H. R. 1599 is a labeling bill. Opponents say it's not the right one.
H.R. 1599, the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015", will most likely come up for a vote in the House of Representatives this week. Exclusive regulation of genetically modified organism" (GMO) foods by the federal government is at stake. American agriculture has become particularly reliant on genetically modified seeds. Producers like Monsanto create seeds that are disease and pest resistant. GMO row crops - soybeans and corn have had dramatic yield increases since the first GMOs came on line. Several states require that GMO foods be labeled so the consumer can distinguish between GMO and non-GMO foods.
The Act is cosponsored by well over 100 Representatives, including fifteen Democratic lawmakers and three Republican Kentucky Congressmen - Reps. Whitfield, Barr and Guthrie.
The bill summary of H.R. 1599 on the www.congress.gov website states:
This bill amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require the developer of a bioengineered organism intended as food to submit a premarket biotechnology notification to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A "bioengineered organism" (commonly called a "genetically modified organism" or "GMO") is a plant or part of a plant that has been modified through recombinant DNA techniques in a way that could not be obtained using conventional breeding techniques.
The premarket notification must include the developer's determination that food from, containing, or consisting of the GMO (GMO food) is as safe as a comparable non-GMO food. For the GMO to be sold as food, the FDA must not object to the developer's determination. If the FDA determines that there is a material difference between a GMO food and a comparable non-GMO food, the FDA can specify labeling that informs consumers of the difference.
A food label can only claim that a food is non-GMO if the ingredients are subject to certain supply chain process controls. No food label can suggest that non-GMO foods are safer than GMO foods. A food can be labeled as non-GMO even if it is produced with a GMO processing aid or enzyme or derived from animals fed GMO feed or given GMO drugs.
The FDA must allow, but not require, GMO food to be labeled as GMO.The FDA must regulate the use of "natural" on food labels.
This bill amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Agricultural Marketing Service to establish a program to certify non-GMO food.
This bill preempts state and local restrictions on GMOs or GMO food and labeling requirements for GMOs, GMO food, non-GMO food, or "natural" food.
Opponents to the bill have an entirely different view of HR 1599.
According to an email from a group with the logo of "Just Label It", HR 1599 is not good for consumers:
"THIS IS THE WEEK!
The House of Representatives is set to vote on the anti- GMO labeling bill H.R. 1599, which opponents have dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know - or DARK - Act,
If passed, the DARK Act will:
• Preempt all state GMO labeling efforts;
• Make it virtually impossible for the Food and Drug Administration to ever require mandatory labeling nationwide;
• Codify our broken voluntary labeling system;
• Block states, counties and municipalities from regulating GMO crop production to protect human health and the environment;
• Allow GMOs in so-called "natural" foods."
Other developed countries are taking a more stringent approach. The European Union has banned cultivation of GMO foods. Worldwide, 61 countries have labeling laws.
Some medical practitioners see GMOs as contributing to health issues.
"The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.
Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.
The American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association are among many medical groups that condemn the use of GM bovine growth hormone, because the milk from treated cows has more of the hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1)―which is linked to cancer."
Bill Nye, the Science Guy, was reported by Business Insider to have changed his attitude toward GMO's. He wants labeling, but not to warn shoppers, but to attract them. Business Insider reported "In other words, Nye thinks people would buy GMOs regardless of the label. In fact, he thinks GMOs have a shot at selling better than organic foods, because they tend to be cheaper and more nutritious. A lot of the food we eat is already genetically modified: According to the USDA, 94% of soybeans and 92% of corn were genetically engineered this year. So if companies simply put all the cards on the table and let consumers figure it out for themselves, GMO foods would do just fine, Nye suspects."
Nye said on StarTalk Radio recently that "I told those people at Monsanto... I told them, why don't you just put on there 'proudly GMO? Go for it...Let the market sort it out."
For supporters, H.R. 1599 is a move toward standardization of food testing, replacing a patchwork of state laws. For opponents, H.R. 1599 is step backward toward the bad old days of little or no regulation of what goes on America's dinner table.
With the legislation on a fast track for passage through the House of Representatives, opponents can set their sights on stopping it in Senator Mitch McConnell's Republican led Senate. If that doesn't work, a override proof presidential veto may be the last hope for those who see the Safe and Accurate Labeling Act of 2015 as a step backwards.