What's in your food? New law could help you know

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy held an event this week to highlight a new state law that could require certain foods intended for human consumption that are entirely or partially genetically engineered to be labeled as such.

The new law will only take effect after four other states enact similar legislation, Also, four other Northeastern states with a combined population of at least 20 million — including Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont — adopt similar laws.

“I am proud that leaders from each of the legislative caucuses can come together to make our state the first in the nation to require the labeling of GMOs,” Malloy said at the event. “The end result is a law that shows our commitment to consumers’ right to know while catalyzing other states to take similar action.”

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms.

Transparency for food consumers

The ceremonial bill signing at Catch a Healthy Habit Café in Fairfield was intended to commemorate passage of legislation earlier this year.

Fairfield resident Tara Cook-Littman of GMO Free CT was one of the leading proponents of the law. “As the catalyst for GMO labeling in the United States, Connecticut residents should feel proud,” she said.

“We are hopeful that legislators throughout the Northeast will follow the lead of Governor Malloy and all our legislative champions by passing laws that give consumers transparency in labeling,” Cook-Littman said.

Would not ban any products

More than 60 countries have adopted mandatory labeling laws, including the European Union.

Malloy stressed that the Connecticut law “does not ban anything. It requires the labeling of food products that have been modified with genetic engineering and do not occur naturally.”

The Connecticut law includes language that protects Connecticut farmers by ensuring regional adoption of the new labeling system before requiring local farms to analyze and label genetically engineered products.

What crops are involved?

The majority of GMO crops in the United States are corn, canola, soybeans and cotton, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2012, 94% of cotton, 93% of soybeans and 88% of corn planted in the United States were genetically modified.

The United States is also the largest exporter of GMO crops in the world, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Other genetically modified crops approved for human consumption in the United States include potato, tomato, wheat, squash, plum, sugar beet, radicchio, papaya, flax, creeping bent grass, alfalfa and cantaloupe.

‘Healthy, sustainable agriculture’

State Rep. Philip Miller, a Democrat from Essex who pushed for the law, called passage of the bill “courageous and monumental. It is an affirmation for healthy, sustainable agriculture and responsible stewardship of our food supply.”

According to state Rep. Tony Hwang, “This bill moves forward and reinforces our fundamental right to know what is in our food so we can make informed choices about what we feed our families.” Hwang is a Republican who represents Fairfield and Trumbull.

State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, a Fairfield Republican also involved in passing the legislation, said she hopes “the rest of the nation will follow Connecticut's lead.”