With ceremonious flourish last week, Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a bill that would require labeling on all products meant for human consumption that contain genetically modified ingredients (GMO). The legislation was passed by voters in June and actually received the governor’s formal endorsement at that time.
The Dec. 11 ceremonial signing, which took place at the front of raw foods restaurant Catch a Healthy Habit in Fairfield, CT, was meant to send a signal: Connecticut is willing to legislate change in this arena, but it couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do it alone.
The voter-backed law will roll into effect only after four other Northeastern states passed their own independent GMO-labeling laws. The law also stipulates:
- The combined population of the five or more Northeastern states must be at least 20 million (per 2010 census)
- One of the states must share a border with Connecticut
John Upton, who also covered this story for Grist Magazine, suggested that the reason that Connecticut has framed its new law in legal caveats is that it is afraid of “going it alone” when it comes to legal battles “that are surely to ensue when big-spending agro-corporations are ordered to be fully transparent.”
So we’ll bite: What does it say when a state feels it must have the “buddy system” support of its neighboring entities (and their sizable population numbers) in order to withstand the threat of suits from large corporations?
While Connecticut’s willingness to cross the line first has garnered respect from voters throughout the country (including from adjacent states that are still attempting to pass such legislation), the move seems more reminiscent of the schoolyard dare of years ago when we each pushed the other to “go first” into the fray.
Connecticut’s law requiring GMO labeling is surely to rankle large corporations that stand to gain from Monsanto’s cutting-edge technology, but it also diverges into its own new and awkwardly bold territory, where states make laws on dares and voters have no control over ensuring that their ballots will actually count for something within their lifetimes.
To date, Maine is the only other Northeastern state to pass a GMO-labeling law. That means only 15,081,292 (and one adjacent border of course) to go.
Image of f Gov. Dannel Malloy courtesy of Office of Governor Dannel Malloy