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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

House Ag Committee Advances GMO Labeling Bill

The House Agriculture Committee voted to advance legislation to the House floor that creates a unified, national, framework for the enforceable standards for food labeling regarding the inclusion or exclusion of genetically modified foods.

Congressional leaders have stated that intercession is called for to create a national standard in food labeling to remove the confusion that is created through the piecemeal approach of state-by state regulations – citing the cost burden to the food system if 50 states, 3,000 counties, and 20,000 towns and cities began establishing their own labeling and interstate commerce regulations.

HR 1599 will require the Food and Drug Administration to determine a definition of what foods may be considered ‘natural’ within 18 months – including the clarification of the definitions of what is “100% natural”, “all natural”, and “made with natural ingredients”.

The bill also concludes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will be utilized to provide consumers with verified information regarding genetic engineering, and to develop and administer a marketing program for consumers who wish to know if a product contains, or is free of genetically engineered ingredients, similar to the process in place for organic products.

It is also noted that HR 1599 will be revised to include wording to ensure that milk will be considered GMO-free only if dairy cows are fed non-GMO grain, and the same for non-GMO meats.

Agricultural groups, including the American Soybean Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Corn Growers Association, approve the passage of the bill, and urge the House to pass it prior to the August recess.

“The House and Senate must pass federal legislation this year;” said National Corn Growers Association trade policy and biotechnology action team chair John Linder, “the continued threat of an unworkable patchwork of state GMO labeling mandates will drive up costs for farmers and consumers alike. Next July, Vermont’s state labeling law is set to take effect. The looming impacts of this situation increase the urgency of the need for Congress to act on a national labeling law.”

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