Don't Want to Eat GMOs? Move to Connecticut

By Emily Main

With strong bipartisan support, a measure that would require any food containing genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, passed the Connecticut legislature's environment committee 23 to 6 on Wednesday.

Though the measure still has to make it through the state House and Senate, it's a big step in a movement that's gaining steam nationwide. Polls repeatedly show that 90 percent or more of Americans want labeling of GMOs, crops whose DNA are changed so that they can kill insects or resist applications of harmful pesticides. And so far, 800,000 people have signed the "Just Label It" petition asking the federal government for required GMO labeling.

Read More: Even Congress Wants GMOs Labeled

"There's just incredible support for this legislation," says Bill Duesing, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA). "If we can continue to mobilize and keep the pressure up on legislators, we may get somewhere."

NOFA was able to drum up a great deal of grassroots support, he says, with the help of concerned citizens and activists like Jeffrey Smith, who founded the Institute for Responsible Technology to combat the overuse of biotechnology, including practices that have already led to an increase in toxic pesticide use and are spawning both pesticide-resistant weeds and insects.

Supporters expect a fierce fight from the state's Department of Agriculture and the Connecticut Farm Bureau, both of which oppose the measure, as it moves through the legislature. Both groups would rather the issue be addressed at the federal level, but the Food and Drug Administration, who regulates such labeling, has repeatedly said that GMOs are fundamentally no different, health-wise, than non-GMO crops. So states like Connecticut are increasingly taking the issue into their own hands.

Read More: Concerned Consumers Nationwide Demand GMO Labeling

Nineteen states have introduced labeling laws in the past year. Hawaii alone has 14 bills circulating that would require labeling or protect the state's native crops, such as taro, from being genetically modified. Unfortunately, many of these haven't made it past the committee vote. In California, the Organic Consumers Association is working to get a labeling bill on the ballot for the November 2012 elections. The group is in the process of collecting 800,000 petition signatures that would make the California Food Labeling Act of 2012 eligible to appear on voter ballots.

But Duesing remains encouraged by the Connecticut measure's bipartisan support. He said that at a press conference announcing the measure, its chief sponsor, Democratic Rep. Richard Roy, was surrounded by politicians ranging from "the most conservative to the most liberal. And that's the way it should be," he added. "This is about the right to know what you're eating. You're supposed to know what you're eating if you're a Democrat, but you're not supposed to know if you're a Republican?"

To see if your state has GMO labeling laws before its legislature, check out the Organic Consumers Association list. You can enter your zip code and send an immediate message to your representatives supporting your right to know what you're eating.

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