WASHINGTON — The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, a bill to be introduced into the House of Representatives April 9, is designed to prevent individual states from passing legislation requiring the labeling of food and beverage products that contain bioengineered ingredients. The bill is co-sponsored by Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Representative G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina.
Other aspects of the bill would make mandatory a Food and Drug Administration safety review of all new bioengineered traits before they are brought to market and enable the F.D.A. to mandate labels on any product shown to pose a health, safety or nutrition risk; directs the F.D.A. to define the term “natural” for use on food labels; and allows companies manufacturing products made without bioengineered ingredients to promote that fact, but prevents them from suggesting the products are safer than foods produced with bioengineered ingredients.
“This bill is a commonsense, science-based approach to an issue we realize is close to the hearts and minds of so many consumers,” said Ray Gaesser, president of the American Soybean Association. “Americans want to know that their food is safe, and the solutions proposed in this bill will ensure that they have that information.”
In setting out a federal labeling system, it reaffirms the F.D.A. as the nation’s authority for the use and labeling of bioengineered food ingredients while providing consumers greater confidence by establishing a required F.D.A. safety review process for all new bioengineered traits, according to the National Corn Growers Association.
“The introduction of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was an important first step to restoring sanity to America’s food labeling laws,” said Martin Barbre, president of the N.G.C.A.
Groups in favor of allowing states to vote on labeling initiatives related to products featuring bioengineered ingredients expressed their displeasure for the proposed bill.
“More than 90% of Americans support labeling of G.E. foods,” said Scott Faber, senior vice-president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “It’s clear the public wants to know what’s in their food, but if Rep. Pompeo has his way, no one will have that right.”
Marni Karlin, director of legislative and legal affairs for the Organic Trade Association, added, “Consumers, particularly the 8 out of 10 American families who buy organic products, want to know what is in their food. Congressman Pompeo’s bill ignores this consumer demand for information. Instead, it ties the hands of state governments, the U.S.D.A., and the Food and Drug Administration concerning G.M.O. labeling. It is fatally flawed.”