A U.S. congressional panel is in the process of preparing to move legislation that would essentially preempt state efforts to create their own laws requiring all GMO foods to be labeled, and the measure is being supported by Obama Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., told Agri-Pulse in late April that he had not planned to hold up a hearing on the legislation, House Resolution 1599, or prevent it from going to a subcommittee followed by full markups.
The measure was first introduced a year ago by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, as reported NaturalNews editor Mike Adams, the Health Ranger. Then, as now, the measure was inaccurately titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.”
Adams described the bill then as a “a last-ditch, desperate effort by the biotech industry and the GMA to forever bury the truth about GMOs so that consumers don’t know they’re eating poison.”
Keeping Americans in the dark about their food
Upton told Agri-Pulse that he was not sure when the markup would be held, but he did remark that the committee’s May schedule was already full. One source told the agricultural news service that Upton has told industry representatives pushing for the bill that he planned a subcommittee markup in June and action by the full committee this fall, either by late July or September.
Big Food industry proponents of the measure have kept up steady lobbying efforts throughout the history of the legislation, but the Obama administration has also done its part. In a recent appearance before the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Vilsack said he shared the industry’s concerns over state labeling laws, according to Agri-Pulse.
The web site further noted:
Vilsack also told the group his department would assist in development of the legislation. The department “stands ready to provide appropriate technical assistance should it be needed by Congress in crafting any legislation designed to respect the consumers right to know, to convey accurate information about a product’s safety, and to provide the market a clear and consistent understanding of what is required,” the spokesman said.
In addition, the agriculture secretary said he supported an industry plan to begin embedding biotech ingredient information in smartphone codes on food packages.
Pompeo’s legislation has 30 co-sponsors so far, including nine Democrats. When he introduced the legislation a year ago, Upton never brought it before the full committee before the end of the 113th Congress.
Pompeo “is getting a good number of cosponsors and we’ll likely see something begin to move,” said Upton, according to Agri-Pulse. He added that Pompeo had “significant Democratic support. We always wanted to make it bipartisan.”
Democrats accounted for three of the 37 cosponsors of last year’s bill.
No preliminary injunction against Vermont law but suit proceeds
In the past, Congress has been reluctant to block state laws requiring labeling, but that changed once Vermont became the first state in the country to require GMO labeling. Big Food and other industry-related groups have challenged the law, and that is putting pressure on federal lawmakers to act.
To that point, a federal judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction in late April against the Vermont law to prevent it from taking effect as scheduled on July 1, 2016.
Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss did permit the suit by the GMA and other industry groups to move forward.
Thus far, no companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate.