GMO labeling bill introduced in House

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, March 25, 2015 - Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., introduced a bill today aimed at blocking state GMO labeling laws. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 includes a new provision to regulate and certify foods promoted as non-biotech.
 

Pompeo introduced a similar bill last year that did not include the USDA certification provision. The new legislation would set up a voluntary certification process run by USDA for foods labeled as non-GMO (that is, not containing genetically modified organisms), modeled after the department's organic certification program. The Food and Drug Administration would remain in charge of a premarket notification process for new biotech crops. Under the bill, no labeling of GMO foods could be required unless there is a “material difference” between the biotech ingredient and its conventionally produced version.

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“Our goal for this legislation remains to provide clarity and transparency in food labeling, support innovation, and keep food affordable,” Pompeo said in a news release.

In the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee will still have primary jurisdiction over the legislation, Pompeo said this morning in a conference call with reporters. But the Agriculture Committee “will be very involved.”

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Supporting this bill are nine Republicans and eight Democrats, with the majority of these 17 original co-sponsors sitting on either the Agriculture or Energy and Commerce Committee. 

There is no companion bill in the Senate, but Pompeo said he is working on that.  “We have to find the right members to introduce it to get it in front of the right committee on the Senate side,” Pompeo said, adding that he hopes to get the bill to President Obama by the end of the year.

“The potential for a 50 state patchwork of varying labeling standards would increase costs for producers and translate into higher prices for consumers to the tune of more than $500 per year for the average family,” Butterfield said in the release.  “This bill will provide clear rules for producers and certainty for consumers at the grocery store checkout lane.”

In addition to Grocery Manufacturers Association, agricultural groups that support the legislation include: American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Potato Council, National Oilseed Processors Association, American Seed Trade Association, Corn Refiners Association, Agriculture Retailers Association

The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, created a year ago to support a national labeling alternative to state mandatory laws, includes many of these agricultural groups in its 90 food and agriculture group members.  

Groups that oppose the bill include the Organic Consumers Association as well as the Center for Food Safety, which both advocate for mandatory GMO labels on food developed through genetic engineering. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety, said “the most effective way to provide consumers with the full universe of information about their food is through mandatory labeling, nothing less.”

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