House Agriculture Committee Approves The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act to Address GMO Labeling IssuesJuly 19, 2015
By Riëtte van Laack –
On July 14, the House Agriculture Committee approved The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), advancing the legislation another step in the long legislative process. The Act is an amended version of legislation introduced in March by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS). (a copy of the report accompanying the bill is available here.)
The proposed Act is intended to address labeling of genetically engineered (here referred to as “GMO”) foods. Importantly, the Act would preempt state GMO labeling efforts and block states or local jurisdictions from imposing bans on GMO crops. It aims at creating a “uniform national policy” for GMO labeling. The preemption clause addresses the possible threat to interstate commerce resulting from a patchwork of state GMO labeling laws. As explained in a report accompanying H.R. 1599:
Section 303 of this Act amends Section 403(A) of the FFDCA, as amended by section 103 of this Act, by requiring that no State or political subdivision of a State may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as any food in interstate commerce any requirement for the labeling of food of the type required by section 403(z) that is not identical to the requirement by such section.
The proposed Act would order the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA (AMS) to develop a voluntary National Genetically Engineered Food Program for non-GMO claims similar to the Organic Certification Program administered by AMS. It specifies that labeling or advertising material on, or in conjunction with, non-GMO products may not suggest that they are safer or of higher quality than their GMO counterpart (unless FDA has determined that there is a material difference and the GMO product must be labeled).
The bill would also make FDA’s current voluntary consultation process for producers of GMO foods mandatory. It specifically provides FDA with the authority to require GMO labeling of a food if the Agency determines that “(A) there is a material difference in the functional, nutritional, or compositional characteristics, allergenicity, or other attributes between the [GMO] food . . . and its comparable food; and “(B) the disclosure of such material difference is necessary to protect public health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of the food so produced from being false or misleading in any particular.”
The bill addresses details such as how to deal with processing aids and enzymes and specifies that milk and meat products would only be certified as non-GMO if the animals have been fed non-GMO feed.
The Act also would require FDA to issue regulations regarding natural claims and specifies that natural claims encompass the terms “natural” “100% natural,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” and “made with natural ingredients.” FDA is to issue final regulations for such claims not later than 30 months after the date of enactment of the Act.