Federal legislation that would stop states from regulating genetically engineered crops and GMO foods is one step closer to becoming law.
The so-called Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (HR 1599) passed the US House of Representatives’ Agriculture Committee via voice vote earlier this summer, and is now before the full House.
The bill is in response to Vermont’s banning of GMO crops — and Monsanto and other biotech companies losing in court.
“The Monsanto Protection Act is back, and it’s even worse than before,” said Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “This bill  would strip away a state or local government’s basic rights of local control, and hands the biotech industry everything it wants on a silver platter. No Member of Congress that cares about the rights and concerns of his or her constituents should support this bill”
President Obama signed in 2013 a bill that gave Monsanto and other biotech companies some protections, but it did not go this far.
HR 1599 has been labeled the “Deny Americans Right to Know Act” or “DARK Act” by its critics. Groups like the center contend that the law is designed to protect large corporations such as Monsanto, which manufactures GMO seeds and markets GMO crops.
“If it becomes law, the bill would prohibit any future state and local laws related to GE foods, and also undemocratically nullify numerous state and counties laws  that have existed across the country for over a decade,” a press release from the Center stated. “This includes Vermont’s GE food labeling  law, set to go into effect next year, as well as several county cultivation bans meant to protect organic and non-GE growers from the risks posed by nearby GE crops, including genetic contamination and pesticide drift.”
Kimbrell noted that the committee passed the act shortly after a federal court handed down a ruling  in favor of Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling requirements.
“The new Monsanto Protection Act would also forbid states and local governments from any sort of oversight of GE crops, even when the federal government has declined or failed to regulate them,” a Center press release said. That would effectively overturn local bans on GMO  crops like the one in Jackson County, Oregon. (Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth report on the Jackson County law here .)
Nearly 100 members (98) of the House of Representatives are listed as cosponsors of HR 1599 on Congress.gov, including 85 Republicans.
The Act was introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas).
To see if you representative is supporting the bill, click here .
Supporters contend that HR 1599 will make food safer by introducing a uniform labeling system.
“As a parent, I believe it is important to have national and reliable food labels and this bill does that by allowing for an effective, uniform labeling system that consumers can trust,” Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Illinois, told The Farm and Ranch Guide. “Without a national standard, we risk the spread of misinformation and increased food costs.”
Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., disagreed, and opposes the bill.
“This is about letting Americans know if their food contains GMOs,” he said. “Why not give the American people what they want?”
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