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Labels for Altered Foods Win Backing in Connecticut

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page, and our Connecticut News page.

Connecticut took the first step requiring producers to label genetically modified food Wednesday, as a legislative committee overwhelmingly backed a measure promoted as giving consumers more information while avoiding the debate over health concerns.

The legislature's Environment Committee voted 23-6 to approve the measure, allowing supporters to prevail over opponents who said the measure would lead to higher packaging costs.

"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 state Department of Agriculture opposes the legislation, saying that the federal government is responsible for setting national standards and that Connecticut would be at a competitive disadvantage with other states if it alone sets standards.

Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky told lawmakers at a hearing in February that genetically engineered crops are researched and designed "with a whole host of benefits in mind," such as drought resistance, reducing the need for pesticides and soil erosion, increasing production and driving down costs.

The Connecticut Farm Bureau also opposes the legislation. The group favors labeling when it's necessary to protect health or inform consumers who have allergies, said executive director Henry Talmage. The federal Food and Drug Administration is responsible for food labeling, he said.

"If you don't like what they FDA is doing, take it up with the FDA," he said in an interview.

The FDA has said genetically modified foods pose no greater health risks than traditional foods. A spokeswoman says genetically modified crops must meet regulatory standards and possible voluntary consultation to ensure they are safe.

Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States have been genetically modified to resist pesticides or insects, and corn and soy are common food ingredients.
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