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Uniform GM Labeling Bill Introduced in the U.S. House

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (H.R.1599), introduced in the U.S. House on March 25, proposes to create a uniform, national system governing the premarket review and labeling of foods with genetically modified (GM) ingredients. This would be accomplished by giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sole authority to require mandatory labeling on such foods if they are ever found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without GM ingredients.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), with support from nine Republicans and eight Democrats. It was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Agriculture. This bill was also introduced in 2014; it had 37 co-sponsors and was referred to the House Subcommittee on Health on April 11, 2014.

Reps. Pompeo and Butterfield held a hearing December 2014 to obtain feedback on the legislation from key stakeholders. "Our goal for this legislation remains to provide clarity and transparency in food labeling, support innovation, and keep food affordable," explained Pompeo. He noted in a release that the bipartisan legislation, if it becomes law, will:

  • Create a uniform, national system governing the premarket review and labeling of genetically engineered foods
  • Require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce
  • Uphold FDA's authority to specify special labeling if it believes it is necessary to protect health and safety
  • Create 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
  • Direct FDA to develop a Federal definition for "natural" claims on product labels
  • Allow those who wish to label their products as GMO-free to do so by through a USDA-accredited certification process

"The potential for a 50 state patchwork of varying labeling standards would increase costs for producers and translate into higher prices for consumers to the tune of more than $500 per year for the average family," Butterfield stated in a release on the reintroduction of the legislation.