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The Patchwork Solidifies: GMO Bill Moves Forward in the House

GMA lawsuit GMO labeling VermontThe proposed Federal regulation of GMOs is proceeding. Following the White House’s recent action on GMOs, Representative Pompeo’s “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” (H.R. 1599) was passed by the House Agriculture Committee on July 14.

The Pompeo bill is an attempt to preempt a patchwork of state regulations on GMOs. More specifically, the legislation:

  1. Creates a uniform, national system governing the premarket review and labeling of genetically engineered foods;
  2. Requires FDA to conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce;
  3. Upholds FDA’s authority to specify special labeling if it believes it is necessary to protect health and safety;
  4. Creates a new legal framework, subject to FDA oversight, governing the use of label claims regarding either the absence of, or use of, genetically engineered food or food ingredients;
  5. Directs FDA to develop a Federal definition for “natural” claims on product labels; and
  6. Allows those who wish to label their products as GMO-free to do so through a USDA-accredited certification process.

The bill, which has broad support from Republican lawmakers as well as farm, biotech, and food and beverage companies, is scheduled for a vote by the full House floor on Thursday, following an upcoming hearing in the House Agriculture committee on Oversight of the Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, Senator Hoeven (R-ND) is expected to introduce a companion bill to the Pompeo legislation shortly, although he has encountered difficulty finding a Democratic co-sponsor. The Senate bill would put emphasis on amending federal agriculture laws, not food safety laws, to preempt state labeling efforts on GMOs. It also emphasizes a USDA GMO-free certification program and delineates how USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service would oversee this effort, preempting any labeling by states that do not follow the same rules.

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Katherine Fox