"Produced With Genetic Engineering"

Connecticut is the first state to pass a bill to mandate labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that does not require labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Countries that have restrictions or bans on genetically engineered foods include China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and the European Union.

Even though Connecticut passed a labeling bill which will become a law, there are more requirements before the law will become action.  For Connecticut to legally require companies to label GMOs four other states, with one bordering Connecticut, must pass similar legislation. Furthermore, a group of northeastern states with an aggregate population of 20 million must pass comparable legislation.  Northeastern states eligible for the requirement include New York, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Similar legislation was introduced in at least 23 other states this year. 

 

The four-state effort aims to protect economic competiveness in Connecticut. The Farm Press reports that Governor Dannel P. Malloy stated the bill “strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers’ right to know what is in their food while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage.”

The Farm Press also reports that Senator Donald E. Williams said “there is mounting scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods are harmful to our health.” But opponents are not convinced of the danger. Chris Cooper, a Biotechnology Industry Organization spokesperson said “to make labeling mandatory would suggest that there’s something different or worse in these products, when all the science suggests that this isn’t the case” reports the Norwich Bulletin.

In regards to labeling of GMOs, the Biotechnology Industry Organization upholds that consumers do have choice because "Consumers who prefer to purchase food products that don’t contain any biotechnology-derived ingredients can choose foods labeled 'certified organic' or 'non GMO.'"

House Bill 6527 defines genetically engineering as "a process by which a food or food ingredient that is produced from an organism or organisms in which the genetic material has been changed through the application of: (A) In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) techniques and the direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles; or (B) fusion of cells, including protoplast fusion, or hybridization techniques that overcome natural physiological, reproductive or recombination barriers, where the donor cells or protoplasts do not fall within the same taxonomic group, in a way that does not occur by natural multiplication or natural recombination."

Entities and products exempt from the labeling law are alcoholic beverages, restaurants or other facilities that prepare food for immediate use, farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and “food consisting entirely of, or derived entirely from, an animal that was not genetically engineered, regardless of whether such animal was fed or injected with any genetically-engineered food or any drug that was produced through means of genetic engineering.”

The bill will become effective in October 2013, but in reality, it could be a number of years before the statutorily required number of states passes similar legislation.

Maine is following Connecticut’s lead. The Maine Legislature approved Bill LD 718 on Wednesday, June 12 and it will travel to Governor Paul LePage’s desk to be signed into law. Maine has similar stipulations as the Connecticut bill. Four other states must pass similar legislation, including New Hampshire which is the only state to border Maine.  If other states do not adopt similar legislation, the Connecticut and Maine bills will not go into effect.