The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on July 24 to ban state laws that force food companies to place labels on products featuring genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Passage of the hotly contested bill, called The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, is a victory for many food manufacturers, though not all agree. The vote passed 275 to 150, with six of Minnesota's eight representatives voting against labeling requirements. Opponents of GMO labeling lost a court battle to stop state labeling laws before turning to congress.
The act would create a federal standard for the voluntary labeling of foods with GMO ingredients.
Vermont, Connecticut and Maine already passed mandatory labeling laws, but the bill's proponents have called mandatory labeling unnecessarily costly, since GMOs have been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Proponents of the legislation claim that having individual state standards would be confusing and drive up food costs. “Precisely zero pieces of credible evidence have been presented that foods produced with biotechnology pose any risk to our health and safety,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo, who authored the bill. "We should not raise prices on consumers based on wishes of a handful of activists."
Supporters of mandatory GMO labeling claim the bill's passage is a blow to consumer choice and a usurpation of states' rights. "This house was bought and paid for by corporate interests, so it's no surprise that it passed a bill to block states and the [FDA] from giving consumers basic information about their food," said Scott Faber of the group, Just Label It.
GMO labeling programs are being considered in several other states, including Minnesota, which is home to many major food companies, which had lobbied for the ban. Vermont’s law, which has survived the food industry's legal challenges, is expected to take effect in 2016. But if the bill passed Thursday by the House passes the Senate and is signed into law, that labeling requirement will be voided.