House ag committee approves bill that would ban state GMO labeling laws

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

By Jim Spencer

Minneapolis Star Tribune

WASHINGTON — The House Agriculture Committee pushed a ban on mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods a step closer to law Tuesday.



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With Minnesota Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz supporting and Rick Nolan opposing, the committee sent to the House floor a bill to prohibit states from forcing food companies to note the presence of genetically modified organisms — GMOs — in their products.

The bill represents a major victory for the food and chemical industries, which fought and failed in court to stop mandatory GMO labeling. Individually and through trade associations, big Minnesota food companies such as Land O’Lakes, Cargill, Hormel and General Mills supported the bill that the agriculture committee approved.

If passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the president, the bill will do what the courts have refused to do: Stop Vermont from implementing a mandatory GMO labeling law next year. Maine and Connecticut also have passed GMO labeling laws that would be thwarted.

The Republican-run House is expected to easily pass the labeling bill. Prospects in the GOP-run Senate remain uncertain because of differences in how debate is conducted and mushy Democratic support.

Peterson, the ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, helped smooth the way for passage of the bill, saying it was a practical way to keep consumers informed because a state-by-state solution was unmanageable.

If approved, the law would replace individual state food labeling laws with a single, voluntary nationwide labeling program.

The bill, called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, would make food producers go through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before offering their GMO products commercially. But the bill also aims to let food makers tout their products as GMO-free instead of making those who use GMOs reveal their presence. It does so through a program similar to the organic certification program now run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Consumers increasingly want to know more about where their food comes from and how it is produced,” Peterson told his colleagues before the vote. “I think [the bill] satisfies that demand while also recognizing what we know about the safety of the foods that our farmers produce.”

His position is in line with testimony offered to the committee in March by Land O’Lakes CEO Chris Policinski.