As the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) rages in states like Hawaii, Vermont and Oregon, members of Congress are considering setting a federal standard that some hope could put the issue to rest.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, introduced H.R. 4432 in April, which would create national rules for how and when genetically modified food should be labeled. The House Subcommittee on Health is considering the measure, known by proponents as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.
Although the bill is unlikely to pass, it raises the question of how a national standard for GMOs could affect Hawaii’s growing anti-GMO movement.
Pompeo’s proposal, which is supported by the biotechnology industry, would require labels for genetically engineered food if there is a “material difference” between the food and its non-GMO counterpart, “as necessary to protect health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of such food from being false or misleading.”
Because national regulatory organizations like the Food and Drug Administration have concluded that genetically modified food is no more harmful than non-GMO food, it’s unlikely the bill would actually result in labeling.
The measure would also ban any state or local government from enacting GMO-related laws, such as the GMO labeling law that Vermont established last month.
Critics liken the bill to attempts by legislatures around the country to preempt county GMO regulations. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, called it an “assault on democracy.”
At least half of Hawaii’s congressional delegation — Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — oppose the measure. (Rep. Colleen Hanabusa wasn’t available for comment. Sen. Mazie Hirono declined to state a position on the proposal, although she…
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