Connecticut lawmakers have passed a bipartisan bill (H.B. 6527) that will require labeling on foods that contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, making it the first state in the nation to enact such legislation. Designated as “An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food,” the bill was unanimously passed in the Senate and by a 134-3 vote in the House. Governor Dan Malloy (D) has reportedly indicated that the final step in its passage, his signature, will “not be an issue.” “This is important stuff. . . and I think the rest of the world is starting to understand that.”

The bill’s passage came after House and Senate conferees reached a compromise following debate over a different version of the proposal. At issue was whether to allow the law to take effect automatically or to attach a “trigger” that would require neighboring states to pass similar legislation before Connecticut’s law would be implemented and enforced. The final version requires that four other states—with a combined population of at least 20 million people—pass similar legislation, and one of those states must border Connecticut.

Once the contingency is met, distributors that sell unlabeled products containing GM ingredients would be fined $1,000 per product per day, and the Department of Consumer Protection would be able to seize the products. The law will not apply to alcoholic beverages, foods not packaged for retail and intended for immediate consumption, farm products sold at roadside stands or farmers’ markets, 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.” Foods subject to the law must bear the clear and conspicuous statement “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

Senate President Donald Williams, (D-Brooklyn) said that the bill would make a “critical difference. We have made history in the state of Connecticut, and this issue is so important in terms of the safety of our food supply and the health of the men, women, and children in this country,” Williams said. “We know these GM[] foods are tied directly to increased use of herbicides and pesticides that are wreaking havoc in our environment.” See Governor Malloy News Release, June 1, 2013; CT News Junkie, June 3, 2013.