5 million people.
"If New York were to pass this legislation, we would be well on our way to meeting the requirement so that Connecticut and other states in the Northeast would have labeling when it comes to genetically modified foods," said Williams, who appeared with Johnson on Monday at the Willimantic Food Cooperative, which helped with efforts to pass Connecticut's bill. Bills are also pending in Maine and Vermont.
Williams said he's hopeful the number of required states will take action within the next year or two and Connecticut's law will take effect.
"People want to know what's in their food," he said. "The folks who put the food on the table for their families want to be sure of what's in it in terms of the safety for their families and the safety for the environment."
Jennifer Rovetti, a 40-year-old mother of two from Willington who was shopping at the co-op, said she tries to avoid GMOs but admits it's difficult.
"It is hard because even all-natural products have soy and corn and canola and things that are almost completely genetically modified these days. Unless all those ingredients are organic in a product, as far as I know, they could be genetically modified or not," she said. "If we knew on a label, then I would definitely try not to purchase those items."