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U.S. Senate Approves Bioengineered Food Labeling Bill

The U.S. Senate approved a bill to amend the Agricultural Marketing Act to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish and administer a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods within two years of enactment. Significantly, the bill includes preemption of conflicting state laws.

In an unusual procedural move, the Senate amended S.764 (originally titled, “Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015”) with SA 4935, which establishes the national bioengineered food disclosure standard, and passed S.764 by a vote of 63 to 30. Despite its title, S.764, as passed, does not include anything about Planned Parenthood. S.764 is also listed as “A bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes.”

The bill states that bioengineering with respect to a food, refers to a food “(A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and (B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding of found in nature.” S.764 allows food manufacturers several disclosure options for labeling bioengineered food, namely, the use of text, symbols, or electronic/digital links. Small food manufacturers would be allowed to use websites or telephone numbers to satisfy disclosure requirements. For more information about the bill, see the article, Senate Agriculture Committee Reaches Bipartisan Agreement on GM Labeling.