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House Votes To Stop GMO Labeling

A bill that would pre-empt state laws requiring labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods passed the House of Representatives Thursday. It would replace any mandatory GMO labeling laws with a voluntary labeling program for nonGMO foods similar to the one for organic labeling that’s now run by the USDA. The Senate Agriculture Committee hasn’t yet advanced a companion bill introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), so the existing state GMO labeling laws in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut haven’t been voided yet.

Still, a host of agricultural groups hailed the House vote.

“The passage of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is a significant victory for the freedom of soybean farmers to make the most of the broad range of advances that biotechnology provides for our industry,” said Wade Cowan, American Soybean Association President and a soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas. 

ASA pointed out that the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act also  would require developers of genetically engineered plants to obtain Food and Drug Administration safety clearance on all new plant varieties before those foods are introduced into commerce; uphold FDA’s authority to specify special labeling if it finds a health or safety risk is posed by such a variety; create a legal framework governing the use of label claims regarding either the absence or presence of GMOs in a food product; require FDA to define the term ‘natural’ on food labels.

But, as supporters of the bill in Congress pointed out, so far, there isn’t any safety risk from, GMO foods, sometimes also called GE foods, for genetically engineered.

“Some argue, due to their concerns about GE food safety, that mandatory labeling is needed. The fact is that the data simply doesn’t support their claim. Hundreds of scientific, peer reviewed studies have found GE foods are just as safe and nutritious as non-GE foods,” said Representative Tim Walz, a Democrat from Minnesota who voted for the bill. “That being the case, I do understand folks who want more information on their label. That is why this bill works, because it creates certainty across the country and will give consumers’ confidence that a product labeled ‘non-GE’ will be certified by the USDA.”

Walz serves on the House Agriculture Committee, which produced the bill that was backed by leaders from both parties, Chairman Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican, and ranking member Collin Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota. It was opposed by some Democrats, including Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who is the former chair of the House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill passed by a 275-150 vote.

The bill also drew praise from the National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association and American Farm Bureau Federation, whose president, Bob Stallman, said in a statement: “Congress stood with farmers and ranchers today in supporting innovation that helps the environment and keeps food prices down for everyone. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 would protect consumers from confusing and misleading GMO labels and create a national, voluntary labeling standard based on science and common sense.” 

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