WASHINGTON, March 23, 2015 - A revised bill aimed at blocking state GMO labeling laws is expected to be introduced in the House this week with a new provision to regulate foods promoted as non-bitoech.
The legislation, a draft copy of which was obtained by Agri-Pulse, would set up a certification process run by the Agriculture Department for foods labeled as non-GMO.
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 bred version.
Requiring USDA to regulate non-GMO labeling would allow the House Agriculture Committee to share jurisdiction over the bill with the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight for FDA.The USDA certification process is modeled after the National Organic Program run by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. Food makers that use the non-GMO label would be barred from suggesting "either expressly or by implication" that their products are safer than biotech versions.
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Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., introduced the original bill a year ago in the 113th Congress, but the measure died without receiving any action. House Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the measure in December. No bill has been introduced in the Senate. Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said today that he hopes to have a hearing on the issue but did not comment on the chances for legislation passing the Senate.
A key House Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, told Agri-Pulse recently that he thinks it's premature to consider a labeling bill because of an ongoing debate over whether regulation of bioengineered foods should be expanded beyond transgenic products. Peterson is the ranking member on House Agriculture.
The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on the labeling issue. The witnesses will include David Schmidt, president and CEO of the International Food Information Council, and Nina Federoff, who has served several administrations as a science adviser and is author of Mendel in the Kitchen, A Sceintist's View of Genetically Modified Foods.” Schmidt is to present data on consumer attitudes to labeling and biotechnology.
(Sara Wyant contributed to this report.)