Biotech Labeling Bill on Deck

Bill Would Block State Labeling Initiatives, Spell Out Federal Authority

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 would allow a non-bioengineered food certification label that would be overseen by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday will mark up a bill that would require any labeling of genetically modified foods to take place at the federal level.

The bill, H.R. 1599, was introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and is titled the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015."

The bill has come under the jurisdiction of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is the authorizing committee for the Food and Drug Administration, but that committee has not scheduled a markup. The bill has been rewritten to give USDA more jurisdiction over the matter.

Major commodity, biotech and food-processing companies have backed Pompeo's bill, which would require FDA to determine whether a label is required for any foods with ingredients from genetically modified crops. Such labels would only be used on any product when FDA determines there might be a health or safety concern.

The bill would allow a non-bioengineered food certification label that would be overseen by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, similar to the USDA organic label.

At the same time, Pompeo's bill would block states from approving their own requirements for labeling food with ingredients from biotech products.

The Coalition for Safe and Affordable food sent a letter to lawmakers in late April signed by 373 groups backing the bill. The groups are trying to stem the growing push for state referendums and efforts in state capitols to require labels for foods with ingredients from genetically modified crops.

Groups that back labels for foods containing ingredients from biotech crops have been using state ballot initiatives or legislation to push for such labels. They also have been strong critics of Pompeo's bill.

So far, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have passed biotech labeling laws. Vermont is moving ahead with its mandate while Connecticut and Maine set rules requiring other states to mandate such labels before theirs would go into effect.

Pompeo's bill has 68 co-sponsors, which breaks down as 54 Republicans and 14 Democrats.

The markup will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Room 1300 of the Longworth House Office Building.

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.

(CC/AG)

Jerry Hagstrom