GMO labeling bill set to move next week

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, July 10, 2015 - A bill that would block states from requiring the labeling of foods with biotech ingredients will get its first vote next week in a congressional committee.

The House Agriculture Committee announced Friday that the panel would vote on the Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act (HR 1599) on Tuesday.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee has joint jurisdiction on the bill, but a source familiar with the development of the legislation said it's possible that panel could waive its right to consider the measure.

The bill, which was originally introduced last year by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., has 68 cosponsors, and more members could sign on next week as it starts to move.

The legislation would preempt state labeling laws as well as set up a process for certifying products labeled as non-GMO. The legislation also would make mandatory federal safety reviews of new biotech crops. The review process at the Food and Drug Administration is now voluntary although routinely followed by companies.

Vermont passed a mandatory GMO labeling law for most food products last year. It is scheduled for implementation in 2016, but is being challenged in court by food companies.

Pompeo's bill has wide support among farm groups, biotech companies, food makers and farmer cooperatives. John Reifsteck, president of GROWMARK Inc., an agricultural co-op, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee last month that the bill was needed to avert a “hodgepodge of rules that would be unworkable for farmers and their cooperatives.”

Vermont's assistant attorney general Todd Daloz said his state's law “will allow citizens worried about the environmental impact of GE foods to adjust their purchasing decisions.”

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