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BrownfieldAgNews reports:

The House Agriculture Committee has passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act which would set up a voluntary national labeling system for GMO foods.

Committee Chairman Michael Conaway says the bill creates a uniform national biotech labeling standard, "The legislation before us will allow consumers access to meaningful information, create market opportunities for those on the production and processing side, but most important of all will facilitate future innovation in this sector."

The bill, HR 1599 would create a national standard for the labeling of GMO or non-GMO products overruling any state labeling laws. USDA would establish a national labeling standard and certification process. State departments of agriculture could serve as certifying agents.

New York Republican Chris Gibson said he agrees that a national standard is needed, but he said the labeling bill doesn't do that.

"We're basically propounding a voluntary system and we're preempting states that have decided to go with the mandatory disclosure. So, I will vote for a national standard but I can't vote for this."

The bill would also require that for any milk or meat to be labeled non-GMO it would have to come from animals which did not eat genetically modified feeds and no genetically-modified ingredients can be used in processing such products. The Act also seeks to clarify the use of the word "natural" on a product. The Food and Drug Administration would develop the requirements for "natural".

Until then, the use of "natural, naturally grown, all natural and such would be allowed if it is consistent with the Ag Secretary's existing policy for such claims.

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives says the move is an important step "to ensure that farmer co-ops, their producer-owners and other agribusinesses have the certainty of a uniform, national standard when it comes to labeling foods made with biotech-derived ingredients."

There bill must be marked up by the House Energy and Commerce Committee but a date has not been set. And the Senate has taken no action on a companion GMO labeling bill. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says the bill "is an antidote to anti-GMO initiatives that make people wrongly fear the food they eat.

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