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Connecticut Approves Labeling Genetically Modified Foods, but with Limitations

Jun 4, 2013

The Connecticut State Senate has just made Connecticut the first state to mandate that food makers label products containing genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients.

GMO foods have been associated with dangerous reactions that are toxic and allergic; they have led to sickness, sterility, and dead livestock; and they have caused damage to nearly every organ in lab animals involved in GMO testing, according to The Institute for Responsible Technology. The effects of consuming GMO foods and combinations of proteins produced in GMOs in humans are not known and have not been researched.

What is known is that GM crops in which pesticides are produced within the plant not only kill and deter insects, but create a toxic plant. This was seen in sheep grazing on Bt cotton in India. After the sheep grazed, thousands died, said The Institute for Responsible Technology. Also, pollen released from GM crops is known to contaminate nearby crops of the same type (except soy, which does not cross-pollinate), which could lead to environmentally disastrous outcomes. For example, nearly every heritage corn variety in Mexico—from where all corn originates—has been found to have some type of contamination.

The bill, although considered a major step by consumer advocates, has a number of catches, including one that states that at least one bordering state—in the Northeast and with a population of no less than 20 million—must pass similar regulations, according to The New York Times. Bill HB 6527 passed by a tremendous 134-to-3 vote following a good deal of negotiation, according to Nation of Change, which also indicated that the bill points to the growing resistance against GMOs by food and seed manufacturers.

Cathleen Enright, executive vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said that labeling by an individual state could impact both industry and business in that state, according to the Times. Also, food and seed manufacturers like Monsanto and Dow have spent large amounts to defeat a measure in California requiring labeling.

In fact, a labeling bill failed in New York after members—some of whom were co-founders of the legislation—were strongly lobbied by a Council for Biotechnology Information representatives, according to the Times. The group includes members such as BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroScience, DuPont Monsanto, and Syngenta; all manufacture genetically modified seeds and the pesticides that work with those crops.

Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal (Democrat-Manhattan), told the Times that there were more than 40 co-sponsors when the legislation went to the committee. “We had the votes lined up to pass this, and then the lobbyist for Monsanto and the other big seed companies showed up and was speaking to members and calling them and visiting their offices,” she said.

A GMO is the end result of a laboratory process in which the genes from the “DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal,” explained The Institute for Responsible Technology. These genes may be derived from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, or humans. GMOs are also referred to as "transgenic" organisms, and the process is known as Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM).

First introduced into the food chain in the mid-1990s, GMOs are now part of most of the processed foods sold in the United States, according to The Institute for Responsible Technology. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not mandate the labeling of GMOs in food ingredient lists; yet, GMOs are banned food ingredients in Europe and other locations.

The work done on GMOs, to date, has served only to increase herbicide tolerance and a crop’s ability to produce its own pesticides; there are no health benefits and the benefits have only been monetary and to the producers, The Institute for Responsible Technology explained.

Today, commercialized GM crops in this country include soy (94 percent), cotton (90 percent), canola (90 percent), sugar beets (95 percent), corn (88 percent), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50 percent), and zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres). Products from these GM crops include oils, soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup, to name just some, The Institute for Responsible Technology wrote.

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