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H.R. 1599 (114th): Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015

This bill was enacted as S. 764.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the distribution and labeling related to bioengineered foods (often referred to as genetically modified foods or GMOs).

It would require food producers to notify FDA of any bioengineered foods intended to be sold interstate and would disallow the sale any bioengineered foods not deemed safe by FDA. Although the bill would prevent FDA from requiring the labeling of bioengineered foods only on the grounds that the foods are bioengineered, FDA could require that alterations of nutritional properties, allergens, or other characteristics of food be listed on food labeling. Regulations would also prohibit the labeling of food as not bioengineered if it had been planted with bioengineered seeds. Dairy products from animals fed bioengineered foods and foods developed using bioengineered processing aids or enzymes could still be labelled as non-bioengineered. The bill would also prevent states from issuing their own food labeling requirements for bioengineered foods.

Opposition of the bill has disapproved of the removal of state authority(article taken from response to previous incarnation of the bill), and argued the importance of labelling bioengineered foods. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS4), clarified his intentions in his press statement “the legislation takes an approach that is far better than a 50-state patchwork of GMO labelling laws” and that “GMOs are safe and have a number of important benefits for people and our planet.” This is the second time this bill has been introduced to congress. The first was during the 113th Congress where it died in committee.

Also see a related bill in the Senate.

Last updated Oct 5, 2016. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jul 23, 2015.


Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015

TITLE I--FOOD SAFETY AFFIRMATION FOR CERTAIN PLANT PRODUCTS

Subtitle A--Food and Drug Administration

(Sec. 101) This bill amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue the voluntary consultation process established under the FDA’s "Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties." In that process, the FDA evaluates a scientific and regulatory assessment provided by the developer of a food produced from, containing, or consisting of a plant that is a genetically engineered organism (GMO).

The FDA may require a GMO food to have a label that informs consumers of a material difference between the GMO food and a comparable food if the disclosure is necessary to protect public health and safety or to prevent the label from being false or misleading. The use of a GMO does not, by itself, constitute a material difference.

Subtitle B--Department of Agriculture

(Sec. 111) This bill amends the Plant Protection Act to allow the sale of a GMO food (including imported food and excluding plant pests) only if the FDA has determined through the consultation process that the GMO food is safe and lawful and that determination has been shared with the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FDA and USDA must report on implementation of this process. A GMO plant may be sold for research, to produce a processing aid or enzyme, or as a nutrient source for microorganisms without meeting these requirements.

USDA must publish a list of GMO plants that can be sold as food and the determinations made by the FDA and USDA regarding those foods.

(Sec. 113) State and local requirements for GMO food are preempted by this Act.

TITLE II--GENETIC ENGINEERING CERTIFICATION

(Sec. 201) This bill amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to establish a voluntary genetically engineered food certification program. This program must be implemented through certifying agents accredited by the AMS.

For a food to be sold as a product produced without genetic engineering (non-GMO), the food must be subject to supply chain process controls that keep the product separated from GMOs and must be produced and handled in compliance with a non-genetically engineered food plan, which is a description of procedures to ensure compliance, monitoring records, and corrective actions in the event of a deviation from the plan.

For food derived from livestock to be sold as non-GMO, the product, livestock, feed, and products used in processing the feed must be produced without GMOs.

A food’s label or advertising cannot suggest that non-GMO foods are safer or of higher quality than GMO foods.

For a food to be sold as a GMO food, it must be produced and handled in compliance with a genetically engineered food plan. A GMO food’s label or advertising cannot suggest that it is safer or of higher quality solely because it is GMO.

The AMS must allow a person to voluntarily disclose how a product has been genetically engineered.

Imported products may be labeled as produced with or without genetic engineering if the products have been produced and handled under a genetic engineering certification program that provides safeguards and guidelines at least equivalent to the AMS’s requirements.

(Sec. 203) State and local requirements for the labeling of GMO products are preempted unless the state or local government establishes a program that matches the programs described in this Act.

(Sec. 204) Claims made before enactment of this Act regarding whether a product was produced with or without genetic engineering may continue to be made for 36 months after enactment of this Act. After that period, the claims must meet the standards in this Act. Products from certified organic producers are deemed to be certified non-GMO.

TITLE III--NATURAL FOODS

(Sec. 302) The FDA must regulate the term “natural” on food labeling.

(Sec. 303) State and local requirements for the term “natural” are preempted by FDA regulations.