THE Connecticut House and Senate have now passed — by a 134-3 vote in the House and unanimously in the Senate — a measure that would require labels for foods merchandised in the state that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and Gov. Dan Malloy has signaled that he intends to sign the bill.
The measure includes a contingency that, before coming into effect, four other states with a combined population of 20 million people must pass similar legislation, and one of those states must border Connecticut.
If met, foods packaged for consumers that contain GMOs must bear a clear and conspicuous label: "Produced with Genetic Engineering." Retailers who sell unlabeled foods made with GMOs would be subject to a fine of $1,000 per product per day.
The law would not apply to alcoholic beverages, farm products sold at farmers markets or roadside stands, food not packaged for retail sale and food from animals that are not genetically modified regardless of drugs or feed that may be genetically modified and provided to the animals.
Connecticut would be the first state to make GMO labeling a law.
Malloy said, in a news release suggesting his position, "this is important stuff, ... and I (believe that) the rest of the world is starting to understand."
Meanwhile, in neighboring Maine, the House passed similar GMO labeling legislation by a landslide 141-4 vote that would be triggered by the adoption of legislation in four contiguous states.
However, the measure faces difficult going in the Maine Senate, where opposition is stiffening. Furthermore, the administration of Gov. Paul LePage testified against it, and Attorney General Janet Mills told agriculture committee members that the measure would "almost certainly" face a legal challenge and that she could not guarantee that her office would be able to defend its constitutionality.
Maine law currently permits products to be voluntarily labeled as "GMO free."
GMO labeling legislation also is pending in New Hampshire and has passed the Vermont House (Feedstuffs, May 13), but the measure will not be taken up in the state Senate until next year.
A GMO labeling ballot initiative is heading to a vote in Washington state this fall (Feedstuffs, May 6).
GMO label supporters argue that they are not trying to ban GMOs in foods but that consumers have a right to know if their food contains GMOs.
Opponents point to positions by the Food & Drug Administration, American Medical Assn. and National Academy of Sciences that foods produced with GMOs are not materially different from conventionally produced foods and are safe.
Meanwhile, Dr. David Acheson, former FDA associate commissioner of foods, told "FoodNavigator" that it's only "a matter of time" before state labeling legislation starts succeeding.
He said the last thing the food industry wants is "50 different laws in 50 different states," so it would be better for the biotechnology and food sectors to begin working with FDA now to develop a national standard label "and get it over with" because, ultimately, they will lose the argument against GMO labeling.