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U.S. House Passes Food Labeling Act

Following its recent passage by the House Committee on Agriculture, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599) cleared the U.S. of House of Representative today, a move that represents significant support for uniform federal labeling for foods containing GMOs, as well as for non-GMO foods.

“A federal approach to food labeling remains the only way to ensure that Americans everywhere can access accurate information about the food they purchase,” said Pamela G. Bailey, president/CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.  “HR 1599 is fact-based, common sense legislation that will provide the kind of clarity and consistency in the marketplace for food labels that American consumers deserve.”

Echoing Bailey's sentiments, FMI President/CEO Leslie G. Sarasin noted that the bill is "essential if we hope to avoid adding to consumer confusion about GMOs, and if we wish to elude unnecessary impediments to interstate commerce, both of which would result from a state-by-state patchwork of muddled, differing and conflicting GMO labeling laws."

Peter J. Larkin, president/CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), added that the effort enables "consumers our members serve on a daily basis have clear and consistent information on the food products that they purchase and consume nationwide," noting that he looks "forward to working with members of the Senate to pass this legislation."

The Snack Food Association (SFA) also commended the House passage of H.R. 1599, which it said will improve clarity and provide uniform rules by creating a national certification program for foods that have been produced without bioengineering while establishing a standard for the use of the term "natural" on food labels.

Because SFA members do not manufacture, distribute, and sell in just one state, a patchwork of different state labeling laws would be incredibly complex to implement and would impede interstate commerce, noted SFA CEO Tom Dempsey, who added that small, family-owned companies with just one plant or a single line of production would be hit the hardest. "Absent a federal GMO solution, manufacturers will have essentially three options in order to comply with state labeling laws – redesign packaging, reformulate products, or halt sales to that state," Dempsey said. "Each option is difficult, costly, time-intensive, and at worst, could eliminate jobs and consumer choice in the marketplace."

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is sponsored by U.S. Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). 

EWG: 'Americans’ Right to Know Far From Over'

However, not everyone is cheering the legislation, which is referred to by opposing advocay groups such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. Indeed, while the act passed the House of Representatives, "The fight for a more transparent food industry is only just beginning," vowed Scott Faber, EWG's SVP of government affairs.

EWG and is among more than 300 other advocates that support labeling genetically engineered foods, or GMOs.

“It’s outrageous that some House lawmakers voted to ignore the wishes of nine out of 10 Americans,” said Faber. “[The] vote to deny Americans the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown was a foregone conclusion. This House was bought and paid for by corporate interests, so it’s no surprise that it passed a bill to block states and the FDA from giving consumers basic information about their food.”

“We’re confident the Senate will defeat the DARK Act,” added Faber. “We continue to hope that thoughtful food companies that listen to their customers will work with consumer groups to craft a non-judgmental GMO disclosure to put on the back of food packaging. Americans should have the same right as citizens of 64 other countries to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown.”

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