At the corner table in Catch A Healthy Habit cafe on Unquowa Road, Tara Cook-Littman last year found herself being coached on testifying about GMO foods before the General Assembly by state Rep. Tony Hwang, R-134.
And the year before that, Cook-Littman found herself at the now-closed Community Theatre, listening to a talk on labeling for GMO foods, those with "genetically modified organisms."
So it was fitting that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy came to the local raw-foods cafe Wednesday for a ceremonial bill signing of new legislation requiring that certain foods intended for human consumption, which are entirely or partially genetically engineered, be labeled to reflect that content.
Connecticut is the first state to enact such legislation, but the rules will take effect only after at least four other states enact similar legislation. The bill also requires that any combination of Northeast states with a combined population of at least 20 million must adopt similar laws in order for the Connecticut regulations to take effect.
"This is a beginning, and I want to be clear what it is a beginning of," Malloy said, before putting pen to paper. "It is a national movement that will requiring (food) labeling."
Malloy said residents must speak up when they go food stores and are unable to find detailed lableing of food ingredients. "This is the time," he said. "You better get ready; people are coming and this is not a movement you are going to stop."
"We have a lot of gratitude here today," said Cook-Littman. "This is really monumental."
Cook-Littman, a Fairfield resident, is the director of GMO Free CT, a grassroots organization that lobbied for passage of the labeling legislation.
"We are hopeful that legislators throughout the Northeast will follow the lead of Gov. Malloy and all our legislative champions by passing laws that give consumers transparency in labeling," she said.
Hwang said the efforts to win approval for the GMO labeling bill underscore the reality that grassroots movements can, and do, make a difference.
State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-132, said she came became interested in the GMO-labeling movement later than the early advocates. "It takes a group of people who really care," she said, for grassroots efforts to succeed.