Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Group meets in new haven to gird for next push on GMO foods labeling
New Haven Register
23 May, 2012
NEW HAVEN — Recoiling from a defeat in the state legislature but determined to expand the fight, opponents of genetically modified foods held a workshop in a church library Wednesday morning that drew healthy-food advocates from three of the most populated state counties.
Some 20 people in the Church of the Redeemer library applauded the one state representative present, Richard Roy, D-Milford, whose bill requiring labeling of GM foods seemed to have the support of state residents and legislators when it was stripped of its section on mandatory labeling.
The meeting was run by Tara Cook-Littman and Analiese Paik of Fairfield County, co-founders of Right to Know CT, a group pushing for disclosure of GMO (genetically modified organism) ingredients on food labels.
Cook-Littman said she received an email about the change in the bill.
“So Analiese and I shot back, ‘What? What are you talking about? Are you crazy? That’s the only part of the bill that matters!” said Cook-Littman. She said it was her understanding that Gov. Dannel Malloy and legislative lawyers had concerns about the state being sued.
Roy has said in a published report that the Legislative Commissioners’ Office lawyers forced sponsors to gut the bill.
An Associated Press story at the time, picked up by the Huffington Post, said the state Department of Agriculture was against the bill and that Roy said he unsuccessfully lobbied Malloy and House Speaker Christopher Donovan on the bill.
A spokesman for Gov. Malloy, Andrew Doba, said Wednesday night, “The accusations in this story are ridiculous. The governor has never had a conversation about this bill.”
Attendees on this humid Wednesday included organic farmers, a registered dietician, Sierra Club lobbyist Martin Mador of Hamden, non-GMO activists from Hartford County, “slow food” advocates and host Ian Skoggard of the (United Church of Christ) church. Some expressed paranoia at how GMO giant Monsanto is able to get its way concerning its patented GMOs.
Roy said supporters thought they had made changes to the bill that would allow it to pass, but opponents “kept throwing up ‘We might be sued. We might be sued, we might be sued.’ And I said, ‘Somebody has to be sued somewhere along the line, otherwise Monsanto is… going to take over more and more.”
Monsanto produces GMOs such as “Roundup Ready” alfalfa and transgenic maize, which are engineered to, for instance, survive Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide applied on them to kill weeds, or tolerate drought better. But critics such as the American Academy of Environmental Medicine associate health risks with GMO foods, including infertility, immune problems and faulty insulin regulation.
Paik, a marketing consultant and president of Fairfield Green Food Guide LLC, said the Food and Drug Administration declared these foods safe without proper testing. “They have genes in them from other species — viruses, bacteria, animals and plants from another kingdom…” she said.
The group strategized about educating consumers, reaching out to farmers, mobilizing, building partnerships and making a new labeling push in the state legislature, which will be done without Roy, who is retiring from politics in January after 20 years.
Labeling, said organic farmer Robert Burns, “is the Achilles heel of the industry.”
Cook-Littman said GMOs are in 80-90 percent of processed foods in America, through ingredients such as Canola oil, corn, soy, cottonseed oil and sugar beets (table sugar).