By: Jackie Salo
A bill will go before the House of Representatives Thursday that will prevent states from requiring food companies to make labels that indicate if the products are made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 would leave whether or not to label GMO foods as such up to the discretion of the companies. The bill already passed through the Agricultural Committee in a vote last week.
“Our goal for this legislation remains to provide clarity and transparency in food labeling, support innovation and keep food affordable,” said Pompeo in a statement in March.
So far, the bill has 106 co-sponsors -- 15 Democrats and 91 Republicans -- according to The Hill. Proponents of the bill say there are no allergies or health risks associated with GMO products so the public do not need mandatory labels.
But Colin O'Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety, told CNBC that surveys have indicated that more than 90 percent of Americans support GMO labeling.
"What's clear is that the food industry and agrochemical companies are willing to do whatever it takes to keep consumers in the dark," said O'Neil.
Other critics of the bill have noted that it would hamper efforts by states such as Vermont, where a recently passed labeling law will go into effect next year.
"It's ironic that so many of my Republican colleagues espouse state's rights, but the bill before us does just the opposite," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., of the House Agriculture Committee. "It pre-empts states from establishing their own labeling laws, and it would invalidate laws already passed in states like Vermont, Maine and Connecticut."
But Pompeo defends his proposed bill, saying that the country needs to have only one standard to advise by.
"We've got a number of states that are taking wildly different approaches to putting restrictions on the capacity for technology to continue to enter the food chain in a safe and affordable way, and that won't work," Pompeo said.
Pompeo told The Hill that he believes the bill will eventually be signed into law because "every indication he’s gotten from the administration — the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in particular — is that they think the proposal would work to inform consumers while advancing a growing industry."
President Obama has said in the past that he would support GMO labels, but that was in 2007.
"Americans should know where their food comes from," he said before the 2008 election. "We’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they’re buying.”
Originally Published: International Business Times