WASHINGTON, June 5, 2013 – Connecticut became the first state in the United States to pass a genetically modified organism labeling law on Monday, when the measure succeeded in the state’s House, 134-3.
The law, however, comes with curious provisions – at least four other states, including one contiguous to Connecticut, must pass similar laws before the legislation takes effect. Additionally, any number of northeastern states with combined populations exceeding 20 million must also approve similar measures.
“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, “ Connecticut Governor Dannel Molloy said in a statement released prior to Monday’s vote.
The statement said the law’s provisions ensured that Connecticut’s labeling requirements would not pose an undue burden on local and regional food producers.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS), a leading labeling advocate, “heralded” Monday’s news, noting that Connecticut’s bill had been written with input from CFS attorneys. But Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said the group disapproved of law’s “trigger clause,” which “unnecessarily puts on hold what consumers and lawmakers have already validated as important legislation.”
But the law has its opponents. “The scientific and biotechnology firms represented by BIO continue to oppose mandatory labeling,” said Cathleen Enright, the Biotechnology Industry organization’s (BIO) executive president. She called all mandatory-labeling measures, including those passed by Connecticut, “misleading and unsupported by any criteria relating to science, health or nutrition.”
Chris Cooper, the spokesman for BIO on the Connecticut bill, said the added provisions in the legislation indicated the Connecticut lawmakers recognize “there are consequences [from labeling] to businesses and to consumers.”
Biotech industry representatives stress that uneven labeling laws will have a “negative impact to Connecticut’s economy,” according to Enright. They also say there is a “strong probability of Constitutional implications for states that adopt mandatory labeling,” in that it may violate the Interstate Commerce clause.
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