The U.S. House Agriculture Committee has approved a bill that would put an end to state-level laws regulating the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. The bill, H.R. 1599, or the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, would require a national standard for labeling laws related to GMOs — one that did not require food companies to disclose their use of genetically modified ingredients. Companies that wished to tout the fact that their products do not contain GMOs, such as with a “GMO-Free” label, would still be able to do so if the bill passed. That process would operate similarly to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic certification. Maine, Connecticut and Vermont have already passed laws that would require foods containing GMOs to be labeled, while GMO-labeling campaigns are underway in a number of other states. The bill, initially introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), is expected to pass the House. Whether or not it will pass the Senate is less certain. The bill’s supporters in Congress say that GMOs are inherently safe and that no well-regarded scientific experts have proven a safety concern over GMOs. “Consumers increasingly want to know more about where their food comes from and how it is produced,” said Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. “I think H.R. 1599 satisfies that demand while also recognizing what we know about the safety of the foods that our farmers produce. The bill is a workable solution that will alleviate the potential mess of 50 states with 50 different labeling schemes,” he said. Other lawmakers and consumer groups, such as the Center for Food Safety and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), disagree. They oppose the bill, saying that it denies consumers the right to know what is in their food. “Americans have the right to know what’s in food and how it was grown — the same as citizens of 64 other nations that require GMO labeling,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s vice president of government affairs. “It’s time for lawmakers to recognize that right and stand for GMO labeling.” As much as 80 percent of packaged foods in grocery stores contains GMO ingredients, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which opposes GMO labeling. The House is expected to vote on H.R. 1599 later this month.
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