The top Democrat in Connecticut's state Senate is across the border in New York today trying to convince that state's legislators to pass a law to force labeling of products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The reason why Sen. Donald E. Williams Jr. is going to New York City for this GMO hearing is that Connecticut lawmakers kind of wimped out on the labeling issue.
Yes, this state became the first in the nation to pass a GMO labeling law. Except that it came with a whole bunch of conditions that prevent Connecticut's law from taking effect until several other things happen.
Such as having at least four other states (including one bordering Connecticut) with a total population of at least 20 million pass similar labeling lelgislation.
As Williams put it in his testimony before the New York legislative committee: "New York's role in this truly global effort is critical."
And getting a huge agricultural state like New York to adopt GMO labeling may be a lot tougher than passing Connecticut's labeling law. You don't suppose that's what Big Agriculture and Big Food lobbyists were counting on, do you?
Keep in mind that a recent poll commissioned by the New York Times shows that 93 percent of Americans believe foods that have GMOs in them should be labeled. At leaset 62 nations have already either banned GMO products for human consumption or require them to be labeled.
The U.S. government, following the lead of Big Agriculture/Food Industry conglomerates like Monsanto (the world's largest producer of GMO seeds), insists that putting that sort of label on products would only "confuse" consumers. The anti-labeling argument is that GMO foods are no different than naturally produced foods.
Anti-GMO activists insist that not enought studies have been done to determine whether GMOs may have a long-term impact on human health and point to a variety of studies to show that GMO crops (designed to be resistant to herbicides like Monsanto's Round Up) have lots of negative environmental effects.
Just one of those is that the pesticides used on GMO crops appear to have killed off all kinds of milkweed that use to grow in the Midwest along the fringes of corn and soybean crop land. The trouble is that Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed for food during their migrations. No milkweed, no Monarch butterflies.
Here are William's comments at the New York legislative hearing Tuesday:
I strongly believe that consumers all across the United States have a fundamental right to know what ingredients are contained in the food they eat and serve to their families. My name is Donald E. Williams, Jr. and I serve as President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate. Earlier this year, our state became the first in the country to adopt legislation requiring the labeling of food products that contain ingredients derived from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
Although Connecticut was first among the fifty states to adopt such a measure, it is far from unprecedented. To date, sixty-two other countries require labeling of products that contain GMOs, including the entire European Union, Japan, India, Japan, Korea, Australia, Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa.
New York’s role in this truly global effort is critical. Connecticut’s labeling law takes effect only when there is sufficient economy of scale such that the labeling requirement will not be burdensome. We opted to delay implementation of our labeling requirements until at least four other states with a combined population of over 20 million adopt a similar measure, including a state that borders Connecticut. New York can help meet this target and lead the rest of the country through the adoption of a GMO labeling law.
Rest assured, chemical companies and other interests that stand to profit from the ever-increasing proliferation of herbicides and pesticides will attempt to defeat this legislation. Our experience in Connecticut, however, is that the day when such special interests could derail common sense public policy – simple labeling for the benefit of our constituents – is over. Grassroots advocacy groups such as GMO Free CT and GMO Free NY reflect the overwhelming public support for this legislation.
Labeling of GMOs enjoys near unanimous support from the American public. A 2008 CBS/NYT poll found that 87% of US consumers want GMO ingredients labeled, and a 2010 Thomson Reuters survey found that 93% of US consumers support GMO labeling. On this issue, consumers are ahead of government policy. People are demanding to know what ingredients are in their food, and they are right to insist on knowing whether their food has been genetically modified.
The most common argument for labeling of GMO products involves concerns about their impact on human health. While some scientists argue that it is too soon to say anything conclusive about the health effects of GMOs, a number of studies raise important red flags. A 2011 meta-analysis of 19 published studies involving mammals fed GMO corn or soy found damage in the kidney, liver and bone marrow, which could indicate the onset of chronic diseases.
In addition, many GMO crops are specifically designed for cultivation with large amounts of chemical pesticides, specifically “Roundup-ready” crops. The widespread use of Roundup-ready GMO crops in US agriculture has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of the chemical glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) applied as weed killer on American farms.
Epidemiological studies show a link between Roundup/glyphosate and serious health problems, including: DNA damage, premature births and miscarriages, birth defects, multiple types of cancer, and disruption of neurological development in children.
Overuse of this chemical has also produced an untold number of effects on the ecology of farmland in America and abroad. Many weed species are rapidly evolving a resistance to the chemical, resulting in new “super weeds” that are extremely difficult for farmers to control.A recent study also points to a single-year 59% decrease in the population of migratory monarch butterflies in Mexico due to glyphosate application to milkweed, their primary food source.