The federal government hasn't been very responsive to the estimated 92 percent of Americans who want genetically engineered foods to be labeled, so states have started to take the issue on themselves: about 20 states are considering a labeling requirement. But it looks like Connecticut is close to actually passing one.
Yesterday, the state legislature's Environment Committee voted 23-6 to approve a measure requiring food producers to label genetically modified foods.
"It's something that's coming, and I think we can be in the forefront in helping shape how it's done," said Democratic Rep. Richard Roy, the committee's House chairman. "Think of us as the mouse that roared."
The federal government and states do not require labeling for all genetically modified foods. Connecticut is among nearly 20 states considering a requirement, with backers saying genetically engineered foods pose allergy and other health risks and that labels give consumers valuable information.
The legislation doesn't come without opposition—the main arguments being that it will increase packaging costs because Connecticut will require unique packaging, and that it's an issue for the FDA, not the states. Those are weak arguments: there's no reason the labeled packages can't be sold in other states as well, which from the 92-percent figure would seem a popular move anyway; and proponents of labeling would prefer the FDA to act, but the agency hasn't and doesn't look like it's trying to. Which is why states are considering such requirements in the first place.
In Connecticut, there's at least one Republican who is not convinced genetically modified foods are unsafe, but he's also not convinced they're safe. Which is probably where a lot of people stand. So he, like a lot of those people, supports the law:
"I'd rather err on the side of caution," said Republican Fred Camillo. "This is your health you're talking about. I think that really trumps every other argument I've heard on this issue."