Bill would have FDA decide on labeling genetically modified food


McClatchy Washington Bureau

Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo is pushing a bill in Congress that would shift responsibility for any labeling of genetically modified foods to the hands of the federal government, potentially stopping the efforts underway in many states to mandate labels on such foods.

Pompeo, who represents an agricultural district in south-central Kansas, said that all evidence to date indicates genetically modified foods are safe. If there does need to be labeling, he said, there should be uniform standards for it, rather than a patchwork of laws and regulations among the states.

“What we can say for sure is that biotechnology has made food safer and more abundant,” Pompeo, a Republican, said in a conference call Wednesday. And the bevy of proposals around the country will make it “enormously difficult to operate a food system.”

Proponents of labels for genetically modified foods jumped on the proposal as a favor to the Grocery Manufacturers Association and agricultural corporations that make food and genetically modified seeds for use by America’s farmers.

The issue of labeling foods that contain genetically modified ingredients has taken hold in states around the country, and more than 25 now have ballot measures or legislative initiatives underway.

Advocates for labeling say they would prefer that the federal Food and Drug Administration take the lead, requiring that companies put labels on food packages to give consumers a heads-up that ingredients inside are made with genetically modified organisms. Those might include substances such as corn, which is widely used in processed foods and more often than not has been genetically modified to help counter pests and boost yields.

But so far, the FDA hasn’t agreed to do so. It says that foods from genetically engineered plants must only meet the same safety requirements as foods from traditionally bred plants. And while the agency said it recognizes the strong interest that many consumers have in knowing whether a food was produced using genetic engineering, it supports only voluntary labeling.

That has shifted the battle to the states, where advocates of labeling are hopeful they can accomplish in legislatures and voting booths what hasn’t been accomplished in Washington.

Pompeo’s bill would prohibit states from requiring labels. In addition, it would require that new foods produced with genetically modified organisms be submitted to the FDA for review. If the FDA determines there is a difference between the genetically modified food and non-modified food and that disclosing that is “necessary to protect health and safety,” the FDA can require a label.

But “the use of bioengineering does not, by itself, constitute a material difference,” the bill says.

Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for the advocacy group Center for Food Safety, said the issue is one of a “fundamental right to know” – that consumers should have the opportunity to know what is in the food they are eating, as they do in dozens of other countries.

Given the recent pressure for state-level action, O’Neil said the agriculture and food industries “want to cut this conversation off immediately.”

“They see labeling as not a matter of if, but when,” he said.

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Humane Society finances opponents of right-to-farm

    The Humane Society of the United States has contributed $375,000 to an effort to defeat a Missouri ballot measure creating a constitutional right to farm.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, talks with reporters about the border crisis, veterans' health care, and future funding, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 24, 2014. House Republicans and Senate Democrats are at an impasse on dealing with tens of thousands of young migrants showing up at the southern border, leaving any solution unclear with Congress' annual August recess looming.

    Central American leaders convening at White House

    President Barack Obama is summoning Central American leaders to the White House to discuss the influx of young immigrants from their countries to the U.S., hoping to show presidential action even as Congress remains deeply split over proposals to stem the crisis on the border.

  • White House: Obama offers Netherlands condolences

    President Barack Obama and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte (RUH'-tuh) are in agreement that Russia is still working to destabilize Ukraine.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category