Washington — A bipartisan bill that would preempt state-level laws and create a standard nationwide labeling policy for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and co-sponsored by G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY).
The legislation, known as The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 (HR 4432), would grant sole authority for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs only if they are found to be unsafe for consumption or materially different from foods without GMO ingredients. In addition, the FDA would need to approve new GMO ingredients before they are brought to market. It will also establish a federal standard label definition of “natural” foods.
Hearings on the bill could begin in June.
In essence, HR 4432 gives the FDA the ultimate authority to regulate GMO labeling, rather than relying on a patchwork of state regulations. To date, 27 states have labeling initiatives on the ballot and 66 bills are active.
Butterfield explains the bill “prevents a mishmash of labeling standards and allows farmers to continue to produce higher yields of healthy crops in smaller spaces with less water and fewer pesticides. If passed, this will be a big win for farmers nationwide.”
Asserting foods with GMO ingredients are safe and as healthful as those without modification, Pompeo notes having 50 states with different labeling requirements would be confusing and disrupt the food system. Further, he notes the global food supply is more plentiful and safer because of GMOs.
HR 4432 is supported by a coalition of business interests including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Corn Growers Association and Monsanto Co.
The Center for Food Safety and the Environmental Working Group are among organizations critical of the legislation.