(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 10) Drawing support from major agricultural groups but pointed opposition from environmental groups, legislation that would prevent states from enacting mandatory labeling of genetically modified food has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., introduced H.R. 4432, called The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act on April 9.
“This legislation is vital to giving America’s farmers certainty about what the rules of the game will be when it comes to labeling foods containing GMOs, an issue that cries out for a national solution,” Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said in a news release.
“A 50-state patchwork of different labeling laws and regulations would not only burden farmers and food producers but would cause significant confusion among consumers at grocery stores across the country.”
On the other side of the debate, the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Organic Trade Association asked members to oppose the bill, saying in a e-mail that the legislation is “fatally flawed” and denies consumers the right to know about genetically modified foods.
The bill would set a new, voluntary federal framework allowing food manufacturers to label products made without GMO ingredients and would put in place a mandatory review by the Food and Drug Administration of the safety of new GMO foods entering the marketplace. The bill would also establish new guidelines for the use of the word “natural” on food labels.
The legislation is merely an attempt to block mandatory labeling bills and ballot initiatives in 30 states, Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement on the group’s website. Two states have already passed labeling regulations for genetically modified foods, and Faber said nearly 1.4 million Americans signed a petition urging the FDA to require labeling of GE food.
Conner said GMO crops will be important to meet future world food needs.
“This bill represents an important step in cutting through the misinformation about GMOs and instead focuses on the science attesting to their safety and the benefits these crops provide,” Conner said in the release.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C., also strongly supports the legislation.
“With the introduction of this legislation and the leadership of the bill’s sponsors, Farm Bureau looks forward to a national-level discussion that will affirm FDA’s role in assuring consumers about GMO safety and reduce the confusion that would result from a patchwork of state labeling initiatives,” Stallman said in a statement.
Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management and communication for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said the group does not yet have a position on the legislation. Ashley Boucher, public relations manager with the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, said April 9 the group had no comment on the legislation.