Courtesy of Senate Democrats
Connecticut lawmakers are urging their colleagues in New York to consider legislation that requires labeling for genetically modified food.

Connecticut was the first state to move toward labeling genetically modified food, but the labeling requirement won’t go into effect here until certain triggers are met. Under the legislation signed into law earlier this month, Connecticut needs four states, including one neighboring state, to pass labeling legislation. The four states must have a combined population of 20 million.

Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said New York has a population of more than 19 million and it would be helpful toward meeting the population requirement.

Williams and Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Windham, submitted testimony to the New York Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, which will hold an informational hearing Tuesday.

This year there were two versions of a GMO-labeling bill introduced in New York’s legislature. One in the Assembly and one in the Senate.

New York Sen. Kenneth Lavalle sponsored the Senate’s version of the bill, but it never made it to the Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee.

The Assembly’s bill was killed when it went to a vote in the Committee of Consumer Affairs and Protection on June 3, the same day Connecticut passed its GMO-labeling bill.

New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said in an interview last week with CTNewsJunkie that the bill fell prey to bad timing and happenstance.

“We were pretty confident going into the committee hearing it would get voted out, but at the last moment there were a couple of snafus and some people who would have voted for the bill couldn’t make it in time for the vote,” she said. “It was also brought up so late in the session and [members] were distracted.”

Rosenthal said even getting the bill on a committee calendar was a victory in New York. She said that even though the bill failed, it was the first time legislation of its kind made it to the floor of a committee.

But Rosenthal said she remains optimistic. The committee will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the East Dining Room at Lehman College in New York City.

The New York Assembly doesn’t reconvene until January, but Rosenthal said that gives them plenty of time to work on the legislation.

Williams said in a phone interview Monday that New York lawmakers likely will be lobbied hard by chemical companies. However, he remained confident that public opinion will be on their side just like it was in Connecticut.

“They can’t outweigh the overwhelming sentiment of the public in favor of this legislation,” Williams said.

“Labeling of GMOs enjoys near unanimous support from the American public. A 2008 CBS/NYT poll found that 87 percent of U.S. consumers want GMO ingredients labeled, and a 2010 Thomson Reuters survey found that 93 percent of U.S. consumers support GMO labeling,” Williams said in his written testimony. “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.”