Dannel P. Malloy, governor of Connecticut, signed a bill on June 25th that will require labeling of genetically modified foods in his state. Sounds great, right? We’d all love to see GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) clearly labeled so we can make smarter choices about what we eat. Too bad this bill isn’t quite as straight forward as that.
There are a couple of requirements that must be met before the labeling law will go into effect. First, four other states must pass similar legislation. At least one of them must share a border with Connecticut (meaning New York, Massachusetts or Rhode Island need to get it together before Connecticut will do the same) and their combined population must equal at least 20 million people. Since Connecticut’s population is only estimated at 3.59 million, that basically eliminates Rhode Island (estimated population of 1.05 million) and Massachusetts (estimated population of 6.65 million), even though they meet the border requirement. That only leaves New York, whose estimated population of 19.57 million combined with Connecticut would just trigger the labeling law. Too bad the New York Assembly killed their latest GMO labeling initiative earlier in June.
This seems like a lot of hokey-pokey just for residents of Connecticut to know what they’re eating. And while state legislators recognize the bill is flawed, that’s not their concern. According to CT News Junkie, “…the language in the bill regarding the use of the word ‘natural food’ on labels could be misconstrued ‘as becoming operative on Oct. 1, 2013.’ It was intended for that part of the legislation to go into effect only after the two triggers are met, legislative leaders explained in their letter to Malloy.”
Heaven forbid foods are just clearly labeled. Heaven forbid Connecticut take a stance as a leader on the issue. No, they’re concerned it might go into effect without the proper hoops being jumped.
So here’s the big question: what practical reason is there for waiting on a bordering state to pass the same law, and basically disqualifying two of them based on arbitrary requirements? If you’re thinking this sounds suspiciously like pandering to the anti-GMO crowd while keeping biotech corporations like Monsanto happy, you’d be right.
One of Connecticut’s proponents of GMO labeling, state Representative Phil Miller of Essex, complained that Monsanto and other special interest groups had “hired an army of lobbyists to discredit our efforts.” Along with Monsanto, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which represents a variety of biotech leviathans, and the Connecticut Food Association and Connecticut United Research Excellence (CURE), whose board members include representatives from Big Pharma giants such as Pfizer.
Monsanto has many ties to Connecticut. Among others, they operate through DeKalb Genetics Corporation, which they purchased in 1998 for $2.3 billion (another example of Monsanto’s unfortunately-deep pockets), and used DeKalb to get into the corn modification business. 88% of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, so the importance of this development in their business is obviously important.
Of course, the typical arguments against labeling were trotted out. David McQuade, a lobbyist hired by BIO for $50,000 a year, gave us the usual talking point that GMO labeling is unnecessary because genetically modified foods are no different than natural foods. The biotech industry is very troubled that consumers might be
educated confused by such labels. Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey stated, “I’m concerned about our state going out on its own on this and the potential economic disadvantage that could cause.” According to McQuade, there were collaborative meetings with Governor Malloy’s staff, Sharkey and various supermarket and food producer heads to address these concerns. Apparently the general public, which actually consumes these products, did not figure into these discussions.
What all this comes down to is simple – Monsanto won yet another round in the fight against GMOs, politicians once again proved themselves unfit representatives of the people, and now the residents of Connecticut find themselves with a completely gutted labeling bill and still no labels.
- Connecticut General Assembly H.B. No. 6527
- Malloy Gigns GMO Bill; Lawmakers Admit Mistakes in Drafting It
- Top 7 Genetically Modified Crops