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Fairfield’s GMO-free candidate

Healthy food crusader seeks seat in Hartford

Last year, Tara Cook-Littman of Fairfield led the charge to the State Capitol for a GMO labeling bill. This year, she is hoping to end up at the Capitol as a state rep for the 134th General Assembly District of Fairfield and Trumbull.

The seat, currently held by Republican Tony Hwang, is up for grabs since Hwang has said he will not seek re-election.

Cook-Littman, a Democrat, said that her candidacy has been a long time coming.

“It’s the culmination of the nine years since I’ve been back [in Connecticut],” Cook-Littman said.

 Her journey

Cook-Littman grew up in Easton and lived there until she went to Brandeis University. After college, she moved to New York City and took a year off to work as a paralegal.

During that year, she met husband Owen Littman.

She attended Cardozo Law School and got a job at the Manhattan office of New York City’s district attorney’s office. She worked there a little over two years before leaving to have children.

Their second child was just two months old when they moved back to Connecticut — to Fairfield. But then, Cook-Littman was not feeling well.

“The doctors couldn’t help me,” she said.

So, she did her own research and changed her diet.

“I got better,” she said.

And she thought others could benefit from advocating for their own health the way that she did.

“I wanted to help others,” she said.

So, she took a one year program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

“I learned about our food system and what a disaster it is,” she said.

And that brought her to GMOs (genetically modified organisms). She founded GMO Free CT, a grass-roots group, to help educate people about the dangers of GMOs. The group, originally consisting primarily of area mothers, eventually turned their attention to working towards a labeling bill.

They saw that dream come to pass last year when Connecticut became the first state in the country to have a bill requiring labeling of food that has been genetically engineered.

And even though the bill will not go into effect until some other states also have similar legislation, the victory to Cook-Littman is clear.

“In general, we underestimate our power to effect change,” she said.

Her candidacy

Now that Cook-Littman has thrown her hat into the political ring, she is putting the public on notice that, if elected, she will not be a typical politician.

“If people are looking for politics as usual, [that’s not me],” she said.

For one thing, she has not defined a platform yet.

“I want to be the voice of the community,” she said. “That’s the thing I’m most excited about.”

And she said she won’t know what the community wants until she gets out there.

“I want to get out in the community and see what people care about,” she said.

The state’s economy is an area she feels she needs to discuss with residents before forming stances on issues such as taxes, spending, state employee benefits, job creation and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“This is where I really need to talk to people,” she said. “Know what they’re thinking, what their daily struggles are.”

Education

When it comes to Common Core, though, as a mother of three children in Fairfield public schools, she has a definite outlook.

“It’s an interesting dilemma because we obviously need to keep finding new ways to teach our children,” she said.

Her concern is that Common Core is being rushed without parents understanding it.

“And teachers aren’t being properly trained,” she said.

She feels standardized tests are not a fair assessment of children’s abilities.

“Not all children test well or learn the same,” she said. “Who’s benefiting? A private company.”

She wants there to be more time to evaluate things.

“We are teaching for the sake of taking tests and not for the sake of knowledge,” she said.

Other issues

Cook-Littman also has opinions about Metro-North, gun control and the environment.

“I have a commuting husband,” she said. “It took him seven years to get a [parking] permit [at the train station].”

And during that time his trip to and from his job as general counsel for an investment bank in Manhattan has become more arduous.

“His commute has gotten longer and his stress level has gone up,” she said. “Trains are never on time and we worry about safety.”

She feels there are serious problems that need to be addressed.

“The infrastructure needs to be fixed,” she said. “The wires are old, the tracks are old.”

Cook-Littman said this situation is unacceptable.

“We have to do better,” she said. “This is one of the busiest commuter lines in the country.”

When it comes to gun control, Cook-Littman is in favor of what she considers “common sense gun control” but she doesn’t want to limit discussion.

“We have to think about mental health, community support for people going through hard times,” she said. “We have to think about related issues.”

Environmental and health issues, though, are her passion.

“If our land and water and air is polluted, we cannot possibly be healthy,” she said. “Our health is interconnected with the health of our planet.”

Democracy

With Cook-Littman spending so much time in Hartford working with legislators on the GMO labeling bill, she feels she learned a lot.

“It was about democracy,” she said. “About the government working for our people.”

And while she relates to Democrats on social issues and has been a lifelong liberal, she said that she has an agenda that is unrelated to political parties.

“I believe in doing what’s right,” she said. “Last year, I questioned Democrats as much as Republicans.”

And she wants to work with both sides as state representative.

“[I want to] do what needs to be done to help,” she said.

But first she wants to talk to people. She plans to walk around neighborhoods and knock on doors and attend important community events.

“People shouldn’t be surprised if they get a phone call from me,” she said.

And her ultimate goal?

“Giving people a voice in Hartford,” she said.

Cook-Littman has served seven years as a board member of Operation Hope, started a preschool at Beth El Synagogue on Fairfield Woods Road and is on the women’s auxiliary board at the Jewish Home for the Elderly.

Tara Cook-Littman

Tara Cook-Littman

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  • Tony

    we as citizens need to vote for people who are against GMOs whether they are Dems or Reps and get back to farming for a future

  • Kiernan Majerus-Collins

    Anti-GMO advocates in Connecticut have been dangerously anti-science. The fact is, GMOs are an amazing technology that we should be embracing, not becoming irrationally hysterical about. I hope an alternative Democratic candidate emerges who’ll stand on the side of science, not fearmongering.

    • Seeds of death

      Let the people decide what they want to eat. Anti-labeling is anti-science.

      • RobertWager

        “Anti-science”? How would you truthfully label a loaf of bread?

        • Seeds of death

          I am more of an opponent for labeling GE crops for direct human consumption like say GE sweet corn or GE edamame(soy beans) I also am not totally against labeling animal products who were fed GE. However seeing as though these corporations have created this situation where there is a huge movement against this technology other people would like it all labeled. I can’t say I totally disagree. The bread could simply have an asterisk next to each ingredient like sugar, corn syrup or whatever that was made from a GE plant and then at the bottom of the ingredient list have another asterisk that says “this ingredient was made from a GE crop.” Remember 64 other countries do it. Some people would rather avoid these ingredients for numerous reasons, maybe health, religious or environmentally conscious or maybe they just want to boycott certain corporations.There is a huge list of scientific bodies who declare it safe, that’s great. Not a debate about safety though because if these products were unsafe they should be removed from the food not labeled. It’s about choice, let the consumer know what’s in the product so they can decide for themselves if they want to support this controversial technology. Maybe if it wasn’t hidden from the beginning it would be less controversial and people would not be so disturbed about it. Also the huge fight against labeling only adds to the insecurity.

          • RobertWager

            But the law states all labels must be truthful Therefore stating GE content(whatever that is as GE is a breeding method not an ingredient) would have to be backed up with evidence of such statements. there is where the costs come in. Because many refined ingredients are completely devoid of any DNA or protein (the things we measure to determine if a product came from a GE bred crop) there is only two ways to know for sure if any ingredient came from a GE bred crop. Complete tracking of all food from farm to fork which would involve massive increase in food distribution system or eliminate all GE crops as places like Europe do. In either case the costs would be huge and the consumer would end up paying for it. Now all of this supposes the FDA will allow such labels, they are silent at this point.

          • Seeds of death

            Maybe the corporations encouraging widespread GE agriculture in the U.S. should pay those costs. Seeing as though 64 other countries have labeling some tracking system must already be in place. That system should be expanded to afford us free Americans the same choice 64 other countries have. It would benefit the export trade to have that system expanded seeing as though 64 countries require it.

          • RobertWager

            The big difference is the vast majority of those 64 countries do not grow any GE crops so it is easy and cheap to institute GE specific labeling. This is definitely not the case for North America

          • Seeds of death

            If they do not grow them they must get them from us, Brazil or Argentina and if they label them the source countries must have the ability to provide that information somehow to some extent.

          • RobertWager

            Yes bulk shipments of GE crops must be accompanied by documentation according the Cartagena Protocol. But domestically all commodity crops are mixed together at the elevator, shipping depots, in rail cars, on trucks, etc. therefore without dedicated supply chain infrastructure (doubling the present system)it is impossible truthfully label food for GE content.

  • Trevor

    GMO crops are extremely dangerous for human consumption. It is glad to see Tara Cook-Littman taking a stance at the grass roots level against large corporate interest. Here is a simple question. If GMOs are so good, then why do Monsanto and other GMO producers oppose labeling? Consumers deserve a choice in what they buy.

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