by Derrick Broze
May 22, 2013
The statewide GMO labeling bill now makes its way to the State House of Representatives under the title HB 5717.
After a daytime rally brought out over 500 supporters, Senators Don Williams and John McKinney introduced the bill for a vote on the Senate Floor. Connecticut Senators voted 35-1 to pass the bill. The only Nay vote came from state Senator Rob Kane, R-Watertown. GMO labeling is reported to be supported by 90% of the State.
The likelihood of the House version of the bill passing is uncertain. House Democrats have expressed concern over the language of the bill, which would require at least 3 neighboring states to enact similar legislation for it to become law by July 1, 2015. If 3 other states do not act on similar legislation it will be adopted a year later in 2016.
House Speaker Brandon Sharkey told the Hartford Courant, “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.”
Stan Sorkin, the Connecticut Food Association’s executive director, said, “The concerns are that specific labeling legislation could put a burden on supermarkets to be watchdog on products coming into the store.” A growing number of consumers believe it is the grocers responsibility to label their products for their customers.
According to the language of the bill Genetically Modified or Genetically Engineered means “any food produced from an organism or organisms in which the genetic material changed by (1) in vitro nucleic acid techniques such as recombinant DNA techniques and the direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles or (2) fusing cells that are not in the same taxonomic family, in a way that does not occur by natural multiplication or recombination”.
Agricultural and chemical companies have done the engineering to increase crop yields and resistance to insects. Proponents of the technology believe the public is misinformed on the controversial topic. Supporters of labeling, however, cite a growing number of studies that have shown health problems in animals who have consumed GMO corn and say products, particularly damage of the liver, kidneys, and bone marrow.
So what exactly is covered under the bill?
Under the section titled “Labeling Requirement” we find:
“Starting July 1, 2014, food that is genetically-engineered or partially produced with genetic engineering offered for retail sale in the state is misbranded if it is not labeled accordingly.”
Pretty straightforward. Now, under “Exemptions” we find a list that is a bit longer.
Some of the products that would be exempt include: food served or sold in a restaurant for immediate consumption, as well as alcoholic beverages and farm products sold at the farmer’s markets, roadside stands and pick-your-own farms.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the bill, and likely surprising for supporters of labeling, is the fact that animals who have been fed GMO food do not have to be labeled.
The bill exempts from the labeling requirement:
1. food from a non-genetically-engineered animal even if it was fed or injected with a genetically-engineered food or drug;”
As a number of studies have shown humans that consume animals fed GMO products also face health issues. Without a full labeling measure that goes all the way to include animals fed GMOs, much of the bill is meaningless. Even more so when you realize “The bill does not establish a penalty for, or consequences of, misbranding.”
Essentially, if the bill passed in it current form it would be the beginning of getting labeling started, but without any clear language on what will happen if companies do not comply it may not be strong enough for supporters of GMO labeling.
One strong point of the bill is the creation of standards for Genetically Engineered crops by the Department Of Agriculture. Under the section titled, “Farmers Best Practices” we see:
“The bill requires DOAG to adopt regulations establishing best practices for farmers who grow or raise a genetically-engineered crop for trade or sale in the United States. The regulations must require the farmers to implement the practices to (1) eliminate or minimize the impact of genetically-engineered crops on neighboring lands and (2) minimize herbicide use to eradicate herbicide-resistant weeds.”
While this step in the right direction, many are left wondering how to trust another government bureaucracy with our health? Particularly when taking into account how entrenched Bio-Technology corporations, especially Monsanto, are within the United States Government (see: Michael Taylor, Clarence Thomas).
For those seeking to free themselves from Genetically Modified Organisms, growing your own food is one of the biggest steps towards independence. By choosing to start a patio garden, a backyard garden, or invest in a local community garden, we free ourselves from the bondage of traditional grocer/consumer relationship.
The efforts of consumers pushing back against the Genetically Engineered Food movement is what caused Whole Foods and other larger retailers to announce they would begin phasing out the technology. The hard work of consumers and activists is the driving force behind labeling efforts around the nation. Not only can we use our dollar and voice to help keep our food supply clean, we can use this power to break the food monopolies being constructed by giant corporations around the world.
If you care about this topic get involved in the Global Day of GMO Awareness on May 25th, 2013.
Derrick Broze is a founding member of The Houston Free Thinkers.
He writes for dev-test.intellihub.com a popular independent news website.
He can be heard on Orion Talk Radio, Local Live Houston and the upcoming Unbound Radio.
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