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Senate Agriculture Committee to Hold Meeting on GMO Labeling Bill

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The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will consider a bill on February 25, 2016 that would establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered foods.  The bill was introduced by Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

The bill would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary bioengineered food labeling standard within two years of enactment. It would also “prohibit any express or implied claim that a food is or is not safer or of higher quality solely based on whether the food is or is not (i) bioengineered; or (ii) produced or developed with the use of bioengineering...”

A significant feature of the bill is it would preempt state labeling laws that are not identical to the voluntary standard, including Vermont’s GMO labeling law (Act 120), which is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2016. (For more information on Vermont’s law, see the updated list of Frequently Asked Questions released by the Attorney General’s office on February 18, 2016.)  Connecticut and Maine also have passed GMO labeling laws, however, those laws have implementation schemes that are conditional on neighboring states passing similar legislation.  Other states considering GMO labeling bill include Rhode Island, New Jersey, Florida, and Missouri.  Federal preemption has been sought by industry to avoid a costly and confusing 50 state patchwork of labeling laws.