House votes to bar GMO labeling

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 23, 2015 - In a landmark step for agricultural biotechnology, the House voted 275-150 to block state GMO labeling laws and to set rules for marketing foods as non-biotech.

Supporters of the  Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act (HR 1599) hoped that a large House margin would help generate Democratic support in the Senate, where opponents continue to predict the bill will die. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is expected to introduce a companion measure.  Forty-five House Democrats voted for the bill on final passage Thursday, while 12 Republicans opposed it. More than 60 had earlier opposed a poison-pill amendment.

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“This is not a partisan issue. Clearly, it's an issue that transcended party lines,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

Significant Democratic support will be needed in the Senate to get the 60 votes necessary to break a potential filibuster there. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to hold a hearing after the August recess.

Opponents of the bill called it a “Washington-knows-best approach” that would block consumers from knowing when they're buying foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Kansas Republican Mike Pompeo, who sponsored the bill and led the floor debate, said the bill would prevent a “patchwork” of state labeling laws that would drive up consumer costs.

The bill has become particularly urgent for the food and agriculture sectors because of Vermont labeling law that is set to take effect next year. The bill also would require the Food and Drug Administration to define the use of the word “natural” on food labels and would leave it to the agency whether to allow genetically engineered ingredients.

The House defeated a series of amendments, including one by Peter DeFazio that would have required that any company that labels a product as genetically engineered overseas must label it the same way in the United States. The amendment failed, 123-303.

Other amendments that were defeated would have assured that tribal governments could restrict the cultivation of genetically engineered crops and barred the FDA from including GMOs in the definition of “natural” foods. The floor action also featured a bit of last-minute mischief by opponents: After the final vote, Jared Polis, D-Colo., proposed to change the name of the bill to the DARK Act, for "Denying Americans the Right to Know." It failed, 87-337.


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