The Connecticut bill now goes to the state House, where indications are it will have a harder time.
“I’m concerned about our state going out on its own on this and the potential economic disadvantage that could cause. I would like to see us be part of a compact with some other states, which would hopefully include one of the bigger states such as New York,” Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey was quoted in the Hartford Courant.
Not wanting to be first
Even if the bill gets through the legislature and is signed into law, it does require three nearby states to pass similar bills by July 2015 in order to go into effect. It also exempts some food from the labeling mandate: food served or sold in a restaurant for immediate consumption, as well as alcoholic beverages and farm products sold at farmer's markets, roadside stands and pick-your-own farms.
The Connecticut vote comes as bills requiring GMO labeling are making their way through a number of other state legislatures too, with Washington State’s initiative I-522 being the most advanced of these. And at least one nearby state is moving forward rapidly with GMO labeling legislation. The Vermont State House of Representatives also passed a GMO bill, which now will go before the State Senate, something not scheduled to happen before the legislature is next in session in January.
And that bill contains a similar stricture to Connecticut’s to avoid having the state go out on a limb by itself. The bill won’t become law for two years after passage unless two nearby states pass such bills first.
“Connecticut is setting an example for the rest of the country to follow. The time for GMO labeling is now,” said Lisa Stokke, co-founder of grassroots organization Food Democracy Now.
“Americans should have the right to know just as the citizens of more than 60 other countries already do.”
On the national front, the US Senate on Thursday voted down on a 27-71 vote an amendment to the national farm bill offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Sanders’ amendment would have affirmed unequivocally that states have the right torequire such labeling for products sold within their borders.
“Today we have an opportunity with this amendment to affirm once and for all that states do have the right to label food that contains genetically engineered ingredients,” Sanders said on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
Sanders said that even though the move toward labeling is gaining momentum in the state legislatures, some have been discouraged by arguments that labeling is a federal prerogative.
In addition, in late April Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, bipartisan legislation that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clearly label genetically engineered foods. That bill is currently before the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee.