By Benjamin Goad - 04/01/14 04:25 PM EDT
Rep. Mike Pompeo is poised to introduce business-backed legislation establishing a voluntary labeling system for food made with genetically modified organisms (GMO), according to an industry source with knowledge of the plan.
A spokesman for the Kansas Republican declined to comment on the lawmaker’s intentions, saying only that he is engaged with issues related to agriculture and interstate commerce. Pompeo sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subpanel on Manufacturing, Commerce and Trade.
The industry source said Pompeo plans to offer the bill before Congress departs for its Easter recess later this month. There is currently no Democratic co-sponsor, nor is companion legislation imminent in the Senate, the source said.
The bill, backed by a coalition of business groups led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, includes a “prohibition against mandatory labeling,” according to a copy of the legislation viewed by The Hill.
The provision is designed to head off legislative efforts at the state and federal levels to impose more stringent labeling regulations on GMOs, present in as much of 80 percent of the food consumed in the United States.
Under the industry-backed proposal, mandatory labeling requirements would be reserved for any products derived from genetically engineered items found to present any risks to health or safety. To date, the Food and Drug Administration has made no such finding with regard to GMOs.
Without that designation, the legislation would direct the FDA to develop a new voluntary labeling system. The legislation calls for the FDA to issue regulations within two years of its enactment.
Food safety and consumer watchdog groups, meanwhile, have called upon the FDA to propose mandatory labeling requirements, arguing that consumers have the right to know what is in the food they buy. They question whether the modified ingredients could pose long-term risks to public health or the environment.
“Consumers should be outraged that Rep. Pompeo, or any member of Congress, would co-sponsor a bill written by industry, for the sole purpose of protecting corporate and shareholder profits,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association.
“More evidence surfaces every day implicating GMO-contaminated food in a long list of chronic illnesses,” Cummins said in a written statement. “Until further, comprehensive, independent safety testing is done on the impact of GMOs on human health, consumers should at the very least be able to avoid those foods by reading a label.”