GMO Bills Passed Connecticut and Maine; Senator Sachs Revising Florida Bill For Next Session
Over the past year, public outrage of the use and lack of labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms -- a.k.a. GMOs -- in the food supply has reached a fever pitch.
Since the failure of California's Proposition 37 last November, protestors across the country began pushing for mandatory labeling initiatives in other states.
Then came the 'Monsanto Protection Act.' Actually titled the Farmer's Assurance Provision, the rider was snuck into the unrelated Federal Budget, the Continuing Resolution Act. Food activists, parents, health advocates, environmentalists, and a number of other groups were -- and still are -- livid.
More than 26 states have added mandatory labeling initiatives on legislative agendas since. In the past couple weeks, Maine and Connecticut legislatures have overwhelmingly supported their own mandatory labeling initiatives.
In Florida, Senator Maria Lorts Sachs is working with activists to rewrite a new labeling initiative to introduce in the fall. Clean Plate Charlie spoke to Trish Sheldon of GMO Free Florida about the new bill.
Connecticut's mandatory labeling bill easily passed both the House and the Senate. Governor Dannel Malloy (D) has said he will also sign off on the bill.
However, while the state looks like it will be the first in the country to require labeling of GMOs, it does have stipulations that will take time to allow its passage. To actually go into effect, labeling initiatives must become law in four other states, including one bordering state. On top of that, the clause indicates that these states must include Northeast states with total populations of more than 20 million.
Connecticut has a total population of about 3.5 million people, so the sum of the other states must exceed 16.5 million.
Just this week, Maine's Senate passed its labeling initiative with a landslide vote, 35-0. In a similar fashion to Connecticut's bill, Maine's measure requires five consecutive states to require GMO labeling, including its only bordering state, New Hampshire.
Maine has a population of just over 1.3 million. So Connecticut still needs a bordering state, plus two additional states, and another 15.2 million people to move forward.
Why all the conditions? According to the Kennebec Journal:
"Monsanto has threatened to sue states that pass similar labeling laws, which is one reason why lawmakers in several states are passing labeling legislation dependent on other states doing the same. The state compacts could help defray costs of a lawsuit."
Still Anti-GMO activists are optimistic about the progress.
"It's awesome that these bills have passed," said Trish Sheldon of GMO Free Florida. "Connecticut's biggest selling point was based on health issues alone. It's amazing, because there are not many studies about health affects. But the ones that have been conducted all indicate negative impacts on health."
Earlier this week Sheldon met with Senator Sachs to discuss Florida's labeling draft, which will be reintroduced in the upcoming fall legislative session.
"We have a couple of bills we talked about," said Sheldon, "The Center for Food Safety model and the Connecticut bill, but we're thinking about keeping it simple for Florida. We're leaning toward going with Food and Water Watch's Let Me Decide and Just Label It campaigns, which are based off the premise that we have a right to know what's in our food."
Sheldon has been working on labeling initiatives for quite some time now. Since the failure of California's Prop. 37, she's seen a huge uptick in champions for the measure, which was only magnified by the passage of the Farmer's Assurance Provision in the Continuing Resolution Act.
"Ever since the rider I've seen a steady increase in support," she said. "People are livid and they're coming out of the woodwork."
South Florida's next big anti-GMO demonstration is taking place on the Fourth of July. GMO Free Florida and Millions Against Monsanto Florida will be hosting Moms Across America March on Fort Lauderdale Beach (near Las Olas Blvd. and A1A) from 1 p.m. onwards. The groups are planning to march and set up posters to raise awareness during the Fourth of July festivities.
For more information about the group, visit facebook.com/pages/GMO-Free-Florida.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.