House Democrats set attacks on GMO bill

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 20, 2015 - Critics of a GMO regulation bill are proposing amendments that would add restrictions or exemptions to the legislation and allow farmers to claim government compensation for some damages from herbicide drift or contamination by genetically engineered crops.

The amendments filed before a deadline Monday also include one by Peter DeFazio, D-Conn., that would kill the key section of the Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act (HR 1599) that would block states from requiring the labeling of foods with biotech ingredients. 

The House is expected to debate the bill later this week. The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday to consider a rule that will determine which amendments could actually get votes. 

Lets Talk Food

Denzel McGuire, executive vice president of government relations at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, expressed confidence Monday that the bill would pass. “It's looking good. It's just a matter of how big a margin we'll have. We fully expect to win on this,” she said.

Authors of the bill filed a manager's amendment that seeks to clarify that the Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act wouldn't stop states or local governments from banning the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. 

The chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, issued a statement Friday that said the bill “provides preemption solely for food use and labeling.” 

Several Democratic amendments were filed to preserve state and local cultivation bans. 

In addition to preempting state labeling laws, the bill also would set requirements for labeling foods as non-GMO and would direct the Food and Drug Administration to define the term “natural.” 

The 14 amendments posted by the committee include one filed by Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., that would exempt baby food and infant formula from the bill. An amendment filed by Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., would ban GMOs from being defined as “natural.” The bill would leave that determination to FDA. 

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, is proposing to require the Agriculture Department to compensate farmers for damage due to cross-pollination or seed contamination from genetically engineered crops, or by herbicide drift from a biotech field.

Another DeFazio amendment would require labeling of genetically engineered fish. The Senate Appropriations Committee last week amended its fiscal 2016 Agriculture spending bill to require labeling of biotech salmon


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