Christine Stuart photo
Tara Cook-Littman greets U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal at the farmer’s market (Christine Stuart photo)

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined advocates Thursday at the Hartford Farmer’s Market to urge support for the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act.

The legislation, which was introduced in February, would require the Food and Drug Administration to clearly label genetically engineered foods “so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat,” Blumenthal said.

Last month, the U.S. House passed H.R. 1599, which has been dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by its opponents. It passed the House by a vote of 275 to 150.

“We are gathering today to send a message to my colleagues in Washington D.C. the DARK Act ought to be kept in the dark,” Blumenthal said. “Consumers have a right to the light of public disclosure to let them know what’s in their food.”

Blumenthal opined that it’s unlikely the legislation will pass the U.S. Senate.

“We will drive a stake through the heart of the DARK Act,” Blumenthal said.

He said state rights, when it comes to labeling, should prevail.

Connecticut was the first state in the nation to pass a bill requiring labeling of genetically engineered food. But the triggers in that legislation — specifically a requirement that other northeast states with a combined population of 20 million people pass similar legislation — have yet to be met.

Tara Cook-Littman, chair of Citizens for GMO Labeling, said Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont have passed labeling bills, but Massachusetts or New York would also have to pass a labeling bill before Connecticut would require labeling. Both Connecticut’s and Maine’s legislation include triggers. Vermont’s legislation does not.

However, Cook-Littman said advocates would be back this year to ask the Connecticut legislature to pass a labeling bill without a trigger provision. She said Vermont, which has a much smaller population than Connecticut, is set to implement their law in July 2016.

“That law has already survived a lower court challenge and, if Vermont can implement their law in July 2016 with a smaller population than Connecticut, there’s no reason Connecticut can’t implement their law along with Vermont,” Cook-Littman said.

She said the grassroots movement is more empowered than ever.

“State legislators throughout this country should be outraged right now that the federal government is trying to take away their rights to protect their own citizens,” Cook-Littman said. “This act that was passed by the House is a direct attack on the work Connecticut and Vermont did by passing GMO labeling laws.”

She said the House vote was more about “who is controlling our government today” than about GMO labeling.

Blumenthal said he has bipartisan support for the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act in the Senate and the DARK Act is “dead on arrival in the Senate.”